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Umm Zakiyyah | Prejudice Bones in My Body

Umm Zakiyyah

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“Good,” she said so matter-of-factly that I was momentarily confused.  Blinking, I held the phone’s receiver as I processed this simple response that held little connection to what I had just said.

It was months after the 9-11 attacks, and I had just shared with my friend my distress over Muslims being unjustly detained and imprisoned on charges of “terrorism,” an injustice that affected mostly immigrant Muslims.

“Now they’ll know how it feels.”

I felt weak as the cruelty of her words took meaning.  Like myself, my friend had repeatedly encountered the sober reality that dulled any lingering dreams of the “universality of Islam.” Muslims worldwide were “brothers and sisters” in Islam, we had been taught, joined by a bond that transcended color, race, and ethnicity.  And we’d believed it — until we met those “brothers and sisters.”

But my friend’s hurt was deeper than mine.  While I had grown up Muslim because my parents had accepted Islam the year I was born, my friend had accepted Islam after the tumultuous confusion of disbelief.  Part of her inspiration for embracing the religion was its universality — which was an antidote to the colorism and racism that had plagued her life since childhood.  She had never imagined that while the “universality of Islam” was an authentic concept, the universality of Islamic brotherhood was not.

In that brief moment — as I held the phone, shocked at what she’d just said — I felt a host of emotions.  Disgust, anger, and helplessness…

For years, my friend had been a mentor and confidante to me.   I had admired her self confidence, her remarkable intelligence, and her persevering strength.  She would offer me a shoulder when I was despondent, and a patient, attentive ear when I was distressed.  And always it was her optimism, even in the face of adversity, that I cherished most.  But we had lost friends along the way, she and I.   Some to disbelief, some to betrayal, and some to death…

Good.  Now they’ll know how it feels.

At the reminder of her words, I understood the source of my pain.

Now, I had lost her too.

“If I were rich,” I proclaimed earnestly one day while chatting with my sister, “I would give soooo much money to the poor.”

My sister nodded heartily in agreement.  As we were in our early teens at the time, we were having a difficult time understanding all the “rich snobbery” in the world.  There was plenty of wealth, but somehow there were still starving children, homeless people, and so many who did not have even the small conveniences of life.

And it hurt most that Muslims played a part in this injustice.  In our very own hometown, my sister and I regularly witnessed the way affluent Muslims treated others — and how we ourselves were treated time after time.  People behaved as if our not being wealthy was something that affected not only our material lifestyle but our personal character or likeability as well.  And it didn’t escape us that this mistreatment was most pronounced by wealthy Muslims who did not share our brown skin and “Black American” status.

“People don’t change overnight,” someone interjected in response.  My sister and I stopped talking and looked up to find our father walking toward us.  We hadn’t realized he was in earshot.

“If you don’t share what you have right now,” he said, “you won’t share it when you have more.” He explained, “If you’re not willing to let your sister wear your new shirt” — the example touched on an argument my sister and I had just had earlier that day (I was upset with her for trying to wear my new clothes before I had a chance to) — “then don’t think anything’s going to change when you have a lot of money.”  He paused.  “The only difference will be that you’ll have a lot more that you’re not willing to share.”

It has been more than twenty years since my father spoke these words, and still, they stay with me.  His simple insight incited in me a self-reflection that I had never engaged in.  Before then, I hadn’t thought of myself as greedy or selfish.  I hadn’t imagined that those whose stinginess I resented so thoroughly were merely a mirror image of myself at the time.

Yes, it’s true, I realized that day in silent self reproach.  I was not generous with my new clothes.  In fact, I was not particularly generous at all.  I’d argue with my sister about “my side” of the room.  I’d taunt my little brothers and sisters “just for fun.”  I’d even neatly tuck away some prized treat for the sole purpose of making sure I’d have it later — when no one else did.  If I finished my chores early — oh, you better believe it! — I’d jump into my cozy bed and enjoy the fact that my sister couldn’t do the same!

If I were rich, I would give soooo much money to the poor.

