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In the Recession: Job Interview Tips for Muslim Men

Unemployment Series

Interviewer: “So do you have any questions about our company or the position?”

Muslim: “I need off every Friday from 1pm to 3pm. Is there a room I can pray in a couple of times a day? Also sometimes I need to wash my feet in the sink, is that ok? Which restroom should I use? Do you have lotas? Can I borrow the watering jug?”

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Interviewer: “Thanks, we’ll be in touch….”

Let’s face it, we are special. We are the strange ones. How do we manage to land that nice job in the corporate world without assimilating and changing our names from Muhammads to Moes and Tariqs to Terrys?

So you have a spiffy new resume, you have been applying to every job you can find online, and you finally get the initial phone call. You get through the preliminaries and now you are set to go interview in person. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Resume Tips

Before getting to the interview, it is essential to have a good resume to help land the interview. Without going into too much details, the most important resume tips can be summarized as such,

  • Aesthetically pleasing (don’t use pre-made Word templates)
  • Grammatically correct.
  • Put accomplishments instead of duties. “Brought GUI application for high dollar accounts to satisfactory completion” sounds a whole lot better than “Write code in C++.” Things like “Caught accounting oversights to help recover $200,000 in lost revenue” sounds a whole lot better than “Accounting and bookeeping.”
  • Don’t sell yourself short. Your experience is used to gauge your ability to adapt and learn skills, not necessarily replicate the work you do at one job in another.
  • Use buzzwords as much as possible – search job openings online and see the words that are in the title headings and use them. Even though you might not officially be a “project manager”, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t ‘managed projects’ – so include the buzzword.
  • Don’t lie. This should go without saying for a Muslim.

Now, getting to the interview.

Appearance

Looks count. “‘Beauty is on the inside’ is just something ugly people say to feel better about themselves” – that is not exactly true, but don’t bank on your internal beauty when interviewing for a job. It is naive to think you can live in a materialistic society and then not be judged on your looks.

Get yourself a nice suit. Wear something conservative. A black suit or dark gray suit should do fine. Don’t wear a loud colored shirt or a loud tie. Make sure your suit is tailored properly and actually fits. If you are 5’6 and 150 pounds, don’t borrow your brothers suit who is 5’9, 200. Spend the extra 20 bucks and make sure it fits right.

Make sure your beard is well groomed. I do not mean that it has to be short. A beard can be short, and still look scraggly or “jungly” for all the desis out there. It can be long, and still look well maintained (Tableeghi brothers have this down). It is important, and it’s the Sunnah, to be neat. This is a direct reflection of your personal hygiene. Anyone who has worked in an IT office knows how people respond to the pungent curry smell that is known to emanate from the break room microwaves at lunch time – when you walk in with a big beard, you have been branded with this type of stigma, so make sure hygiene/smell is not an issue.

Speaking of smell, make sure to put on a nice dab of good cologne. Do not put on your favorite attar oil, or your imitation 3 dollar vial of “CK ONE” – it doesn’t smell that nice, and it’s a bit too heavy for this type of environment.

First impressions count, so make it a good one. I didn’t want to focus too much on appearance, but Muslim men do have style issues. Please see the Muslim Man’s Guide to Style for more information.

Preparation

This is the general stuff you will find everywhere online. Read up about the company. Check out their ‘about’ page and understand their business. Make sure you are familiar with the job description of the position applied for.

It’s important to be familiar with the economic sector the company is in, and who their main competitors are. Have a list of questions ready to ask about the company and the position.

Get a nice briefcase ready for your interview. Keep a couple of copies of your resume. Pack relevant print outs of salary information if needed. Also make sure to keep a personal print out with the following information:

  • List of places you have worked for at least the last 10 years, including company name, address, and your supervisor’s name and number.
  • List of 3 references (preferrably previous managers) along with their phone numbers.
  • Your starting and ending salary for every position you have held before.

The above information is often required on almost any standard job application, so make sure you have it ready to go.

Small Talk

When you get to the interview, prepare to make small talk. Often times your interview will not start right away and you will be talking to the receptionist, or the interviewer may be waiting on another team member to come before starting the interview. I have been asked all types of questions from “How far do you live from here and how was the traffic coming in?” to “What are you favorite books?” or “What is your favorite TV show?” and other such questions. This is probably not the time to tell them that you’re currently engrossed in an advanced textbook on Usul al-Fiqh, or that TV is haram and they need to fear Allah.

I often try to mention the name of a secular book I’m currently reading, or one I finished recently. In regards to TV and other such questions, I try to bring it back to sports. Even when music is brought up, I simply mention that when I am not a big fan of the radio, and that when I do listen to it, it is usually ESPN radio. Sports is the ultimate ice breaker in small talk, especially in the workplace.

The Actual Interview

*Regarding shaking hands read this article for advice.

Being at the actual interview means they’re already somewhat confident of your abilities. The main thing that most look for at this stage is how well you fit in with the people already there. I had a job interview where they told me they had just finished a big office video game and pizza party, and asked me if I liked having fun.

Make sure you are personable. Be confident in your answers and your abilities. If they ask you how you feel about something you do not know – as we are taught Islamically – do not be afraid to say you don’t know. Just make sure to follow it up by saying that you have been in similar situations before, and you are a quick learner and can easily adapt to situations.

Don’t make jokes in your interviews. I have learned this one the hard way. I was once asked about dealing with pressure situations, and I mentioned experience in a hospital dealing with demanding nurses (except I was a bit sarcastic about it) only to have one of the interviewers cut me off with, “I’m a nurse” (ouch). Another time I was asked about how good I was in documenting something, and I mentioned dealing with outsourcing and communicating with “people who can barely speak English” only to realize that there was a semi-FOB in the interviewing team. So make sure to be tactful and polite. You can always show off your sense of humor later.

