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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

    • Avatar

      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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#Society

The Rise of the Scholarly Gig Economy and Fall of Community Development

The lack of appropriate compensation has led to the rise of qualified scholars and imams seeking other means of financial compensation beyond the local community as paid employees – how should we actually value them as community leaders, and how should we break down their financial costs?

Shaykh Osman Umarji

Published

on

The past few decades have seen many bright and talented young men leave their professional careers in pursuit of religious knowledge. They studied in Pakistan, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and many other Muslim countries, sacrificing their careers, wealth, and many years of their life with the hopes and dreams of learning Islam and teaching it when they returned. These aspiring students of religious knowledge were usually advised against studying Islam overseas by their parents, friends, respected elders, and many community members. They were warned that the path was physically and financially risky and challenging. Nonetheless, packed with their resolve and hope in Allah, they were patient with the obstacles they faced in pursuit of knowledge. As their imaan and knowledge continued to grow and their passion for conveying the beauty of Islam increased, they joyfully returned to the U.S. with dreams of providing their communities with religious guidance. Unfortunately, within a short period of time, their enthusiasm has diminished and their frustration has increased. So, what happened?

Despite serving their communities day and night by leading prayers, giving khutbas, teaching weekly classes, giving dawah to non-Muslims, mentoring the youth, and counseling people in need, community members have continuously complained. Board members, often times ignorant about the day to day work of an imam, attempt to control their schedules, activities and speak down to them. Community members complain that the scholar follows a different madhab than their own, his beard was too short, his pants were too long, or that his voice wasn’t melodious enough. Nonetheless, they were able to deal with these issues. They knew that the prophets had faced tremendous obstacles and that they too had to exercise beautiful patience with their communities. However, there was another issue that although it existed from day one, it was becoming more of a concern as these scholars got married and had children; they were not being paid a respectable wage[1] [2]. The one-bedroom apartment was not big enough, their children could not participate in high-quality community programs, and saving for retirement was impossible.

What are the natural consequences of the financial situation that these young men were put in? By looking at many of our communities, the answer is rather obvious. These young scholars often left their positions in the masjid, painstakingly leaving their passion to serve their communities behind in pursuit of a decent wage. Some had degrees to fall back on and went back to careers in engineering or business. Others decided to learn new marketable skills such as data science and accounting. Others went back to graduate school in search of new careers. Another group decided to become independent contractors, offering their services to any community willing to compensate them for their services of teaching or even fundraising. They would travel long distances to speak, hoping to help others and make an income.

In this new Islamic gig economy, the youth and their families are the casualties, who have been left without guidance and mentorship. After their local scholar left the masjid seeking greener pastures, their masjid may have completely stopped having regular programs, resorted to finding underqualified community members to speak, or hired other popular scholars to guest lecture once in while and run back home. All of these stopgap measures have left the community without religious leadership[3].

Another group of scholars decided to start their own traveling institutes, join existing ones, or become Islamic tour guides. They had to build their brands, market their institutes online and on social media, and typically had to cater to the wealthy and educated segments of the Muslim community. They would travel the country and provide their knowledge to those with the wealth to afford these private events. Sadly, this has inadvertently led to a dawah focused on the elite, where only the haves are targeted for spiritual growth, and the have nots are of less concern since they provide little financial value. Additionally, the need to build up a scholar’s brand has the potential to compromise one’s dignity and values if one has to keep finding ways to stay popular and promote himself. Rather than blame the scholars who have taken these roads, it is more important to think about the conditions in our community that have led to the rise of this culture. In fact, due to a lack of qualified scholars nationally, traveling scholars and institutes have provided significant value. However, we also need to think deeply about the social implications and consequences of these recent trends. In this exchange between local residents and traveling scholars, communities have nothing to build on after the program. They do not have access to study circles, weekly classes, or spiritual mentoring. Furthermore, the youth are largely neglected, as traveling educational programs do not typically cater to their needs. Is this the future of community building? Is this our legacy and history?