My heartfelt proclamation returned to me as I settled under my covers for the night, and for some reason they didn’t seem so heartfelt anymore…

“It’s not their fault that they’re rich,” someone had said once.  “Just like you can’t blame someone for being poor, you can’t blame someone for being rich.”

And these words gave me pause.  So often I’d reflected pensively on the injustices inflicted on those who were underprivileged or poor (and, certainly, the injustices toward them were plenty), but I didn’t think of the injustices I may have inflicted upon those of privilege and wealth — even if my injustice would never reach them in any tangible fashion.

But the truth is, I realized sadly one day, we are all guilty of injustice.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, we judge each other harshly, paint sweeping generalizations of “the other”, and keep our distance from those we view as “too different.”  Yet, amazingly, we become frustrated and even perplexed by all the injustice in the world…

“I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body,” I often hear my fellow Muslims say — with the same heartfelt earnestness that I’d proclaimed my generosity so many years ago.

Now, when I hear these words (that I’m sure I myself have uttered on many an occasion), my heart falls in sadness, and I grow pensive.  Then we have no hope at all, I reflect.

I just can’t imagine how the Muslim ummah, let alone the world at large, will ever work to end classism and racism — and injustice itself — if we don’t openly and honestly acknowledge the magnitude of the job before us.

Yes, so many of us eagerly proclaim, “Our job is never done.”  But we somehow imagine this ever-unfinished job is “out there” somewhere—and not inside our own hearts and souls.  Yet, in truth, if there is any fight against injustice that is never done, it doesn’t have roots in an elusive “corrupt world.”  Corruption does not sprout from the dirt of the earth; it sprouts from the dirt of our own souls.

And like so many evils around us (and within us), those of bigotry are continued most destructively by those who imagine they have within them no bigotry at all.

Allah says,

“And when it is said to them, ‘Make not mischief on the earth,’ they say, ‘We are only peacemakers.’ Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.”

—(Al-Baqarah, 2:12)

How then can a believer imagine himself free of such evil when Allah himself has described some evil as beyond the guilty one’s perception?  Is it that Allah himself has declared us pure from corruption?

Or do we ascribe such purity to ourselves?

“So ascribe not purity to yourselves.  He [Allah] knows best who fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him.”

—(Al-Najm, 53:32)

And the only way we can truly keep our duty to Allah is by constantly engaging in self-reflection, never feeling safe from any sin.  For surely, our righteous predecessors were known for their weeping in self-reproach and ever guarding themselves against evil — and no evil did they proclaim safety from.

Even Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) prayed earnestly to Allah to protect him and his children from the grave sin of shirk — joining partners with Allah:

“…And keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols!”

—(Ibrahim, 14:35)

Who then are we in comparison to Allah’s Khalil — His devoted friend?  Who then are we to imagine freedom from a sin more easily committed than the shirk about which Ibrahim prayed?

It is true that I detest classism, racism, colorism, and any other form of bigotry; for I myself have suffered many a time from these injustices, so I cannot imagine condoning them within myself.  The Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, himself advised us to stay away from the evils of racism and nationalism when he said, “Leave it, it is rotten” (Bukhari and Muslim).

But my despising the putridity of these sins does not guarantee my safety from them — just as my abhorring entering the Hell Fire does not grant me salvation from its torment.

So, yes, I detest the idea of having even a single prejudiced bone in my body, but that does not mean I am free from guilt.  None of us are — even those who are frequent victims of prejudice.

Good.  Now they’ll know how it feels.

Even now I shudder at my friend’s words. Indeed, it is terrifying to witness a victim of prejudice finding comfort in the very injustice that caused her pain.

But despite my shock and disappointment at these cruel words, I can’t help wondering why they truly affected me so …

Today, I know it is because somehow — amidst the prejudiced bones in my own body — I can understand what she meant.  No, I certainly do not share her sentiments.  But I do share her heart — her human heart.

And a human heart is never free from injustice.

Yet our greatest calamity is in feeling that ours is.

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.

Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah writes about the interfaith struggles of Muslims and Christians, and the intercultural, spiritual, and moral struggles of Muslims in America. She is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, behavioral therapist. Her books have been used in universities in America and abroad including Indiana University-Bloomington, Howard University, University of D.C. and Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. To learn more about the author, visit uzauthor.com.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rana06

    December 2, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    MashAllah profound piece, as it read the ending it resonated in my head! Powerful message too we always point our fingers about others for being ignorant, racist, apathetic, etc but when we commit the same horrid acts we sadly sometimes don’t even realize our actions–and to me that is worst. And like you said, we are all guilty of this crime.

  2. Avatar

    NayiMuslimah

    December 2, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    MashAllah thank you for this enlightening peace, it is very convicting. May Allah keep us safe from hypocrisy and may we continuously reflect on ourselves inshAllah.

  3. Avatar

    Abdulmujeeb

    December 2, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    Another gifted piece from someone who has a set of GIFTED HANDS.Jazakillahu khairan Ukty. Looking forward to getting your review on BECOMING A STRANGER:AS I AM

  4. Avatar

    batoul

    December 2, 2011 at 1:25 AM

    thanks so much for such a shaking, just like a boomrang, the glance we send to others is just coming back to ourselves, and who knows? the others may be better than what we transcend of inimaginable feelings, May Allah help us master our basic nature

    • Avatar

      bint Abbas

      December 2, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      MashaAllah. Best piece I have read in a long time. SubhanAllah.

  5. Avatar

    tariq nisar ahmed

    December 2, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Alhamdolillah, there is a lot of truth here. Jazakumullahu khayran for this piece.

  6. Avatar

    Maha

    December 2, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    Amazing article. I honestly did not want it to end. Jazaki Allah khairan.

  7. Avatar

    Abu Yousuf

    December 2, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    The Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, himself advised us to stay away from the evils of racism and nationalism when he said, “Leave it, it is rotten” (Bukhari and Muslim)

    Does being a proud american count as being nationalistic?

  8. Avatar

    Qamara

    December 2, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    I want to share this!! For a myriad of reasons, one of which is so that our brothers and sisters can recognize the affect we have on each other. The sister, who said, “Good. Now they will know how it feels.” was an optimistic sister, someone who was wise enough to counsel you on matters, someone that you looked up to and yet this was her response to her brothers and sisters in Islam suffering? A response that was so unlike her that you had to pause in order to process what you had heard. If this is a not a testament to the the old adage, “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words shatter the soul”, I don’t know what is. The prejudice she had endured turned her into a person even she would probably not recognize. Is it no wonder that Allah so greatly emphasizes that Islam TRANSCENDS race and ethnicity yet those who have read these words since birtha nd have read it in the same language Allah revealed it in are sometimes the most liekly to practice the exact opposite.

    Good. Now they will know how it feels.

    I am crying. Not because what she said meant that she too has momentarily played into them same prejudice that has poisoned her righteous existence. I know the power of hate, I fight it every day. I am crying because even when people “know how it feels”, they don’t stop. They somehow excuse their actions and dismiss the power of their prejudice and the affect it has, or they justify who they are prejudiced against. And that, THAT truth hurts my heart because I don’t know how to ensure that my Black, Muslim kids — who will grow up in a world that hates them simply for those two things despite all of their other accolades — will choose NOT to respond by saying, “Good. Now they will know how it feels.” when their oppressors suffer the same fate they will undoubtedly inflict upon my babies. *sigh*

    Thank you for sharing this. I didn’t know you wrote.

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    Umm Muslima

    December 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    MashaAllah, what an intense piece of work!

    In the racially diverse city that I live in with a high Muslim population, I heard that statement or something near to it MANY times after 9/11.

    The Muslim population here is about 2/3 American/African American and 1/3 Arab & Asian or maybe even a little closer to 50/50. In years past the American/African American Muslim community has reached out to include our Arab and Asian brothers and sisters in the Eid celebrations and other Islamic festivities that are held. 99% don’t respond and keep to their own prayers and masajid.

