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The Fate of Prostitutes

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By Aishah Mohd. Nasarruddin, trainee lecturer in women’s health development unit, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Drifted and Forgotten

The flourishing of prostitution in Muslim countries is a paradox that we often overlook as a problem of our ummah. As prostitution is condemned and forbidden in Islam, and these women, to an extent, are marginalized and invisible in our community, many of us are not aware of the magnitude and realities of this problem. We do not consider them as a cause worth fighting for as we do for the betterment of the poor, abused, homeless, oppressed and ailing. To make matters worse, misinformation is widespread and the voices of former prostitution victims are systematically silenced.

Among the factors contributing to the widespread practice of prostitution among Muslim countries include:

  • The denial of the existence of such problems in our community
  • Spreading of the truth impedes men’s comfort and pleasure in using women
  • Hindrance of profitability of the industry, especially for those players who are politically connected
  • Prostitution is too horrible of a practice, a highly stigmatized taboo subject, that people would rather not hear details about

Majority of us may have the idea that prostitution is a choice and the women enjoy what they do. The reality is quite the contrary for many of them. On many occasions, deprivations, conflicts, and difficult circumstances often lead to desperation, and desperation forces these women into the practice of prostitution. Many are uneducated women who live in poverty and possess few marketable skills. My research finds that prostitutes are many times:

  • single mothers making ends meet for their children.
  • victims of incest and sexual abuse.
  • manipulated homeless teenagers.
  • displaced sufferers of human trafficking.
  • They are distraught girls with failed early marriages.
  • They are refugees who fled from their war-torn countries.

While we criminalize them for living in adultery, spreading diseases, disrupting family institutions, and giving birth to innocent, illegitimate children who suffer for having dishonorable mothers, we fail to see the other spectrum of the consequences of prostitution. The consequences are not only devastating to the society, but also to the prostitute herself as a person. It completely destroys her already shattered life, being reduced down to a depersonalized, sexual object.  She develops a personality where she is unable to develop trust in relationships and slowly numbs herself, to the point where she loses the ability to feign attachments to anyone or anything.  In order to survive this overwhelming, daily ordeal, she dissociates from her real self, originally as a defense mechanism; sadly, it reaches to the point of complete shut down, where she is stripped of her identity, and over time, she disappears.

In addition, where violence against women is considered, prostitution is usually exempted from this category. However, the health effects of prostitution are similar; injuries, infections, and psychological stress are suffered by women subjected to prostitution as well as other forms of violence against women. Apart from sexual violence, prostitutes experience physical violence by their pimps, brothel owners, and clients as a means to keep them under control. Homicide is a frequent cause of death for women in prostitution. They are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervical cancer, not to mention their risk of unwanted pregnancies, which often lead to a lack of prenatal care or unsafe abortions. Moreover, they may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and, eventually, may resort to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. The vicious cycle then continues.

I believe that no woman in her right mind would want to be a sex slave.  In  prostitution, research involving nine countries revealed that when the prostitutes were asked, ‘What do you need?’, 89% responded that they desired to ‘leave prostitution’ (Farley, 2003). This was followed by ‘job training’, ‘home or safe place’, ‘health care’, ‘individual counseling’ and other supportive measures.

But what about those women who openly confess they enjoy being prostitutes? Let it be known, few prostitutes who have come to profit from advocating the legalization of prostitution, writing columns in porn magazines and websites, and scheduling appearances on talk shows should not hold water to the overwhelming number of prostitutes who silently suffer from prostitution. Some leading pro-sex work advocates of legalized prostitution have been convicted on pimping charges although they themselves claim that they are common prostitutes and are not involved in organizing crimes against prostituted women. Even sex worker rights leader, Carol Leigh, has said herself in a 2004 debate, “95% of my friends want out of prostitution.”

 

Recently we interviewed a prostitute new to the ‘job’, joining this year. She is a 29-year old single mother, divorced, with three children, and with no financial support. During the day she takes care of her children, and at night she leaves them with her sister and goes to ‘work’. Every night she goes to her pimp’s house which serves as a prostitution site and meets her clients there. On average she has three clients per night, majority of whom are married men. When we asked her why she chose this job, she replied that it’s the only suitable job for her that pays enough to support her children. When we asked her whether she wants to get out from it, she answered “if it’s possible I want to stop doing this right this moment. I live in constant fear and worry that I might be caught by authorities”.

Fortunately, prostitution is illegal in most Muslim countries, the exceptions being Turkey and Indonesia.  However, despite its illegality, there are hubs in our own soil making millions out of the industry. Inadequate law enforcement, economic instability, poor planning to improve standards of living, and the community turning a blind eye to prostitution make this problem difficult to control. Moreover the pimps and traffickers bribe authorities to sustain the illegal operations, and there are even authorities who take advantage of the prostitutes. The woman I mentioned earlier told us that there were police and even religious officers who come to them as clients.

What can we do to help?

In regions where prostitution remains legal, it may be easier to reach out to them because they are registered under the profession and therefore can be identified. For example, in Turkey, sociologists and psychologists interviewed 3,000 registered prostitutes working at brothels to determine whether they had been forced into the job and if they would prefer another line of employment.