Be prepared to talk about yourself and your experience. Rehearse it if you need to. Also be prepared for the ‘canned’ questions like “where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?”, and “what is your dream job?”, etc. Have a good answer for questions like “What would your manager say is your greatest weakness?” or “What would team mates say is your greatest weakness?” and ones similar to that. The answer is not as important as how you project yourself. They are seeing how well spoken you are, how your attitude is, and checking things like making sure you are not arrogant.

Have good questions prepared when they ask you if you have any questions. Ask what the day to day environment is like, and what the challenges are. Ask them what they enjoy most about the company they work for. The best question though, is to always inquire about what educational opportunities are available, and express interest in pursuing industry standard certifications. This shows them that you are interested in growing with the company, and that you are taking initiative to find ways of improving even before starting. Make sure you are serious though, and follow through with those opportunities when they come up.

Make sure to show that you are someone that is easy to get along with, a hard worker, and a quick learner. When you walk in, especially if you ‘look’ Muslim, you need to take into account stereotypes people will have. Break them. I have found that simply acting professionally and sounding articulate (it is not hard to sound more articulate than the average Joe Schmo) can go a long way.

Some companies adopt a behavior based interview, read this article for more tips on handling those questions as they are tougher than the general interviews.

Salary

Know your worth ahead of time. Check out market (salary.com) values for your position with your level of experience and education. Don’t be timid to ask for your fair rate. Always say you are negotiable and open to market value, but also be prepared with an actual number (or range rather) as well. If the salary is not all there, negotiate other things. Everything is up for grabs. I have interviewed with companies where even the vacation time was negotiable as I was coming from a company that had a better time off program. If they can’t go up a certain amount of dollars, try asking for a signing bonus. Negotiate things like working from home for a day a week or something like that if it is feasible.

After the Interview

Make sure to send a thank you email to whomever interviewed you, or arranged the interview, and let them know you thought the interview was positive. If you felt otherwise, it is important to go ahead and let them know it is not what you are expecting, and you would like to withdraw consideration, but thank them for their time. These are basic etiquettes.

Muslim Needs

I have found that after the interview and when you are starting or being extended an offer is the best time to bring up your Muslim needs. The best way to talk about Juma is explain that you have a religious obligation every Friday from 1pm-3pm, and that you are free to work early/late or on another day to make up the time. Don’t come across with a sense of entitlement. They are working around their schedule to let you attend Juma, so make sure to return the favor and be flexible in making up the time. Another quick tip that I utilize is, block out your calendar with a recurring appointment as “Off Campus” – I have found that this has gone a long way in keeping people from scheduling meetings with me at this time.

In regards to daily prayers and things like that, the approach I found that worked best was to simply ask my team lead where there is an empty meeting room I could pray in. I don’t feel this is something you need to work out before getting the job, it can easily be done afterwards.

Also make sure to have some tact in the workplace. I have heard stories of Muslims who are surgical techs, residents, etc., doing things like foot-in-the-sink in the O.R. rooms. Come on.. :)

Final Advice

Before taking any job, make Istikharah :)

See also: Observing the Sunnah in the Professional World

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

66 Comments

66 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    June 30, 2008 at 3:39 AM

    Assalamualaikum

    Jazakallahu Khair bro, you really outdo yourself with these beneficial articles.

    I need tips on the beard though… how can we keep the beard neat while letting it grow?? My beard just seems to go all over the place and I can’t seem to do much about it…

  2. Avatar

    B

    June 30, 2008 at 5:32 AM

    What about shaking hands with a female interviewer? Politely rejecting her extended hand diminshes your chances exponentially, you miight as well end the interview, and oh, hell breaks loose if the female interviewer has an Arab/Desi background!

    Any tactful way around this issue?

    • Avatar

      RCHOUDH

      December 16, 2011 at 5:43 AM

      This reminds me of a story I read online about a brother who had a female interviewer ask him whether or not he felt comfortable having females as his boss. He replied that yes he was already used to that because of his wife at home! But he found it interesting how the interviewer happened to throw that question out there at him which really had nothing to do with his qualifications. Are employers allowed to ask questions like that I wonder? I think we should realize that since employers have biases like every other human sometimes those biases come into play and lessen our chances of being considered for a job despite having the right qualifications for it. It’s similar to how some hijabi sisters feel like they didn’t get a certain job due to their outward appearance.

      • Avatar

        Nuraini

        December 16, 2011 at 6:43 AM

        maybe, since a lot of muslims – as we can see on this forum even – don’t think women should be in the workplace at all. hence they may have issues being assigned to a department where they would be managed by, and follow orders from, a woman. or even work with women colleagues. or accept that the GM or VP of that department setting your goals and strategy, is female. which i guess is fine for one’s personal life, but would not be a good fit for the job. maybe the interviewer is only checking which kind of muslim the applicant was. i rather think that if you’re asking to be in a team that consists only of men, then an employer could indeed take that into consideration in terms of the applicant’s suitability. just like if the applicant is looking for a job that allows part-time hours, or no travel, but the job has to be full time and it involves a lot of travel – it is not a match between job and applicant. it’s not always just the qualifications that are relevant for the job, but also whether you’re willing to do it. but the guy sure had a great answer!

  3. Avatar

    iMuslim

    June 30, 2008 at 9:09 AM

    @B – I haven’t been to a job interview for a long while, and when I did last get interviewed, I wasn’t even aware of the no-handshaking rule, astagfirullah. But I did recently have a thesis examination where both my examiners were male! The day before I suddenly realised that they would probably want to shake my hand before the exam started – and what a terrific impression that would make two minutes before the event that decides whether I pass or fail four years of hard study!