    After 9/11 they were suddenly our brothers and sisters in Islam and sought out the support of and alliance with the American/African American Muslim community. Alhamdulillah, they received it. But after only a few months to a year everything was back to “normal.” Once again we are a city of Muslims mostly divided except for the few American/African American Muslims who venture into the Arab & Asian masajid because they are closer or they have friends/neighbors/relatives that also attend that masjid.

    Alhamdulillah, I have been able to visit many masajid in my city. I have heard plenty of khutba in the American/African American masajid on the plight of out brothers and sisters in Palestine and the encouragment to embrace all Muslims as our brothers and sisters. I have never heard such a khutba in an Arab nor in an Asian masjid. Of course it could be because I missed it that day and was at a different masjid at the time. But Allah SWT knows best.

    I don’t feel any ill will towards any of my Muslim brothers or sisters Alhamdulillah. But I do feel sad for those that believe that either they are the only Muslims and those of other races/ethnicities are not, or that they feel superiour or separate because of wealth or color. On the day that we are all raised up before Allah SWT, we will all have to answer to how we treated our brothers and sisters.

    May Allah SWT guide all of our hearts towards behaviour that will bring us closer to Him. Ameen.

  11. Avatar

    umm abdullah

    December 4, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    JazakAllah Khair! may Allah Swt bless you and your family. Your father’s advice is, mashaAllaah, so deep!!

    Really how small our hearts are, yet we magnify it (or imagine it to be so).

    May AllahSwt pardon us and grant us hearts purified from all these diseases.

  12. Avatar

    Greg Abdul

    December 4, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    as salaam alaikum,

    Some of us, may Allah reward us for all our study, we start thinking that all the knowledge we get from Allah makes us better than other people. Allah tells us we are not all equal and we should not stop giving our scholars and Imams the best treatment, but sad to say, sometimes the better treatment does come because you and me are from the same culture. Prejudice is so hard to stop because most of it is simply engaging the more familiar more than you engage the less familiar. We are all moving consciously and unconsciously towards what we grew up with, towards the same language we grew up with, towards the same skin color we grew up with and most of all, towards the same culture we grew up with. I used to believe Islam took people beyond their prejudice. After being a convert for a few years, I learned the hard way to be even more careful around Muslims because we take our prejudices for granted and many of us don’t see our prejudice as wrong. I may be wrong, but I believe the answer lies in nationalism, but Western nationalism. In the West, there is more experience with dealing with diversity and difference than there is in Muslim countries. Pakistan doesn’t have a long civil rights history. They have the huge struggle they made to separate from India, but after the separation, they have not had blacks or even whites live with them side by side. Then they come to America or Europe with that lack of experience, and make more mistakes than a non Muslim because even though Islam emphasizes equality of race and ethnicity, some of us have come from places where there is no minority to worry over. So in this matter, we have some lessons to learn from American (kuffar) history. We have to search for the best ideas and not just the deepest pockets or the people who look or think like us. We have to work hard to execute Islam the best way here in the West. If that means using ideas from Pakistan or Bangladesh or Jordan, al hamdulillah. But if it means those ideas don’t work for Allah’s deen in the West, then we have to drop bad ideas like hot rocks, no matter where they come from. To free ourselves from our prejudiced behaviors, we first have to be color blind in how we sort our ideas in adapting Islam to our Western environments.

  13. Avatar

    Yousef

    December 5, 2011 at 1:00 AM

    A truly excellent article, reflecting honesty and open-heart. Your findings are true. THis goes along perfectly with the Islamic teachings that come form Quran & Hadith. Allah SWT told us that when believers enter Paradise, He (Allah SWT) would extract the “Ghill” (غِلّْ) from their hearts. This word (غِلّْ, said: Ghill) can be close to the meaning of “grudge, or bad feelings” against others, (see Holy Quran, chapter 7 (Al-A’raaf), verse 206):