On the other hand, where prostitution is generally illegal, it is difficult and rather unsafe to reach them. Many things can happen if you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. They fear that ‘outsiders’ would turn them in to the authorities to be penalized, especially the prostitutes who are linked to pimps, traffickers, and corrupt officials.  There was a case in Iraq in 2008, where Soran Hama, a journalist of the Kurdish Lvin magazine, was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house weeks after he had written a detailed report on police involvement in a major Kirkuk prostitution ring.

What we can do to reach out is put them in contact with experienced volunteers from reputable organizations such as NGOs working on reproductive and health education, or NGOs that conduct programs to keep children from red-light districts in school. By slowly reaching out and engaging with them, it is hoped that mutual trust can be built and they can be convinced that a way out is possible, that there are people who would support them and give them protection, that there are people who will not judge and stigmatize them.

We should include them in income-generating programs so that they can have a regular income, which hopefully would decrease the chance of them resorting back to prostitution. Sponsorship should be raised to enable their children to attend and stay in school, as education plays a vital role to break them free from the poverty trap and further prevent them from entering prostitution.

On a larger scale, there should be a focus shift to criminalize the buying rather than the selling of sex. The burden of punishment should be on the clients who perpetuate the sex trade rather than the women who are trapped in the situation. For example, in Sweden, prostitution is officially acknowledged as a form of male sexual violence against women and children. Swedish policy addresses the issue of prostitution and trafficking by focusing on the root cause, and recognizing that without male demand and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able flourish and expand. As a result, street prostitution has diminished. Granted, critiques have been directed to the government for making prostitution go underground and sex being sold over the internet is a growing problem; at least sources of evil cannot be accessed easily.

Rather than consistently playing the blaming game and condemning them to hell, as a community we should take whatever measures necessary to assist them to escape prostitution. These desperate individuals need our help and understanding in order to believe they can lead better lives.  They need to be pulled out from the pit so that they can regain their dignity, integrate back into society, and return to their senses, rest assured that Allah and their Muslim brothers and sisters have not neglected them.

Allah says in Sūrat’l-Nūr :

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know [24:19].

78 Comments

78 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    November 14, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    Sad article but true. Reminds me of Umar (radiaAllahu anh)’s child support grants via Zakat.

  2. Pingback: The Fate of Prostitutes | Technology News

  3. Avatar

    Nuraini

    November 14, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    I think this is a good article. I would like to point out that had all wali of the women sheltered her and protected her and did not oppress her either by direct abuse or by neglect and poor upbringing making her incapable of making good decisions in the real world, the vast majority of these women would not be in such a desperate situation. after all, a woman technically has her husband, failing which her father, failing which her brothers, grandfather, etc. etc. and failing all of these her neighbours and community to help a single woman without means of support or single mother. if there are women in a muslim country who are in prostitution from desperation, then not only does the community contain evil men who prey on them, but the entire family and community structure has failed them.

    • Avatar

      Nazihah

      November 14, 2011 at 11:37 AM

      I couldn’t agree more. As a culture and society, we have forgotten the vital role and responsibility that lies with the Wali. We don’t give it the weight it deserves.

    • Avatar

      Grandparent

      November 14, 2011 at 1:23 PM

      Assalaamu alaikum,
      Jazakumu Allahu khair. This, in my opinion, is an important article, honest and correct. The comment made by Nuraini: “…then not only does the community contain evil men who prey on them, but the entire family and community structure has failed them” is also a brilliant statement because of the added light it sheds. I’ve seen/heard of examples of women in need turned away by the Muslim community in America, where few have an extended family living near them.

    • Avatar

      Ali

      November 14, 2011 at 6:00 PM

      Dear Nuraini

      Many of the girls are orphans who dont have a wali or family.

      Many of the girls are being abused by their wali and other family members….so they escape their family only to be lured by strangers into the industry

      and then you have families who out of poverty send their daughters out to bring some money fro the family

      Look at this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SlSBqgW5xx0

  4. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    November 14, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    ‘We’ did not criminalize prostitution.

    Who wants to have ‘registered prostitutes’ for Allah’s sake?

    Both buying and selling of sex IS illegal.

    They need to be pulled out all right, but like women who remain in abusive nuptial relationships, once they are adults, they cannot really be pulled any where, as much as I may wish to, WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.

    Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      Umm Sulaim

      November 15, 2011 at 12:05 AM

      And as members of the ‘police’ and ‘religious officials’ are her clientele, what precisely is her source of fear? Her well-connected clientele should ordinarily serve to protect her.

      And the last time I checked, accusing someone of buying sex required FOUR WITNESSES (or some other viable proof). If women were accused of such illicit activities we would all be up in arms.

      Umm Sulaim

      • Avatar

        AishahMN

        November 15, 2011 at 9:36 PM

        Not all police and religious officials are corrupt.

        Of course there are ways to do it, not just run to anyone and accuse them of selling/buying sex.

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 9:31 PM

      I’m talking about prostitution policies practised by countries, not Islamic laws.

      Yes, the idea is to understand their situations and help them to escape, with their consent of course.

  5. Avatar

    Farhan

    November 14, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Great article. A weak economy results in these things. I loved the suggestion of job training, that’s very good ma sha Allah.