The issue at the heart of this piece (and many other great articles[4] [5]) is the value of a scholar to a community. It is well known that Muslim scholars are paid significantly less than Rabbis and other qualified faith leaders. Basic economics will tell us the result of this, regardless of good intentions. Why would intelligent young minds ever fathom careers in religious work if they know that they will not be paid a decent wage? Are we surprised when scholars with other career options quickly abandon their positions? Only those with significant financial assistance from their family or access to private donors are typically able to stay in such positions, although they may harbor much resentment within them. Even more problematic is the frustration that their wives and children feel when they see their husbands and fathers giving so much to the community, yet they have little to show for it in terms of financial stability or quality time together. What makes the scholar’s predicament more complicated is that due to the atypical work hours of the position, which may include early mornings, evenings, and weekends, the wife of the scholar is required to stay home full time with the children and unable to work. This makes the scholar’s family dependent on his salary alone. Which brings us to the core of the matter; what should scholars be paid?

The knee-jerk response that we often hear from board and community members in affluent communities when discussing salaries is “brother, we would love to pay our scholar more, but we don’t have the funding.” This would be a reasonable response until you look at the multi-million-dollar renovations to make the masjid aesthetically pleasing and the tens of thousands of dollars spent on catering lavish iftars and interfaith dinners. Ultimately, the use of masjid funds is a value judgment. It is a value judgment that board members have to make on how to use funds that the community has provided, and a value judgment for community members on how much to invest in their masjid. For board members primarily concerned with building megacenters, what value is a beautiful building if it is devoid of congregants and someone to provide guidance to the community?[6] For community members, what is a reasonable amount to regularly contribute and invest? Is the masjid worth as much as your monthly gym pass? Is the masjid worth as much as your children’s Kumon or martial arts expenses? I am not suggesting families abandon any of their existing financial investments in themselves or their children. What I am suggesting is that we completely rethink the value of a religious scholar in our community as an investment, not a charity cause. In the business world, wealthy investors invest in people, not a business. They invest in people who they believe can create value for society. Does the Muslim community think about hiring a scholar as a fixed business asset (e.g., a shiny piece of furniture) or as an investment in a person who produces value by helping a community grow? If the scholar in your community saves and supports your child’s Islamic identity and imaan, how much is that worth to you? If the scholar delivers inspiring lectures that help you spiritually grow as a person, how much is that worth to you? These are some of the questions we need to reflect upon as we try to determine how much to invest in scholar.

Financial Reality Check:

Let’s discuss specifics. How much should a scholar be compensated? The answer is that it depends. It depends on such factors as the city that the community is in, the qualifications and experience of the scholar, and the job expectations. For example, hiring a scholar in Los Angeles (median home price of $690,000) will cost significantly more than hiring a scholar in Albuquerque (median home price of $200,700). It is unreasonable to expect a scholar to squeeze his family into a studio or one bedroom apartment. It is also unreasonable to expect the scholar to live far away from the masjid and commute long distances multiple times a day if the masjid is in a more affluent neighborhood (if this happens, don’t be surprised if the scholar doesn’t show up as often). The salary should take into consideration the income required to rent in the city[7] and what is considered a livable wage[8]. For example, in Los Angeles, a family requires an income over $118,000 to rent a two-bedroom apartment, assuming a 28% rent-to-income ratio. To demonstrate the variance in the cost of living, San Francisco and New York residents require over $165,000 in annual income to afford renting a two-bedroom apartment, whereas Denver requires an income around $78,000.

A religious scholar should be treated as a professional who brings substantial skills into the position. A religious scholar is expected to be a competent public speaker, community educator, counsel community members, provide Islamic legal and spiritual guidance, research contemporary topics, and many other tasks. A religious scholar typically has secular and religious bachelor’s degrees, although many hold master’s and doctorates. Compensation should take into account the level of education and experience of the scholar.

A community needs to factor in whether they need a full-time or part-time scholar. The IRS defines a full-time employee as someone who works 30 or more hours in a week. Therefore, any scholar working 30 hours or more should be treated as full-time, and less than 30 hours as part-time. In some cases, part-time positions are desired by both the masjid and scholar, especially if the community has financial constraints or if the scholar prefers the flexibility to pursue other interests simultaneously. In addition to base salaries, comprehensive medical insurance (health, dental, and vision) and retirement plans should be standard for the full-time scholar and his family. Retirement plans are important for both the scholar and the community. In the absence of a retirement plan, the scholar is unable to leave his position financially and is forced to cling to his role. For the community, allowing a scholar to retire and be financially stable is important in and of itself, but also ensuring younger scholars can transition into the role and continue building the community. There should also be a built-in structure for annual raises, due to factors such as increased experience and inflation-induced increases in the cost of living. While an entry level salary may not afford a young scholar the income to rent or purchase a home, annual raises and merit-based promotions should create a salary trajectory that allows the scholar to raise his growing family in the community he works in. Professional development opportunities, continuing education funds, and sabbaticals should also be considered part of the compensation package to ensure the scholar grows in his skillset and ability to guide the community. Sabbaticals allow scholars to write and produce beneficial material or travel and spend time learning from senior scholars.