    I knew my supervisor would be having lunch with the examiners before the viva, so I e-mailed him and asked him to inform them of the no handshaking issue in as gentle a way as possible (while still getting the message across). Alhamdulillah, he did exactly that, so when I eventually met them, no hands were extended! I could actually notice that they were working against their instincts, bless.

    So, at the end of that long story, I suggest that anyone in a similar interview type situation should e-mail the PA, or whomever is arranging the meeting, prior to the big day, and ever-so-politely explain the no-handshaking rule, emphasizing that it is a religious practice, and not a personal insult! True, some employers may be put off – especially if your job involves meeting lots of new people – but that’s just a risk for us. As long as we do the right thing, Allah will see us through.

    The bonus of this method is that if you do get the job, insha’Allah, they will probably remember the memo you sent them and may even warn your new colleagues in advance, which will save a lot of explaining later.

  4. Avatar

    Shirtman

    June 30, 2008 at 10:22 AM

    Thanks Ibn. Great Stuff.

  5. Avatar

    aarij

    June 30, 2008 at 10:51 AM

    Ma sha Allah. This is so beneficial.

    And how timely, because I have interviews coming up this week.

  6. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    June 30, 2008 at 10:53 AM

    Ma sha Allah, great article as usual.

    IbnAbeeOmar, may I suggest that your next article be on ‘tips for grooming and combing beards’. We’ll need specific details, such as: what conditioner works best for what type of hair, what is the best way to trim beards for those who believe its permissible, what should brothers do for ‘split beard hairs’, and, last but not least, how to hide those pesky ‘bald’ cheek-spots !!!

    :)

    • Avatar

      Raoon Kundi

      October 19, 2011 at 12:46 PM

      O o o, for the bald cheek spots… I think I saw something in the Sky Mall (the ubiquitous shopping magazines placed inside commercial airplanes). That will end up staining your cheek skin, though :). So, may not be a good thing for long term use.

    • Avatar

      Abu Sumaiyah

      December 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM

      I have a friend who has a very thin beard. His co-workers call him peach fuzz. Shaykh you seem to make light of these kinds of beards, however, this is a reality for some. What can my friend do to make his beard look fuller or groom it so that it doesnt look like there are the bald sports?

  7. Avatar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 30, 2008 at 11:03 AM

    i might actually work on one. I will give the secret out now though – get some detangling spray leave-in conditioner. it works wonders :)

    -also regarding shaking hands i put a link back in the original article with good advice on the issue.

  8. Avatar

    Hassan

    June 30, 2008 at 1:03 PM

    Ok, question related to not just interview but the whole work environment. How to deal with women co-workers? Can we talk to them, and do we make eye-contact? I mean honestly, with my female co-workers I only talk when necessary and they also talk only when necessary (they do not like me alhamdulillah), but when we are in meetings or doing some discussion we are looking each other casually. I mean I can not look here and there while they are talking (not because of rudeness, I do not care being considered rude, but because I do not understand what other is saying). And also they consider it illogical that when we talk we are making all sort of eye contacts, but when it comes to shaking hands, we are like no way. Is hand shaking more or less haraam than eye-contact.

  9. Avatar

    Big Mu

    June 30, 2008 at 1:45 PM

    Also ask to see the health insurance enrollment forms, and then angrily protest that there is only space for one spouse.

    As for the question about your greatest weakness, say “I’m so pretty that even the girls get jealous.”

    And don’t forget to ask about blogging during work hours.

  10. Avatar

    Atif

    June 30, 2008 at 2:52 PM

    Assalamu’alaykum
    ibnAbeeOmar, I have a suggestion for an article idea: an article or series of articles compiling/researching all the fiqhi aspects of the workplace. For example: handshaking, insurance, praying at work, etc. What do you think?

  11. Avatar

    mcpagal

    June 30, 2008 at 3:26 PM

    Great idea with the pre-interview email iMuslim! I was getting worried about what to do about graduation ceremonies, hopefully that’d work (still got another 2 years to work it out though haha). Though the guy who you shake hands with is like 400 years old anyway lol :P

  12. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    June 30, 2008 at 5:25 PM

    Lol I agree with Sheikh Yasir on the beard article. Those are actually some important points. I’m being serious here lol :P

  13. Avatar

    abc

    June 30, 2008 at 5:31 PM

    the handshake issue was in the business etiquette Q&A in the boston globe this past weekend:
    (the first answer was pretty useful too)

    http://www.boston.com/jobs/news/articles/2008/06/29/coffee_during_interviews_can_be_distracting/

  14. Avatar

    Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    June 30, 2008 at 6:08 PM

    “I have found that after the interview and when you are starting or being extended an offer is the best time to bring up your Muslim needs. The best way to talk about Juma is explain that you have a religious obligation every Friday from 1pm-3pm, and that you are free to work early/late or on another day to make up the time. Don’t come across with a sense of entitlement. They are working around their schedule to let you attend Juma, so make sure to return the favor and be flexible in making up the time.”

    I agree with what you say here but feel it should be mentioned that everyone should also know that it is of course completely illegal if the employer were to make any employment decision based on religion. It is also the obligation of the employer under the law to make ‘reasonable accomodations’ for one’s religious practices. As I said, this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be as polite and flexible as possible in working with the employer as you suggest, but one should also be aware of his/her rights. Above all, one should be aware that provision comes from Allaah and do not fear that your employer will look down upon you if you practice your religion.

    I believe and I hope inshAllaah that Muslims who have grown up in this country will be more comfortable practicing their religion openly in all types of environments but I still fear that there are many people out there who are afraid to rock the boat by even asking for things like time off for jumu’ah when the employer would be both legally required but also probably willing to work with you in any event if you came to them with the correct attitude.