  6. Avatar

    Ahsan Arshad

    November 14, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    The basic problem I believe here is that we muslims are not willing to talk about this “problem” openly – the solution lies ahead of this initial step.
    When I opened this article, my sister caught a glimpse of the title and not knowing that I am a regular reader of muslimmatters.org questioned me “what are you reading” in a shock. Even after explaining a bit about the website, she left…
    From our islamic sources we know that the Prophet is reported to have said about a prostitute going a jannah for feeding a thirsty dog with water by making a significant effort – I often thought about it and concluded that the women mentioned in the hadith would have been forced into this “profession”. And Allah know best

    • Avatar

      Maurizio Pescatori

      July 29, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      I would like to congratulate you for the wise words you just said.
      May I add this anecdote: you are all surely familiar with Prophet Issa.
      In his own words, through Luke 7, 44-47: (Issa enters the house of a reputed prostitute to rest after a long day’s journey, and the woman has such an emotional experience she weeps and literally washes Issa’s feet with her own tears; Simon, Issa’s Follower, is scandalized that Issa should enter such a house, but is rebuked by Issa himself)
      “7:44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 7:45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 7:46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 7:47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
      The woman’s “love” is not physical, much less sexual love,but love meant as repentance.
      To condemn a prostitute because she is such is like condemning a drowning man because he cannot swim.
      Hypocrisy.

  7. Avatar

    ahmad

    November 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    perceptive and well argued. Congrats to the writer.

  8. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    November 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Thank you for the article sister.

    Prostitution is a sad reality in all lands – there were even prostitutes in the city of Madinah in the Prophetic era, and there continue to be operating prostitutes in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah:
    http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article504375.ece

    So if even the holy cities are not protected, what will be the case elsewhere?

    And yes, most of the time these women are forced into such circumstances because of dire need. Its a taboo topic to talk about, and I’m happy (as usual!) that MM has contributed to some public awareness about it.

    Yasir

    • Avatar

      Mehzabeen (iMuslim)

      November 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

      I remember reading of a case during the caliphate of Umar, radiallahu ‘anhu. A poor women was coerced into sleeping with a shepherd in exchange for some food or water. Ali radiallahu ‘anhu said she should be freed, as she was forced into the act. I don’t have reference for this narration unfortunately… do you?

    • Avatar

      Ali

      November 14, 2011 at 6:00 PM

  9. Avatar

    Yasmin

    November 14, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Jazakallah khair for shedding light on this very sensitive and often overlooked subject! I think that you did so in a very powerful and informative manner!

  10. Avatar

    Siraaj

    November 14, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Salaam alaykum Aishah,

    Jazakallah khayr for this piece, very eye-opening. What are your thoughts on criminalizing both sides, both the prostitute and the john?

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 7:48 AM

      Waalaikumussalam warahmatullah Siraaj.

      I understand that there is a concern regarding voluntary prostitution but in muslim countries I don’t think that is the main reason why this industry sustains. In my opinion the johns should definitely be penalized but for the prostitutes it should be determined on a case-by-case basis. They should be interviewed and their backgrounds should be investigated to determine whether they are forced into prostitution or not. Take victims of human trafficking for example, I can’t imagine how can we criminalize them when they were actually kidnapped and abused in the first place.

  11. Avatar

    Asifa

    November 14, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Great article! :-) Thanks for writing it.

  12. Avatar

    shiney

    November 14, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    May Allah Reward all those involved in the writing, editing, approving, and publishing of this article. This is one subject that if someone had not shed light on, I would have probably forever remained ignorant/careless about. We always hear about Muslims starving and dying because of war and famine but seldom do we hear of our Muslim sisters who are forced to do this heinous crime. May Allah help these sisters find a halal living and May Allah Protect them and forgive them. Ameen.

  13. Avatar

    Abdul

    November 14, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    When ever a Human being deviates from the Path of Allah, he or she is in trouble in this world and hearafter, Poverty cannot be an excuse to defend prostitution. Allah is the sole Provider ( la ilaha illa allah), The Prophet ( peace be Upon him ) went through many hardships,

    Females who are forced into prostitution should be rescued, but there are many prostitues who give thousand silly reasons to defend prsotitution. the most silly reason is poverty, I donot sympathise with the females who make different excuses. we all struggle hard to meet our need, What important is are you using HARAM or HALAL ways to meet your needs( You wont get more or less then what Allah has provided), I wont be going to a pimp to council a prostitue, I might get into the sinful act myself by doing this, I would rather try to spread the Message and the laws which Allah made to make ones life easy, I would work on building the Imaan of the community, once they get the Imman they will understand the meaning of PARDA and the woint even get cose to Zina,

    Those females who are already into prostitution willingly/unwillingly should be counselled, showing sympathy would only make them feel that whatever they are doing might be right.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Brown

      November 14, 2011 at 8:29 PM

      Females who are forced into prostitution should be rescued, but there are many prostitues [sic] who give thousand silly reasons to defend prsotitution. [sic]

      Someone else can quote the statistics, but I think the vast majority of prostitutes are either a) forced into it and/or b) enter it due to poverty. It seems the ones defending prostitution represent a very small minority. Don’t let a few individuals color your perception of an entire population.

      …showing sympathy would only make them feel that whatever they are doing might be right.

      Sympathizing with a person is not the same as condoning their actions. Showing sympathy means you show you care for your Muslim brother/sister and want to help them get out of their situation.

      I know the idea of a woman prostituting oneself can seem very odd but then again we’ve probably never been in the prostitute’s situation. Imagine a divorced/widowed woman who is stricken with absolute poverty. She has kids to feed but cannot afford food. They are starving. If she doesn’t get them food soon, they will die. It’s easy for us to say “she should trust in Allah” while we sit behind monitors and internet connections. A mother will do anything for her children and for some that includes becoming a prostitute. Do you think she wants to do this? No. Listen to interviews with prostitutes; I think you will find the vast majority do not wish to be in this line of work.