    وَنَزَعْنَا مَا فِي صُدُورِهِمْ مِنْ غِلٍّ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي هَدَانَا لِهَٰذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لِنَهْتَدِيَ لَوْلَا أَنْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ لَقَدْ جَاءَتْ رُسُلُ رَبِّنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَنُودُوا أَنْ تِلْكُمُ الْجَنَّةُ أُورِثْتُمُوهَا بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
    “And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury;- beneath them will be rivers flowing;- and they shall say: “Praise be to Allah, who hath guided us to this (felicity): never could we have found guidance, had it not been for the guidance of Allah: indeed it was the truth, that the messengers of our Lord brought unto us.” And they shall hear the cry: “Behold! the garden before you! Ye have been made its inheritors, for your deeds (of righteousness).”

    And by the way, even messengers of Allah SWT are born with this potentially harmful quality, because it is part of being human (as opposed to angels), but Allah SWT removes it from them in the worldy life to perfect them, as indictaed in the reference in Seerah in the Sahih books of Hadith, that prophpet Muhammad SAAW was subjected to an incident when he was about 7 years old where two angels placed him down on his back, opened his chest, took his heart out, opened it, and removed a black clot from inside it. Of course in terms of angels doing that by Allah’s permission it is a miracle, that is why he SAAW was not harmed. Furthermore, Allah SWT could have of course created all of His prophets and messengers already without this “imperfection”, but since they are humans, we needed to know that we all (humans) have it, and it is ok, because our test is to overcome it with our self-Jihad, and if and when we succeed, then we deserve to earn the title of “MutaQeen – God-fearing or righteous” and win the paradise, and it is important to keep in mind that only Allah SWT knows whether we are succeeding or not, so that we never fall prey to self-conceit. And we shall always trip and fall, we shall always sin, and we shall never reach perfection.. never ever… and that is exactly whay Allah’s mercy is there…. our only task is to have the right intentions in the heart and do out best all the time with sincere and authehtic repentence!

  14. Avatar

    saffy

    December 6, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    MashaAllah,a provocative and introspective article sister !

    I always wondered why Turkey sent the Gaza flotilla when they had somalis and ethiopians kids in the
    famine dying like flies,why no flotilla for them? because they are black and african,and generate no political points like the palestinian issue does?

    No muslim country has put sanctions on North Sudan(the arab side of sudan) when it committed a 2 million genocide(and continues on the new borders with the new country south sudan). 99% of muslims I know in the US have no clue about the war in sudan that has raged for so many years,one of the most brutal and exhausting wars against the civilian population.And they do not want to talk about it either

    With collective righteous anger over percieved injustices committed against muslims,we need collective guilt also over the injustices committed BY muslims. No role comes with rights and duties.
    And sorely,our ummah rants about our rights and never about our duties in terms of justice for all

    • Avatar

      Yousef

      December 10, 2011 at 1:58 AM

      dear Saffy, with all due respect, you need to understand the complex nature related to Palestine. Palestine is a universal Islamic issue. A whole nation (the Palestinian people) has been displaced unjustly over half a century ago and their oppression is still ongoing by the Israelis!

      The siege around Gazza and the intentional systematic humiliation and starving carried out by Israel dwarfs other world problems now a days, (with the exception of famines of Africa and Asia), and in fact represent a dual ground between the good and evil of the world.

      The Gaza flotilla is a symbolic representation of the good people of the world standing in the face of tyranny and defying injustice…it is never for actually feeding the mmillions in Gazza!!!

      Regarding the famines of Africa, the Muslim countries and Turkey are relentless in sending foods and support rations. And further, the Muslim in the world is responsible for hundreds of millions in donations for Africa, still, they are not doing enough, I agree, but they are doing something! And what does this have anything to do with prejudice against color of skin!!!

      And what is this 2 million genocides figure you brought up against non-Muslims in Sudan? Could you substantiate it with references and proof please?

      Writing is a witness for you or against you. Please let us watch what we say.