    As for myself, I have worked in public and not for profit sectors which are very religious and conscience friendly and could never really see myself in a corporate environment at all. But that’s another issue.

    Allaah knows best.

  15. Avatar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 30, 2008 at 6:39 PM

    abc – good article

    abu noor – jazakallahu khayr, those are excellent points.

  16. Avatar

    AbuZakariyya

    June 30, 2008 at 8:03 PM

    as salamualaykum,

    Awesome stuff as usual, son of father of Omar :)

    @those who worry about shaking hands with men/women. Don’t worry; even though there is a hadith forbidding it, that’s not an issue anymore because the “Higher Objectives” (Maqasid) of the shariah are to get a job and to earn a living. So that does not matter…we can shake hands now apparently :)

    @YQ: now they have upto size 9-10 (inches) for the beard grooming machines. Philips, Norleco etc….so you can have a nice “machine trimmed” beard even though it’s of quite good full length alHamdulillah.

    Someone mentioned about compiling an article on Fiqh issues at work. I think that’s an awesome idea. Some issues that I have seen people face:
    * If you are responsible for people reporting to you and as part of celebration on the completion of project, we need to go for dinner etc…is it allowed to buy Meals with Pork etc in even though it’s the company’s money but the authorization is yours? How about with customers, if it’s required to take them to dinner and buy wine for them, especially if its a custom.
    * how about the idea of buying “gifts” for your customers, if one is a sales engineer, especially if that is considered a norm in the industry? Would that be allowed islamically?
    * How about working on projects such as security technology (IT side) that provides security to Casinos etc? and the arms industry?
    * also issues of ESPP, Stock options, 401k…..so much stuff here and there, it would be good to have a single resource available for this stuff. Perhaps with various opinions.

    Again it would be good if these issues were resolved in the light of evidences from Quran and Sunnah rather than using the argument of “maqasid”…

    wallahu `alam

    • Avatar

      Raoon Kundi

      October 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Bro – Are you in IT security? We need to talk. rkundi-at-hotmail

    • Avatar

      IbnTauficTheSecond

      December 16, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      Can you please link me to where I can find such long trimmers? I have searched for something like this a few times but found nothing. That would be very useful and save a lot of time!

  17. Avatar

    Sharif

    June 30, 2008 at 8:25 PM

    In the Boston article it said:

    “If you know the man you are meeting is a conservative Muslim, it’s best not to offer your hand when greeting him. You’ll avoid the potentially uncomfortable situation of a hand not being offered in return. As an alternative you can bow your head slightly, a universal form of greeting which shows respect without requiring the physical contact of a handshake. If you are not sure how he feels about shaking hands, again, the best course of action is to refrain from shaking and instead to bow your head slightly in greeting. If, however, he offers his hand to you, then you should shake it.”

    If this does happen, is it Islamically permissible to do the same in return (i.e. a slight bow–or nod–of the head, as a gesture of greeting)? I know that bowing is a form of worship in Islam, and is therefore shirk if performed on anything other than Allah (something I seriously would not want to risk at any cost). But according to Shariah, would such be considered a “bow”?

  18. Avatar

    Hidaya

    June 30, 2008 at 8:28 PM

    How come author didnt explain the dress code for sisters who work in Corporate world? what should we do? Wear a jalbab with a blazor? or look for a skirt suit with long blazer.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Brown

      December 16, 2011 at 11:35 AM

      The reason is in the title: “Job Interview Tips for Muslim Men.” Perhaps they’ll write an article for sisters soon!

  19. Avatar

    muslimdesigner

    June 30, 2008 at 8:43 PM

    subhanallah, this article brings up very good points…

    regarding the muslim/islamic accommodations, this is something that might best be brought up AFTER the job offer is extended to you (iA)…once you’ve been made an offer, and esp after you’ve accepted, you’re basically considered to be one of the team, and discussing accommodations in this light would probably prove to be more productive (not to mention, less awkward)…

    regarding relations/communication w/ the opposite gender, this is just as big a challenge, if not more so, than the islamic accommodations issue…meaning, muslims can often be tricked by shaytaan into a comfort zone when dealing w/ the opposite gender that may, in fact, be extremely dangerous…there are ways to communicate w/ the opposite gender that do not have to compromise islamic etiquette…communicating w/ them on a ‘need to’ only basis is one of them…simply put, no shooting the breeze or flirting…you’d think this would be common sense, but it’s amazing how often we let ourselves get deceived by shaytaan…it’s inevitable that there will be someone at your office that you may find to be ‘attractive’ (from a physical standpoint at least), but the important thing is to realize this impulse as it occurs, and to seek protection w/ Allah…if we remember and fear Allah at all times, esp in the workplace, things that our non-muslim co-workers often have problems w/ (ie, cheating, lying, stealing, inappropriate relations w/ co-workers) would never be an issue for us…

    a final point, which, in my opinion, can never be underestimated, is how you carry yourself in terms of your akhlaq and whether or not that communicates to your non-muslim co-workers what your beliefs are and what you stand for…when i say beliefs, this can also mean values…values obviously has a non-religious aspect to it, and in fact, values such as truth, honesty, being a hard worker, sincerity, kindness, having a positive attitude, being a leader AND a team player, and not flirting w/ the opposite gender are all admirable qualities no matter what your faith is, and ANY employer would kill to have an employee like that working for them!…for example, many non-muslims are completely unaware that as muslims we can not backbite or engage in gossip…yet it’s something that is common in the workplace…once you establish that you don’t engage in those kinds of discussions (this is done simply enough by either remaining silent, saying something positive about the person or just walking away if possible), believe me, people will know where your boundaries are…however, YOU have to establish those boundaries, otherwise your co-workers won’t know…don’t assume them to be aware of what muslims can and can not do…in that regard, it’s important that our akhlaq and our actions–not just our beards and hijabs–reflect the beliefs of our faith…