      Do we support what they do? No. Can we understand why they do it? Yes. Understanding the reasons behind their situation is the first step to bringing a solution.

      http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/slaverya21stcenturyevil/2011/10/20111010134454998749.html

      • Avatar

        AishahMN

        November 15, 2011 at 7:56 AM

        Well said Ahmed. Yes we are trying to find solutions and adressing the root cause based on realities, not condoning their actions. Two different things.

    • Avatar

      Gibran Mahmud

      November 18, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      We must show simpathy but we must also be strong in enforcing Allah’s law. In many cases, women aren’t actually FORCED. This behavior is not acceptable at all.

      We cannot put all the blame on the women because of their situation and the fact that others are responsible. But bearing that in mind, we cannot excuse this act. They do share in the blame except as Allah wills and Allah knows best each situation.

      Christians talk in this type of manner. “Blame the sin not the sinner”. This is not correct. The sin needs to be condemned, and the sinner held responsible.

      We should obey Allah and follow His command to enjoin on right and forbid wrong. But we should not transgress the limits like our predecessors and follow their ways.

      • Avatar

        Mik

        July 19, 2013 at 10:40 PM

        Something about the way you say this just sounds barbaric, and not merciful at all. It is no wonder people view Muslims the way they do.

  14. Avatar

    Veiled

    November 14, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    The need to raise awareness on this matter is so vital in this day and age, when it’s so prevalent in many Muslim countries and in the homes of many Muslim families. JazaakAllah khayr for the article, as it’s a certain step in that direction.

  15. Avatar

    Marcello Fernandes

    November 14, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    Many prostitutes in wealthy countries are imported from poorer countries. They are often brought in by professional smugglers — the same people who bring in drugs, weapons, and other illicit contraband. In these cases, the most effective means of restraining the spread of prostitution is to stop these smugglers at the border. In the United States, Detroit was considered the easiest entry point along the northern border for smugglers. Asian and Eastern European prostitutes were common in the area. The authorities have since strengthened border security in the region (much to the annoyance of travelers), and the problem has noticeably diminished in the last few years. Domestic prostitution, run by domestic criminal organizations, is still a significant problem. But at least we’ve disrupted the supply chain and made sex trafficking a less profitable business. And perhaps saved a few lives in the process.

  16. Avatar

    abu takfir

    November 14, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    While I do agree that some women are forced into prostitution because of circumstances, but we cannot say that all women are prostitutes because of circumstances. Some women do really enjoy prostitution and making money off it.

    Most importantly, how do you define prostitution?

    In college, when I go to the gym, I see many women who come there to work out in revealing clothes. Just because they are not sleeping with men for money, we do not call it prostitution? What is the difference between sleeping with a lover and sleeping with a random man for money? In the former you get “love” back, in the later you get money back.

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 8:00 AM

      Sex workers are defined as “female, male and transgender adults and young people who receives money or goods in exchange for sexual services, either regularly or occasionally and who may or may not consciously define those activities as income-generating” (UNAIDS, 2002)

  17. Avatar

    Hamza21

    November 14, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    Fortunately, prostitution is illegal in most Muslim countries, the exceptions being Turkey and Indonesia.

    You forgot it’s legal in Senegal but only because the dangers of HIV infection that is rampant in Africa. Without the epidemic rise of HIV infections in Africa prostitution would have never became legal in Senegal.

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 8:19 AM

      Thank you for pointing that out Hamza. It slipped my mind that Senegal is a muslim country.

      There are pro and cons when it comes to HIV and legalization of prostitution. I think legalizing prostitution will only sustain the industry. HIV spread is the by-product of prostitution, to reduce HIV we have to reduce or abolish prostitution, not legalizing it. To mandate health checks and certification only to women and not for their clients is ineffective and discriminatory.

  18. Avatar

    Carlos

    November 14, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Excellent article, Aishah. Such frank and mature conversation can only lead to good.

    Sexual slavery is a reality, even here in America. It primarily effects immigrant communities, a byproduct of the marginalization of illegal immigrants. Immigrants without papers are vulnerable because they are totally dependent upon others, and fear reporting crimes to authorities.

    There is an organization called Transitions Global, which works to provide alternatives for prostitutes. It seems like they do good work, and deserve our support.

    • Avatar

      Carlos

      November 14, 2011 at 10:54 PM

      Correction: I meant to write, “It primarily affects immigrant communities.” Please excuse the spelling error.

  19. Avatar

    Ani Alaf

    November 15, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    Prostitution and human trafficking is big business, very lucrative — but not for the women. If there wasn’t a demand by men for sex services, there would no prostitution. Women may do it for money–no one gets pleasure from being used like an object. Men use women for their own sexual vices and illicit desires, then turn around and treat the women as outcasts. When will men learn to control their sexual urges outside of marriage and take responsibility in creating the market for prostitution?
    That is the bigger question- not some silly notion that women choose prostitution because they love having sex with men and being made an outcast, while men go unpunished. Get real.

    • Avatar

      ivoryTower

      November 16, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      There is a reason why its called the world’s oldest profession

    • Avatar

      Gibran Mahmud

      November 18, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Women still provide the service. Men may be more blameworthy, but women still share in the blame.