A separate consideration from salaried scholars is how to compensate contracted/freelance work, which is defined here as an agreement for a scholar to provide a specific guest lecture, program, or service to a community[9]. Compensation needs to take into consideration distance of travel, local traffic, and other factors that affect the time investment of the scholar. Contracted work is not as consistent as full-time salaried work and should be treated as a form of consulting, where higher rates per program are expected. One suggestion[10] is to pay the local contracted scholar 0.5% of the average local scholar’s salary in your region for a program. For example, if the average salary is $100,000, a local guest scholar should be offered approximately $100,000 x .5% = $500 for a lecture. Additionally, if the speaker is coming from out of town and travels from far away, travel time should be considered in the honorarium. Some obvious guidelines include paying for food, travel, and accomodations[11]. Of course, level of expertise and experience must be factored in, as this is only meant to be a starting point.

Unfortunately, as it stands now, a local contracted scholar would be fortunate to receive $100-200 for a lecture, which may take many hours to prepare. Just to demonstrate how low this rate is, let’s do a little exercise. Imagine a scholar made an agreement to do 30 lectures in a month (which is unheard of), spread out at different local Islamic centers. Assuming a rate of $150 per lecture, the scholar would earn 30 x $150 = $4,500 for a month x 12 = $54,000 for a year. This does not include health benefits, retirement, sick time, taxes, or anything else. Is this a fair and equitable way to treat a scholar? To add insult to injury, scholars are often expected to work for free, spiritually bullied by boards and community members that religious work should be done fi sabillah (or free sabillah?). Scholars despise negotiating and arguing over money, which leads to them typically accepting whatever low offer they have been given, while deep down they feel abused and taken advantage of. Somehow, this problem needs to be remedied. Scholars could hire agents to negotiate a reasonable package on their behalf. This might help individual scholars, but not the profession at large. A better solution might be the formation of a scholars union that sets standards and guidelines for compensation (to be discussed in a future article, inshaAllah).

The American Muslim community is in a spiritual and intellectual crisis. With the prevalence of secular, liberal, progressive, and other unIslamic worldviews creeping into our communities and children’s lives, the need for capable religious scholars to guide our communities is critically important. However, acquiring talented scholars to address the needs of our communities requires giving proper respect, which in its most basic form is providing reasonable wages. If we decide otherwise, we should not be surprised when communities fail, youth and families become lost, and capable scholars end up far away from their communities.

May Allah protect us all.

[1] Abuelezz, M. (2011). A Survey of American Imams: Duties, Qualifications and Challenges: a Quantitative and Religious Analysis (Thesis, University of Georgia).

[2] Comparely: Salaries for Imams

[3] NPR: As Islam Grows, US Imams in Short Supply

[4] MuslimSI: So How Much Should Islamic Clergy Make?

[5] MuslimSI: How a Community Masjid can Provide a Competitive Salary for an Imam

[6] In a study (Higher Education in the 21st Century ) conducted by Harvard about college experiences that included 2,000 interviews across 10 college campuses, one of the biggest takeaways was that colleges need to invest in people, not buildings. Students wanted access to more people to help guide them with their personal struggles rather than investments in technology and infrastructure.

[7] https://smartasset.com/mortgage/income-needed-to-pay-rent-in-us-cities-2018

[8] http://livingwage.mit.edu/

[9] IbnAbeeOmar: The Age of the Full-time Imam is Over – Here’s What the New Era Looks Like

[10] http://www.artrainer.com/how-much-should-you-pay-a-guest-preacher/

[11] While this may seem obvious, there are many cases where traveling guest speakers spend their own money for travel, food, and lodging and are not compensated at all for speaking.

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#Society

Our Plastic Planet

Abu Ryan Dardir

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We travel through time and see the different times as a race that we have advanced through. A few of those times were identified by the materials used or that were life-changing. The stone age, the bronze age, and the iron age. If our time was to be identified, it is undeniable the plastic age.

Chemically, plastic is made up from organic compounds like such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and, of course, crude oil. When plastics were first introduced, it was a life-changing compound that littered homes (then the world). Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. It makes visiting beautiful sites created by Allah, disappointing. What does pollution, specifically plastic, has to do with our role as Muslims? and to what capacity?