    lastly, never underestimate taqwa and tawakkul in Allah…i recently went through the interview process (well, about 11 months ago), and as i was preparing my resume i debated whether or not to include in the extra-cirriculur activities part of the resume the islamic organizations and projects i’d been involved in (as they related to my profession and would’ve otherwise looked great on my resume)…after a some reflection i decided to leave them in…if an employer happened to see those and be put off by them, well, that’s not an employer i’d want to work for anyways…in a sense, i was interviewing my prospective employers by putting that in my resume…alhumdullilah, i’m happy to say it was never an issue…

    there’s an ayah from the Quran (that i unfortunately only remember in a general sense) that i believe applies perfectly to the issue of the interview process for muslims…and that is when Allah swt says that for those who have taqwa of Allah, Allah provides for them from places they never expected…

  20. Avatar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 30, 2008 at 9:25 PM

    hidaya – im only writing based on my own personal interview experiences – that’s why i titled it for men :) i honestly don’t know the norm for sisters in this environment as i haven’t really encountered it much. im hoping if some sisters read this they can add their comments inshallah.

  21. Avatar

    ibnabeeomar

    June 30, 2008 at 9:26 PM

    where are these philips/norelco beard trimmers? the largest i have found is 1-1.5inch lengths.

  22. Avatar

    AbuZakariyya

    June 30, 2008 at 11:00 PM

    I got mine from target.

  23. Avatar

    inexplicabletimelessness

    July 1, 2008 at 3:32 AM

    As salamu alaikum,

    Great article mashallah. RE: shaking hands, I’ve also notified people beforehand in case it’s a very big event like gradation and mashallah they are very accomodating. Also, there was one thing where I was getting an award in front of a lot of people and it came on tv too so I notified my principal and the main lady in charge and it was no problem alhamdulillah. Even in college interviews for colleges as “up there” in the dunya level such as ivy league schools, I wouldn’t shake hands and there simply was no problem at all. We should be proud to be Muslim and in actuality the “discomfort” one might feel at NOT shaking hands is out of their own nervousness, lack of fitting in or wrongfully assuming that people ‘think they are weird.’ (when in actuality, most non-muslims are simple, good people who are just curious to learn more and don’t necessarily think you are weird)

    As an alternative to hand shaking, I also politely nod or something and I would like to clarify if this is OK if one’s intention is not bowing or anything but, rather, good manners?

    As a sister, I’ve never worked in the corporate world but do think shukr.com has some nice options. Personally, I follow the opinion that an overgarment is fardh (jilbaab/abaya) so I wouldn’t wear skirts instead but probably jilbab/abaya with a coat on top. wa Allahu alam.

  24. Avatar

    Al Madrasi Al Hindee

    July 1, 2008 at 4:37 AM

    Jazakallahu Khairan Akhi .

    Brilliant article !

    The grooming the beard part is something I would look forward to in your next few articles :) !!

    The beard is always frowned upon in most of the interviews especially if there are some Muslim bashers on the panel . I have seen so many mashallah ‘practising’ brothers who either ‘trim’ or shave the beard off completely before the interview day and give justifications citing the ‘Actions based on Intension’ hadith . We have found justifications to fit Islam into the corporate world , but nobody seems to be taking pains to fit in the corporate world within the realm of Islam . Regarding prayer , there are brothers who dont even take the pain to enquire about empty meeting rooms and feel too embaraased or timid to pray at the workplace , forgetting the demarcation between Imaan and Kufr .

    Why is it that something which is our Izzah is becoming a ‘burden’ . There is also an unfounded , unjustified guilt . Is it because of the Decrease of Imaan or just generally ignorance which can never be justified .

    We need some refresher courses to boost the morale of Muslims working in the corporate sector to instil some pride and Izzah before its too late . There’s this general fear that people will lose their livelihoods and Rizq if they openly live the Islamic way !! This misconception needs to be eradicated foremost from the minds of young Muslims all over the world that Rizq is bestowed by the corporate honchos . Rizq and Barakah are something that can stem only from Ar Razzaaq , Al Kareem , Al Hayy , Al Qayyoom . Why would he ever deprive us of Rizq – only because we heeded to his commandments ?? Na udhu billah . Lets not forget that being Muslims , we must be ready for the tests and fitnahs and never inshallah compromise on our ideal way of life for a kufroprate way!!

    Another point that the brother missed was the ‘pant-above-the-ankle’ bit. How do u handle questions on percieved sartorial incompleteness !! :)

    Barakallhumma Feek . Keep the articles flowing in !

    • Avatar

      amatullah

      December 16, 2011 at 7:46 AM

      +100! those were some crucial points!

      • Avatar

        Al Madrasi Al Hindee

        December 18, 2011 at 12:20 PM

        Jazakallah Khairan.

  25. Avatar

    OM

    July 1, 2008 at 8:13 AM

    “How come author didnt explain the dress code for sisters who work in Corporate world?”

    Because they shouldn’t be there?