      • Avatar

        Nuraini

        November 20, 2011 at 9:31 AM

        I don’t think that is necessarily fair, considering that for a lot of the women (the ones trafficked) they really have not the choice. If you’ve been trafficked, there is nowhere to go, nowhere to run, you are beaten and raped until submission, and making them believe there is no way for them to ever return to their former, virtuous life. this is how they break trafficked prostitutes. after a while, some of these who say they are ok with it is doing it as a coping mechanism – pretending they chose the situation they were forced into provides some illusion of autonomy. facing the fact that they couldn’t escape if they wanted to drives many mad, and that’s why the drug abuse rate is so high among prostitutes. it numbs them from realising what they are doing and that they are powerless to leave. i’m sure the article had made the point that the proportion of women who want to be in prostitution is dwarfed by the proportion who want to leave if there is a way out. why don’t we help the 95% who want to leave, and then we can criticise the last 5%.

        also i think extreme poverty is indeed an understandable reason. just as a thief in dire need of food does not get his hand cut off for stealing bread, a woman who accepts prostitution to avert starvation is a qualitatively similar case. if you say that the woman does not have to prostitute if she is but strong enough, similarly the thief did not have to steal if she were strong enough to persevere to find other means and risk dying. i mean, if you could even be forgiven for pretending to leave islam when your life is being threatened, then i rather think things people do to save their lives or lives of people under their care should consider that context as well.

        • Avatar

          Mustafa

          November 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          Being forced into the practice and wanting to leave it are not the same. We cannot go the way of Christians and excessively blame the sin without holding the sinner responsible. Blame and punishment need to be apportioned correctly and executed. We cannot transgress the balance of the law.

          Muhsin Khan 24:2
          (This is) a Surah (chapter of the Quran) which We have sent down and which We have enjoined, (ordained its legal laws) and in it We have revealed manifest Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations lawful and unlawful things, and set boundries of Islamic Religion), that you may remember.
          The woman and the man guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment. (This punishment is for unmarried persons guilty of the above crime but if married persons commit it, the punishment is to stone them to death, according to Allah’s Law).

          Differen’t things need to be taken into account. But the important thing to do is to work one a way to solve the problem without falling short of Allah’s commandments.

      • Avatar

        Nuraini

        November 20, 2011 at 9:41 AM

        also, a large proportion of those ‘women’ prostitutes, have actually been prostituted since they were children, which was when they were trafficked. they were broken the same way as adult trafficked persons are broken. so i’m not sure exactly how one might have chosen a different way if one had been in that life since childhood – i’m talking, say, even younger than 10. or how they can be said to be responsible for ‘providing the service’.

  20. Avatar

    Saher

    November 15, 2011 at 2:21 AM

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    Umm Sulaim

    November 15, 2011 at 2:26 AM

    Good to see so many sympathetic responses from men.

    Now here is a sweet question:

    How many men will offer assistance to needy women WITHOUT preconditions?

    Such preconditions include:

    1) She has to be your family member.

    2) She has to be your spouse.

    3) She has to be from your tribe/ race.

    Failing to fulfill any of these, … (clears throat) …,
    4) She has to be a ‘sweetheart’ or should I say ‘sweetbed’.

    Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      abu takfir

      November 15, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      *Note from the Comment Moderation Team: this comment has been deleted due to non-compliance with our Comments Policy of using a real name / Kunyah.*

  22. Avatar

    Nasser Kat

    November 15, 2011 at 4:32 AM

    Assalamu alaikum, and thank you for posting this most valuable and insightful article.

    For those of us living in Muslim countries (I was for a few years) we do hear and sometimes even see prostitutes in some parts of the city. There is however such a powerful social taboo about having anything to do with them. So even if people wanted to rectify this situation. They would do so very carefully because if those wanting to help were men, they would be looked at as perverts, and if they were women, they would be thought of prostitutes themselves. Unfortunately (and this is especially true in other countries) the oppressive governance models have ensured such a environment of fear and paranoia that any form of good will or charity is considered a thousand times before engagement. If and when a just free government is in power. Many of these problems will be much easier to tackle, and maybe even solve inshallah.

    Thank you

  23. Avatar

    farwin

    November 15, 2011 at 4:58 AM

    assalamu aliakum,

    May allah reward you for your efforts.

    you’ve hit the nail on it’s head – the onus must be placed on the community to reintegrate such vulnerbale women and not on the women. This is the way forward for the ummah, we are way behind in this struggle – international NGOS’s are way ahead integrating issues like reproductive health and HIV into their solutions. interestingly INGO lingo no longer accomadates the derogatory term ‘prostitutes’ ‘sex-workers’ is the favored term. We need to move forward with a ‘love the sinner and not the sin’ attitude. In muslim minority countries muslim sex workers are faced with a triple edged sword – they’re stigmatized for being a minority + women + sex workers, and rarely come out of it.

    I’m waiting to see how masajid in the west will take this issue up – another ground breaking ‘purple hiajb day’ or a ‘purify your gaze movement’? Insha allah.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa

      November 22, 2011 at 3:31 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      “I’m waiting to see how masajid in the west will take this issue up – another ground breaking ‘purple hiajb day’ or a ‘purify your gaze movement’? Insha allah.”

      I think actually finding and punishing brothel owners, brothel customers, and prostitutes who weren’t physically forced into the situation is more effective than a nice “raise awareness” day.