Before understanding that, we have to see how plastics impact life on Earth.

Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

One million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.

Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).

Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

These are just a few examples, the list is much longer. Before I go any further, I want to express my opinion first, as an environmental activist. Your individual actions in dealing with pollution are your duty as a Muslim, but the change we need for our survival needs to happen on an international level.

Abu Zarr Al-Ghafari (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity (sadaqah).”

This simple hadith resonates with us due to the magnitude of its influence. Moving an obstacle is charity, we associate money with charity and tend to forget that other actions that can count as charity. What does removing an obstacle has to do with plastics? As I mentioned earlier 40% of the ocean’s surface is covered in plastic. That is a disturbance to other living creatures. As we remove the obstacles from the path of many creatures, we can work on ourselves to avoid putting it there, to begin with. This also relates to point number three of how many living creatures are impacted by our negligence. Not just plants and animals, but people as well. You can take a moment to google images of plastic in our world and see that they aren’t just neatly packed in garbage bags or recycling bins.

Imaams al-Bukhari and Muslim reported from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said: “There is a reward for service to every living creature.”

These are violations we commit and deeds we are prevented from by participating in this plastic culture. More importantly, we are harming ourselves and contaminating useable drinking water. Earlier I wrote an article about water its right upon us.

God’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) expressed this in the following way:

“It is a fact that in the next life you will render their rights to those to whom they are due. The hornless sheep even will receive its right by way of retaliation from a horned sheep that butted it.” Muslim, Birr, 60.

Our actions in this modern era echo around the world. My polluting habits may cause harm elsewhere. My spending habits may entice more harm than good. It may seem extreme, but science proves that we are all connected in a delicate chain or balance, a balance set by the wisdom of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). More importantly, it is documented from the words of the Prophet. An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5665, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586

When water gets contaminated it is then rendered useless, depriving millions of basic survival. There are plenty of freshwater reserves completely useless due to toxic pollution from plastic manufacturing.

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ السَّمَّانِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ

عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏”‏ ثَلاَثَةٌ لاَ يُكَلِّمُهُمُ اللَّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، وَلاَ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهِمْ رَجُلٌ حَلَفَ عَلَى سِلْعَةٍ لَقَدْ أَعْطَى بِهَا أَكْثَرَ مِمَّا أَعْطَى وَهْوَ كَاذِبٌ، وَرَجُلٌ حَلَفَ عَلَى يَمِينٍ كَاذِبَةٍ بَعْدَ الْعَصْرِ لِيَقْتَطِعَ بِهَا مَالَ رَجُلٍ مُسْلِمٍ، وَرَجُلٌ مَنَعَ فَضْلَ مَاءٍ، فَيَقُولُ اللَّهُ الْيَوْمَ أَمْنَعُكَ فَضْلِي، كَمَا مَنَعْتَ فَضْلَ مَا لَمْ تَعْمَلْ يَدَاكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ عَلِيٌّ حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ غَيْرَ مَرَّةٍ عَنْ عَمْرٍو سَمِعَ أَبَا صَالِحٍ يَبْلُغُ بِهِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏

As narrated by Abu Huraira:

“The Prophet said, ‘There are three types of people whom Allah will neither talk to nor look at, on the Day of Resurrection. (They are): 1. A man who takes an oath falsely that he has been offered for his goods so much more than what he is given. 2. A man who takes a false oath after the ‘Asr prayer in order to grab a Muslim’s property, and 3. A man who withholds his superfluous water. Allah will say to him, Today I will withhold My Grace from you as you withheld the superfluity of what you had not created.” [Bukhari: 2370]

We do not want to be guilty of withholding water from other directly or indirectly. With the advanced technology and the thousands of websites providing information, there are plenty of ways to determine if your daily habits have an impact on others well being.

We only manage to recycle 5% of the plastic wasted, and 90% of the pollution in the ocean is plastic. Are we asked to recycle? Is it just good practice or a practice is preferred?

Asked about what the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to do in his house, the Prophet’s wife, `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), said that he used to repair his shoes, sow his clothes and used to do all such household works done by an average person.

Recycling and reusing is a critical part of conserving and protecting what we have. You can start with yourself, but your goal is to expand these actions to other families, communities, countries. If the action is sincere this would bring us closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Saheeh Muslim)

 

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#Culture

How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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