    • Avatar

      Nuraini

      December 16, 2011 at 6:24 AM

      lol

      i just don’t know what the workplace is like in the US as it seems so fraught with danger and people can’t even work together professionally without some kind of scandal about to happen at any moment. in my experience – in my company anyway – people are just a lot more interested in their work, and get enough time off for real personal lives, to accidentally get involved with each other over a late shift or something. most people are married, it’s a very family-supportive culture where i work. even if 2 colleagues get involved with each other, it’s usually for real, other colleagues would be supportive and somewhat expecting they’d get married – just like a normal social community outside of work. even the western expats – though they do go out for drinks after work as is their culture – have pretty old-fashioned tendencies on family expectations. we talk about our spouses, our kids – those of us who have them. i see no big difference at all between office social interaction and your interaction within your neighbourhood community.

      also, the more valued you are in the team, the better you are regarded as a team member in daily interaction, the more people are happy to be flexible. you could say stuff like, ‘could we use your corporate card for this meal as i’m not really comfortable signing for mine since there’s wine ordered, though it goes to the same budget’, and you’re likely to get, ‘oh yeah sure.’ rather than, ‘geez, what a difficult colleague’. because you’ve banked in trust from before. the key is being solution-oriented and ‘no big deal’ when asking for certain things to be accommodated, rather than presenting it always as a problem of dire import. when there’s something you really shouldn’t do, and solutions are rejected, just walk away, abstain. take the consequences. don’t agonise over it. if it’s really bad, which seems to be suggested as common in the US by the workplace-related articles on this site, then do what you need to keep your job until you can find somewhere that treats people in general better. your choices as a muslim should be – and appear to others – as of your own volition, not as “imposed” on you and worrisome, as if your religion does not flow from your own conviction and brings you peace. in fact, it’s good to sometimes be outside your comfort zone, and i recommend it. for both men and women. it forces you to evaluate your own conviction, and actually make decisions when it’s not made easy for you anymore. i mean, what’s the point of boasting how good a swimmer you are, and dispense criticism for coastal lifeguards, if you’ve only ever swum in the 4 ft deep pool.

      seriously, if you’re into the job, and have a good team dynamic, so many of these frets and worries never arise. it looks very bad for the religion if you make it look like a muslim(ah) could only survive in an environment tailored precisely for our practices and in an arabia-like climate/seasonality – it defeats the claim that it is a universal religion, and honestly i don’t see how the religion could have spread by merchants on ships travelling all over the world to completely new and pagan countries if they worried incessantly over every little thing. my grandmother was a learned religious teacher (omg! she worked! she was educated more than was absolutely necessary! she had male students and colleagues! some of whom became successful people and yet still came to her deathbed decades later!) and she instilled in my mother, who instilled in me, that the big picture is, islam has a can-do attitude, not a can’t-do attitude. of course prepare, but go with trust and faith, learn, then re-cap, and review changes you might need to make and think about the mistakes. don’t wait until everything is just perfect before you would go do anything for fear of getting one thing wrong – this will never happen, human beings will always make mistakes, and nothing useful will ever get done. she also taught that all knowledge is religious – so whether it was her teaching fiqh in a government school or me teaching risk evaluation of environmental contamination in a corporate setting, or my mom writing key legislation and teaching language and law in government institutions, all are knowledge valuable to the community of muslims. again, i don’t really see the difference in teaching knowledge between a schoolroom and an office.

  26. Avatar

    ibnabeeomar

    July 1, 2008 at 9:42 AM

    “pant above the ankle” has been discussed here,
    http://muslimmatters.org/2008/02/23/rolled-up-couture/ :D

  27. Avatar

    Sabina

    July 1, 2008 at 9:54 AM

    Quoted from above “i honestly don’t know the norm for sisters in this environment as i haven’t really encountered it much”… there’s many sisters in the workforce but a comment like that makes them feel as though they shouldn’t be there. Please provide a similar article for sisters who need to work for financial or personal reasons so that they’re not excluded from a worthwhile discussion.

  28. Avatar

    ibnabeeomar

    July 1, 2008 at 10:00 AM

    sabinah – it is true though, there aren’t that many sisters in many corp offices. and again, this article is based on my own interview experiences, if a sister who has been through it can write up some similar tips and send it to us, we could even post it as its own article. i could just have easily written a section on sisters – however since im not a sister many of the comments would then accuse me of being patronizing or not understanding what they go through (which i dont).

    whether they should be there or not is a different debate for a different post :)

  29. Avatar

    Amad

    July 1, 2008 at 10:01 AM

    Here’s a proposal: Sr. Hidaya, as a regular reader, why don’t you write something and send it to us… In fact, Sr. Sabina, you are free to do the same… we can then consider posting it or using it for another post on this issue for sisters. There is no denying that there are many sisters in the workplace, regardless of our views against it or for it. If one doesn’t want his wife, sister, etc. to work, then doesn’t mean that all the sisters will disappear from the workplace. So, let’s be pragmatic and help where we can. If we can’t change/control a situation, we can try to make the defacto at least better, right?

  30. Avatar

    Muslimah

    July 1, 2008 at 1:16 PM

    @ mcpagal
    regarding your comment about commencement, i was nervous about the situation of shaking hands with the dean. Alhumdulilah, he was the one that avoided shaking my hands. It might have had to do with a presentation we had at the D School by the Muslim Students “How to treat Muslim Patients” which was very effective. i recommend students at other universities to try the same thing.

  31. Avatar

    Sabina

    July 1, 2008 at 3:51 PM

    No Amad, I’d like to read what others write, the reason isn’t because I already have the answers and can write an article but because I don’t… that’s why I’m asking :)

  32. Avatar

    al-'iraaqi

    July 1, 2008 at 4:19 PM

    Nice article,

    You know i’d actually like to see an article written by Shaykh Yasir on trimming the beard. Something in depth (as per his usual style ie. cheese article). I’m just curious to see what’s up. Share the knowledge!

    I often hear the whack ‘if it’s for da’wah’ you can take the weaker option scenario. I wouldn’t buy that for a penny, lol.