  15. Avatar

    saffy

    December 11, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Assalaamu Alaykum Brother Yousef. Let me clarify that you can start with a salaam to me,I am a Muslim as well as you are.I have been part of an NGO which works closely in the field,and so might have a more realistic idea of the regional politics there,than what is shown by the Arab media

    Nobody is denying the plight of the Palestinians but it is the reluctance in grasping the problems of Muslims in Africa,is what smacks of racism here.Ethiopia experienced its greatest famine in the 1950s,if you are not aware.So this famine that they alternate into every 5 yrs,has been a 60 yr problem as well.And people die to the tune of a 1/2 million or more in each crisis,such ‘death’ is not marked by the Palestinian problem.And the oil-rich neighbors and the turks who are only a swim away from the somalian shores,agreed to open up their purse for the first time in history for this repeat-famine struck region only after the UN demanded that they also contribute substantially this time,despite their rise to economic power since the 70s.
    While we fight for immigration rights in the west,somalis who desperately swim across the sea are repeatedly deported by the arab nations,they lack giving even basic human rights to the african illegal immigrants that West has most definitely given here.Africans care a damn about Palestinian issue now,because they feel arabs are cornering most of the aid and attention in the name of the Palestinian issue,which has chances of reconcilation but the african situation only gets worse with their population out to top 600 million just among the 3 african muslim majority countries
    It is like a parent feeding a child that has a visible handicap while the rest of the children are in their death bed in starvation.
    And if you are not familiar with the Darfur crisis that created the largest refugee crisis ever and the aftermath of the Sudan partition,you need to familiarize yourself to know the numbers of the arab vs black conflct,and the slavery angle to it

    Wasalaam,
    Safiya

    • Avatar

      Yousef

      December 12, 2011 at 2:34 AM

      Dear sister Saffiya,

      As-Salamu Alaikum Warahmatu Allah Wabarakatuh. I apologize for neglecting the salam in my previous response. And I apologize for my ignorance in some of the points you mentioned; points well taken I might add! You are quite correct about the utter negligence of poor Muslim countries by other Muslim countries. I might add a positive point here, that Muslims who care, Muslims who are devout in their faith do care about all other world Muslims, no matter where they are or how poor or neglected they may be. Devout Muslims know that Allah SWT sees these neglected Muslims and hears them.. that He hears their supplications. Allah Almighty promised them great reward for their patience and suffering.
      As to the ones who fail the test of extending their hand to the poor and neglected ones, they are the ‘real’ losers …they favor their materialistic and self-serving interests over having hearts! Their materialistic world will sooner or later leave them…rendering them in remorse and sorrow, they would be wishing they could come back to the dunya to do good, but no way back….
      By the way, I lived in the USA for 19 years in a very close netted Muslim community, and I can tell you that our Muslim community used to rally with all we got to help Muslims everywhere… despite the fact that most of us did not have much to give, but for the most part, the Islam practiced in the West with all its sweet community togetherness sure beats the Arab world Muslim communities (I speak about communities). We felt true sense of ‘brotherhood’ with ALL ethnicities and colors. We were totally color-blind because Islam unified us and made us BROTHERS and SISTERS.. and it was very very special indeed.

  16. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    December 16, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    Mash’Allah beautiful piece with a very important message! May Allah reward you sister for your efforts to remind fellow believers (all of us) the meaning of constant self-reflection and correction. BTW I recently purchased your book If I Should Speak and hope to read it soon. I didn’t know it was part of a trilogy Insha’Allah I hope to get the rest of the series soon! I’m also hoping to include a review of your book(s) within my blog soon Insha’Allah.

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    hamida bithi

    March 3, 2017 at 10:45 PM

    ma shaa Allah, this article brought tears to my eyes. We are indeed unjust to our souls, and we are ought to constantly engage in repentance and humbleness. May Allah forgive us, and guide us to the straight path, Ameen.

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

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The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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#Current Affairs

Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians

Raashid Riza

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On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.

It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.

Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.

In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.

Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.

Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.

Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead

Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.

Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.

However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.

Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.  Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.

Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.

It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.

I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.

I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.

I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah

Raashid Riza is a Sri Lankan Muslim, the Politics & Society Editor of The Platform. He blogs here and tweets on @aufidius.

 

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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