      Raising awareness isn’t difficult in this day and age. It’s actually going ahead and acting under Allah’s law that matters.

  24. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    November 15, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    Mash’Allah excellent article sister. Jazakillah for shedding light upon such an important but oft-neglected topic. This evil is so widespread that it even victimizes little children (both boys and girls) who are below the age of puberty. Some men are also its victims too. I believe that besides counseling the prostitutes we should call for not only punishing the pimps, brothel owners, smugglers, distributors and johns but also bring about the awareness that fornication/adultery is haraam for men just as much as it is for women. Unfortunately this stupid double standard exists within various Muslim communities where men/boys are allowed to get away with things women can’t do (eg. your brother’s dating habits are grudgingly accepted by the family with a “boys will be boys” attitude while your sister is threatened for wanting to commit haraam too). And many Muslims unfortunately harbor ill feelings towards “bad girls” where they cut off all contact with them and pretend like they don’t exist. I’ve seen this happen in my own family with one of my cousins, so right now only my sister and I keep in contact with her so as to help her change her life around (May Allah help us in this endeavor).

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 10:12 PM

      May Allah bless your effort sister.

      Yes there are also men afflicted by this problem, but their percentage is smaller compared to women.

      Child prostitution is another issue. Worldwide, an estimated 1 million children are forced into prostitution every year and most of these children are exploited by local men, although some are also prostituted by paedophiles and foreign tourists ( B M Willis, 2002). And it is more devastating for them because they are more likely than adults to lack accurate information about transmission and prevention of STIs, lack skills, power and ability to negotiate condom use and they are vulnerable to STIs due to immature reproductive tracts.

      You are right, these are what we can do to tackle the problem at hand, but inculcating iman is always no 1.

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        November 16, 2011 at 5:41 AM

        Jazakillah for that info on child prostitution sister. And I agree inculcating Iman is always the priority for all of us.

  25. Avatar

    AishahMN

    November 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Thank you for all the generous comments. It’s a complex and sad reality that we have to reflect upon, hopefully each of us can do whatever we can in whatever ways.

    And I sincerely call upon you, brothers, to be responsible protectors of women. I am not solely put the blame on men, but as I look further into many of our social issues, I figured out that you can be the problem, and you can also be the solution.

    Wallahua’lam.

  26. Avatar

    Bushra

    November 15, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    Assalamualaikum

    Can anyone please shed some light on “The Fate of Eunuchs”? Even they are equally misinterpreted and misrepresented in the Muslim Ummah.

  27. Avatar

    Abu Khalid

    November 15, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Would polygamy help in this issue? You didnt mention any thing of this institution in you excellent essay.

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 10:21 PM

      I believe responsible polygamy will help as part of prevention, not as solution. Islam forbids marrying adulterers unless it is clear that they already repented and left prostitution.

  28. Avatar

    Mohammad Yusha

    November 15, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    >The denial of the existence of such problems in our community

    Who denies it?

    >Majority of us may have the idea that prostitution is a choice and the women enjoy what they do.

    MAJORITY?

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 15, 2011 at 10:39 PM

      Well, in the city I’m currently staying, which was declared as Islamic City, there are people who frown in disbelief when I told them that among my research subjects are prostitutes. It’s also among the state in Malaysia which has the highest rate of HIV, and the highest rate of women infected with HIV.

      And actually, I didn’t put ‘majority’ in my original article. But I guess the editor understands society’s perception better.

      • Avatar

        Apricot

        November 17, 2011 at 6:01 AM

        Well, no offense to the editor, but words like “majority” should not be used like this unless they can be substantiated with studies or statistics. Besides that, the sentence is written incorrectly as the word “The” should precede “majority” as follows:

        “The majority of us may have the idea that prostitution is a choice and the women enjoy what they do.”

        Like the other commenter, I doubt most people believe that prostitutes enjoy what they do. I am glad to know that you (the author) are not the one who used this off-putting and inappropriate word.

  29. Avatar

    Jihad

    November 16, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    Assalamu alaikkum,

    thers a great lady called Sunita Krishnan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunitha_krishnan ), in India, who dedicated her life to rescue prostitutes from red streets and making them independent in life with solid jobs. So if somebody came in to contact with this kind of ppl who want to get out of this trouble you can contact her organisation. Muslim men and women who wants to do social service can contact her asking advice on how she rehabilitating this kind of people and what are the struggles she has to confront while doing this. Wallah I read on her , and watched her documentary , its not an easy job unlike writing this . Who is here to act(including myself)? . We are running away from religion for our own coziness.
    Anyways congrats MM .Now we have to find answer ,among loads of others, on the day of judgement for neglecting this ppl.
    As Umar (r.a) said. Wallah , If there is a camel lying dead on the shore of tigris I have to answer Allah for that. He said these when he was ruler. But to act on these there is no need of kingship. May Allah help us.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeOumyTMCI8

    • Abez

      Abez

      November 18, 2011 at 8:48 PM

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more disturbing, more moving, and more eye-opening than this on TED, ever. As a mother, it makes my heart break. I don’t know what to do except beg Allah to help, and Glorify Him for His promise of complete justice on Qiyyama.

  30. Avatar

    Mohammad Yusha

    November 16, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    >Well, in the city I’m currently staying, which was declared as Islamic City, there are people who frown in disbelief when I told them that among my research subjects are prostitutes. It’s also among the state in Malaysia which has the highest rate of HIV, and the highest rate of women infected with HIV.