  33. Avatar

    B

    July 1, 2008 at 5:57 PM

    @AbuZakariyya

    Are you sure you have a beard timmer? I think you have a hair clipper! Like ibnabeeomar, I have never come across 9 inch beard trimmer :(

  34. Avatar

    Hidaya

    July 1, 2008 at 6:26 PM

    I have been working in Corpoarte America for over a year and half now, so i can definitely give some tips (not sure how useful they will be), however will do that later. I am exhausted right now!

  35. Avatar

    Amad

    July 1, 2008 at 7:30 PM

    Sr. Hidaya, email us something that can be made into a post at your convenience…

  36. Avatar

    Hermana

    July 1, 2008 at 9:19 PM

    I think the majority of this article is applicable to Muslim women. What is considered acceptable Muslim women’s attire in the corporate world has various shades of gray. I always try to find out as much as possible about the corporate culture of an organization before an interview and I try to gauge my dress accordingly. In some instances that might mean a suit, a long skirt or a jilbab. Looking neat and tidy is important. A nice wrinkle free or pressed hijab (yes, you can iron a hijab) is a good thing! Making sure your hijab is securely pinned might be a good idea. It could be a bit distracting to have to adjust it during an interview. I wouldn’t go to flashy with the scarf color or attire. As the brother mentiond above, stick with more conservative colors on an interview: blue, black, grey, kaki. No henna on my hands. It’s always better to be on the more conservative side when dressing for an interview rather than being too casual and making a bad first impression.

    When it comes to things like interacting with co-workers, praying or wudu, I would just exercise common sense. I always make wudu at home before I put on my socks and shoes so I can just wipe over them at work. When I shared an office, I gave my officemate a heads up that I would be praying and it wasn’t a problem. Although I work in the corporate world, my workplace is pretty diverse and majority female so I haven’t had to really deal with the whole handshaking business.

  37. Avatar

    Abd Allah

    July 2, 2008 at 12:31 AM

    Asalam alaikum,

    “When you deal in ‘eenah transactions, and are satisfied with cultivation, and hold on to the tails of oxen [and abandon Jihaad] then Allaah will impose a humiliation upon which that He will not remove up until you return to your deen”

    What have the muslims become? For those who use seek wealth and use it to support that which has been abandoned, may Allah enrich you and increase your wealth and bless you and have mercy on you and give you a reward that never ceases. Ameen

  38. Avatar

    Laura

    July 2, 2008 at 12:58 AM

    How about a similar article for Muslim women?

  39. Avatar

    Ibnkhalil

    July 2, 2008 at 6:13 PM

    MashAllah nice article. One thing that I’d like to add is that if you need to make wudhu just wipe over your socks. Allah wants to make it easy for us. I have been working for a year and half now and Alhamdulillah my empolyers are very accepting of the fact that I have religious obligations that need to be fulfilled. If I go to Jummuah I make up the time by coming in on the weekend or working late.

    Br.ibnabeeomar yes we are indeed very strange people in this society but you gotta do what you gotta do. BarakAllah feek for a nice article

  40. Avatar

    Abd

    July 2, 2008 at 8:22 PM

    Asalam alaikum,

    I’ve read that in all mathabs, except hanbali, that you can only wipe over leather socks (water proof). Hanbali allows it over thick socks.

  41. Avatar

    Faraz

    July 2, 2008 at 9:33 PM

    I don’t want to get onto the masah-on-socks debate, but …

    … I think in all opinions, a person needs to have wudhu before putting on the socks; so many people ignore that, and I don’t think it’s based on any scholarly opinion. Also, if you take your socks off, you can’t put them back on and do masah on them after; the socks need to remain on from the time you make wudhu. And Allah knows best.

  42. Avatar

    Ibnkhalil

    July 2, 2008 at 10:28 PM

  43. Pingback: Job Interview Tips for Muslim Men — WorkHalal.com Blog

  44. Avatar

    Specs

    July 7, 2008 at 11:46 PM

    Hermana has given some good tips for sisters. I’m in finance (corporate enough i guess :)) and i wear a hijab. Avoid:

    1) Flashy colors

    2) Scarves that wrinkle…use chiffon or georgette or a similar crease-proof material.

    3) PIN IT UP. Nothing looks worse than a sister talking to you while tugging her scarf back. It should be secured in a way that you don’t have to mess with it the whole day. Personally, i find wearing a head band under the hijab prevents it from slipping OR your hair from coming out at the sides.

    4) I personally find Jilbabs the easiest to handle because they look smart and are basically fuss-free.You can use an ankle skirt or loose straight cut pants if you’re very slim because then it doesn’t reveal very much. If you’re like me, you can opt for the jilbab!

  45. Avatar

    Nora

    July 8, 2008 at 7:21 AM

    I find it disconcerting that some of you are promoting hiding your religious practices until after you are hired for a job. Would you not agree that part of being a good Muslim is to exercise honesty? Hiding your special religious needs is definitely not being honest, particularly if it interferes with work schedules and your contact with certain co-workers. There are some jobs where an employer would find a weekly 2 hour break for Juma (which would certainly extend more than 2 hours) to be disruptive to the work environment, depending on the job, and where refusal to shake hands with potential clients because they are women would be considered harmful to business. To hide this fact and then potentially sue your employer for religious discrimination is reprehensible and will do nothing but give a bad image to Islam.

    If you are feeling this strong about your beliefs then you should stay within a Muslim environment where your needs to not impinge on the majority of others.

    • Avatar

      shahgul

      December 16, 2011 at 9:07 AM

      I tried working in a ‘Muslim environment’ (Islamic School). Turned out, men were paid considerably more, given all the juicy, management jobs, and special considerations, such as drive your taxi and come in to teach your class whenever you can, nepotism such as one race being favored over the other. Mashallah, the hasanat of praying in jamaah were cancelled out with all the back biting and leg pulling.
      I would never work in a so called “Islamic Environment’ again.