    That does not tell me about the denial of the problems of prostitution. :)

  31. Avatar

    Sara

    November 17, 2011 at 1:33 AM

    I think the article is nicely written….however I felt that it is actually advocating prostitution in dire situations. I live in a Muslim country, which is a third world country. I know that there are many jobs like working as cleaning ladies these women dont opt to take up. I dont know what woman in her right mind would actually prefer to sell herself rather than take up some halal option which wont earn as much. The cleaning ladies in our homes are also poor with many children sometimes with husbands who dont do anything and are drug addicts, but they dont get involved in prostitution. Plus, besides their pay they get charities frequently alhamdoLillah. I can understand the problems of those who are kidnapped and forced into it but I strongly feel that combating poverty has several options available EXCEPT prostitution.

    • Avatar

      Abdul

      November 18, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      Super Like Sara, Its a persons choice at the end of the day, Halal Or Haram

    • Avatar

      AishahMN

      November 18, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      If I am advocating prostitution in dire situations I would have just told people to leave them alone and legalize the industry, not about finding ways to escape, sister.

      Yes they should have looked hard enough for other options, but the reality is some women still fell into it. People have different levels of iman, and I believe, for some, their iman needs to be helped. That’s the reason why ‘those whose hearts are inclined to Islam’ are eligible for zakat.

  32. Avatar

    Faatimah

    November 17, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    “On a larger scale, there should be a focus shift to criminalize the buying rather than the selling of sex. The burden of punishment should be on the clients who perpetuate the sex trade rather than the women who are trapped in the situation.”

    JazakAllah khayr for such an eye opening article, sister.

  33. Avatar

    barbara

    November 20, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know [24:19].
    Assalaam o ‘alaikum, I agree with the Holy Quran and the Swedish policy; the focus must be shifted to the demand and appetite for prostitution. In most countries where prostitution is legal, pockets of sanctioned government involvement are present; the paybacks and assured service to high-ranking reprobate clientel is thus assured to be protected too. It also serves to keep former victims under control via attacking their reputation and or children with premeditated rape and slander to use the very system to oppress. I dare to go as far as to say, a child might be selected in first grade to settle a vendetta against women who may have had the courage to stand up and or just allow people with power/and or/ to control classrooms, because the child may have already been victimized as an infant and therefore is not to be allowed to prosper healthy development. Bias, false leaks, malicious whisper-campaigns are, and where common in the rural European environment I grew up in. We were targets as dirty Polacks and I received savage beatings in school as a child to where as a result one of my eight year old kidneys bled and we had to move away at my Grandmothers urgent promptings. I was just a child then, but today I know I was a target because my Mother had been wronged. My Mother had been a German athlete in the WW2 era and we were an political embarrassment to the German government because they needed to silence the fact’ they had send 50% polish children into the Hitler arena and then just reintegrated us as Germans [falsifying our family name thus cursing us] and we the children were to made suffer oppression and abuse to keep us on the low social roster as well. Children and the young and inexperienced are easy targets. I used to feel so humiliated for my Mother and to this day one of my half- brothers hates my poor Mother as a result of this. Stigmatizing victims is evil and cruel. I thank God I know this too, and I thank God for allowing me to love and worship Him and be forgiving and understanding toward my poor shunned and wounded Mother. I glorify Him for this gift of truth! In West Germany in certain now heavy right wing areas again, doing the 1970 in home molested by their fathers children, where rhetorically raped as teenagers and then arrested by the very rapists sporting ranks and badges for prostitution and processed into the system, to be humiliated into wounded stupor and then premeditatedly socially misplaced with this kind of stigmatizing and branding, while sanctioned drug-peddlers and crooks are standing in the wings awaiting the new arrivals. This is so that the very government institutions serving as a public front to then politically and socially murder any uprising victim and or prevent libels against those high-ranking criminals who deserve to be exposed. That is to say that the prostitutes themselves are not to be allowed back to an integrated life no matter how they ended up in that arena in the first place, until social stigmata has been assured and therefore must be physiologically branded and socially stigmatized in order to destroy their credibility’s. God indeed knows this to be true and my words are a meager account of the greater reality of this! The public has been kept uninformed and or misinformed for too long about the deeper involvement of government in most instances. This form of slavery has simply NEVER in human history been properly addressed and redressed to stamp out the misery and stigmata resulting in the lives of these poor exploited individuals. And I say here, that Individuals; for depraved appetites do not just pray on women, but males and children as well. My Allah grand these victims a voice and a much needed reprieve from these sorrowful conditions prevailing to date worldwide. Oh Allaahumma innaa nata’ee nuka for these poor exploited ones and BE their Al Walee innaka kunta binaa Baseeraa ameen .Waaikumsallam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu. Barbara .

  34. Avatar

    Ren

    November 20, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    NPR RECENTLY had a show on the sex slave trade in Turkey, a muslim country. It was incredibly sad to learn that these girls are kidnapped from other countries and then have their passports taken away so they cannot excape. I can imagine no worse hell then being raped/beaten by a gang of turks who feel that they can do whatever they wish as their Allah gives them permission to treat women like dirt. How sad that any religion could agree that this is how g d views women, those he made the creators of all life..the nurturers. Imagine having to service 15 men a day, be beaten and if needing an abortion, a butcher abortionist handles it and puts you back ‘to work’ within a few hours as you still bleed…how evil, how sick, how mentally disturbed is this?

  35. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    November 21, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    If they truly said ‘their Allah’ gives them the right to treat women like dirt, are there no women in Turkey for them to practice that on? Why is the ‘sex slave trade’ imposed on kidnapped foreign women and not on Turkish women?

    I expect if you really wished to understand the position of women in Islam as revealed by OUR ALLAH and practiced by OUR PROPHET and his Companions, you would dedicated as many minutes or hours studying the pristine sources of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

    Umm Sulaim

  36. Avatar

    Lin

    November 28, 2011 at 5:40 AM

    This is a very interesting take on prostitution, which talks about the important role prostitutes (or at least one prostitute) have in helping those disabled (e.g. cerebral palsy, MS) have fulfilling lives. Disabled and confined people have the same needs and desires as us, yet are very much excluded from all normal avenues of coupling up, marriage and expressing their sexuality within a marriage. They are in effect ‘desexed’ and ‘dehumanised’ from society, which doesn’t recognise that they too deserve to have fulfilling sex lives and/or relationships like other adults. So I think what the prostitute in the article is doing is very much deserving of praise and respect.

    http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/sexual-healing-20111125-1nxkc.html

    If prostitution were to be outlawed, where would that leave the physically disabled, the mentally different, people with deformities and people who don’t adhere to societies standards of beauty/success/religiosity. What would society do about these ‘undesirable’ people who also deserve to live full lives just like any other human being?

  37. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    November 29, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Feature on trafficking by AlJazeera:

    A mental and physical hell

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/10/20111010125026811763.html

  38. Pingback: Time to End Prostitution in the Muslim World « The Islamic Workplace

  39. Avatar

    LiveIslam

    July 7, 2013 at 2:40 AM

    ‘If prostitution were to be outlawed, where would that leave the physically disabled, the mentally different, people with deformities and people who don’t adhere to societies standards of beauty/success/religiosity. What would society do about these ‘undesirable’ people who also deserve to live full lives just like any other human being?’ REALLY?!! How filthy. I’m sure a large number of disabled people will disagree with you. I’ve done numerous papers on disabled people and I can tell you prostitution is not something ‘undesirable disabled people’ will agree to. I really don’t know what to say about such a disgusting assumption. Disabled people are people, they deserve to be integrated into society and efforts to eliminate the limitations imposed on them by disability and stereotyping need to be made. They should be supported to lead a normal as possible life and that doesn’t include prostitution. There are many cases where disabled people whether physically or mentally have managed to get married to those without disability and in some cases two disabled individuals have managed to find love and build a family. Instead of advocating prostitution for such disadvantaged people you should advocate elimination of stereotypes which excludes such people, equality and human rights. Aghhhhh.

  40. Avatar

    Sam

    December 14, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    An absolute disgusting outlook on the sex industry. This article if anything condones the acts of prostitution. Very few Muslim prostitutes are violently forced into the sex trade, if any. Having 50 kids and no food to feed them is NOT a “force” that pushes you to prostitution, it’s not an excuse. It’s lacking trust in Allah..

    The man is also to blame, but keep in mind; the prostitute builds and opens the door, the man just walks through it..

    A thief under Islamic law gets his hand chopped off, if he unlawfully takes something substantial – he loses a hand and a leg at opposite ends. There’s no “reform”, there’s something better – consequences. The kuffar blame the game and not the player, in islam , the player is targetted..

    For all your information, there’s no “Islamic country”, even the Ottoman Empire was questionable..

    • Avatar

      Sahar

      May 31, 2016 at 10:32 PM

      What a sick unempathatic comment by Sam. Completely zero understanding of unequal societal privledge and how society has mandated no wholesome alternatives for them. Did their families choose to be broken by war and poverty? Does a teenage female understand she is entering the evil sex trade when someone she trusts lures her?

      I am a Muslim prostitute who is trying hard to get out of the profession and please Allah. Unfortunately, I never had a choice in becoming involved in the sex trade. How dare anyone say that I am to blame when numerous societal forces want to women to be sex objects! Fight the problem, not the person!

  41. Avatar

    usman

    June 28, 2016 at 5:33 PM

    may Allah guide us right.

  42. Avatar

    Saima Iram

    September 23, 2016 at 2:48 AM

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

    One definite solution for the problem of prostitution (or even fornication) in our Ummah (bi idhni-llah) is reviving the practice (rather Sunnah) of polygyny amongst us. I am a woman too and I understand how helpless a woman becomes when she has no one to take care of her or her children. Even if a woman does not have the responsibilities of children, she cannot hold herself for too long in protecting her chastity as women also have desires, that must be fulfilled. No woman can stay a virgin for her life. If only our happily married sisters come out of their selfishness and empathize with the other sisters who have grown to 30 + of age but yet not married. Hasn’t Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) told us to love for our brother (or sister) what we love for our own selves and that we do not believe until we do so? What is then upon the women who are living happily with their husbands, who can well afford two or three wives at same time, that they do not think about other women suffering as widows or from delayed marriages? Everything each one of us does has a consequence that the Ummah together has to face.
    It is because of this selfish attitude of so many married sisters today that many other sisters worldwide are suffering, and because of it, our Ummah as a whole is also suffering, simply because men married to these women are “taken” and the women will not allow their husbands too marry multiple wives.

    Shame on such women.

  43. Avatar

    lamisa choudhury

    November 22, 2018 at 4:10 PM

    shame on u

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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