  46. Pingback: The Beard Story: Exclusive Interview With Yasir Qadhi | MuslimMatters.org

  47. Pingback: Jobs … in this economy? — WorkHalal.com Blog

  48. Avatar

    a.hameed

    July 17, 2009 at 8:22 AM

    assalaalikoom, dear very good and
    nice advice

  49. Avatar

    a.hameed

    July 17, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    woman are allowted in islamic view of point

  50. Avatar

    Carlos

    December 16, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    (In the US) The HR folks who make the hiring decisions are extremely sensitive to peoples’ rights to exercise their religious observations. You will not be penalized in any way for praying five times a day. In fact, if any supervisor were to gripe about prayer breaks, a more astute HR person would set them straight about respecting employees’ religious needs. If you are ever discriminated against for a recognized Islamic observance, just talk to any American lawyer worth his or her salt. He or she would be happy to take on that lawsuit, and the big bucks he or she could get from it.

    In the hiring process, my Muslim bretheren, just do your best to make it clear that you respect women, even ones who may be superior in the corporate hierarchy, and who would have the right and the duty to give you orders. Also, show that you are a normal person who can associate with people of different philosophical backgrounds without extreme social awkwardness. If you pass those two hurdles, I think you will get the job (assuming you are qualified to begin with).

  51. Avatar

    shahgul

    December 16, 2011 at 2:42 AM

    “Looks count. “‘Beauty is on the inside’ is just something ugly people say to feel better about themselves” – that is not exactly true, but don’t bank on your internal beauty when interviewing for a job. It is naive to think you can live in a materialistic society and then not be judged on your looks.”

    Hmmm! That’s what they have been telling us women all along.

    Cologne is a No No for an interview (or for work). Can’t run the risk of one of your interviewers disliking the smell or worse getting an Asthma attack. Wear deodorant (fragrance free) instead.

  52. Avatar

    sara

    December 16, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Assalamua alaikum,

    This article is fair–but needs more details. Sisters, the same general rules apply. I have noticed from all my past experience that unless the sister wears niqab and only black, the rules are similar for any religion–dress modestly, in neutral colors, with minimal to no jewelery and make up. Of course we add the scarf, and our outfits are much more modest–long skirts, and unfitted jackets with our suits. Make sure your scarf matches the outfit, and blends. If operating machinery, all lose ends should be safely fastened down. Again, with sisters–no perfume—but ALWAYS WEAR DEODERANT.

    Sara

  53. Avatar

    mohammadi murtuza

    December 16, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    MashaAllah great article! may Allah Bless you.

  54. Avatar

    NAS

    December 18, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    I hope there is a similar article but for women :)

  55. Avatar

    Lisa John

    June 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Assalamua alaikum, thanks for exposing this to world, amazing stuff! Extremely well documented CV Examples

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Torment And Tears: The Emotional Experience of Tawbah

Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?

That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah… it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.

It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them… but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a ‘big deal’ – perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn’t think was all that serious.

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And yet… and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.

It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.

It is also a very necessary one.

The Act of Tawbah

Tawbah – seeking forgiveness from Allah – is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it is also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple – “Just say astaghfirAllah and don’t do it again.”

In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.

The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin – whether seemingly small or severe – and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn’t even register to us how we could be affecting the person we’ve spoken to.

As RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once told A’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The second step is to feel true remorse. It’s not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must feel guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.

Tawbah is to feel that sucker-punch of humiliation and guilt as we recall our sins: not just the mildly awkward ones, like a petty fib or mild infraction, but the genuinely terrible parts of ourselves… ugly lies, vicious jealousy, violations against others’ rights, abuse.

Some of us may be actual criminals – others of us may seem presentable on the outside, even religious, maybe even spiritual… and yet have violated others in terrible ways. Abuse comes in so many forms, and some of us are perpetrators, not just victims.

Facing that reality can be a gruesome process. 

It is a necessary process. Token words, glib recitation of spiritual formulae, those do not constitute tawbah in its entirety. Rather, it is a matter of owning up to our violations, experiencing genuine emotion over them – true humiliation, true regret – and striving not to be that person ever again. 

Much as we hate to admit it, we have our own fair share of red flags that we create and wave, even before we get into the nasty business of committing the worst of our sins. Tawbah isn’t just feeling bad for those Big Sins – it’s to recognize what led us to them to begin with.

It requires us to acknowledge our own flaws of character, of the ease with which we fall into certain behaviours, the way we justify the pursuit of our desires, the blindness we have to the worst parts of ourselves. Tawbah is to sit down and face all of it – and then to beg Allah, over and over, not just to forgive us and erase those specific actions, but to change us for the better. 

This experience is so much more powerful than a mere “I’m sorry,” or “omg, that was awful”; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, please forgive you – because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.

Surah Araf Verse 23

{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar’hamnaa, lanakunanna mina’l Khaasireen!}

{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur’an 7:23)

This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.

Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.

The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah’s help to uphold it – because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to correct our transgression against others’ rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual’s forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased ‘ebaadah.

But it doesn’t end there. And it never will.

Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.

Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn’t commit mistakes and errors every day?

All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also: {Allahumma ij’alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} – O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

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#Islam

Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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#Current Affairs

COVID19: Calling The Conscientious

Violating borders, scaling every wall and traveling faster than a rumor, COVID19 is now around nearly everywhere. It has reduced nations and societies, low and mighty, to their knees, demoted all preoccupations to insignificance and is threatening to torch everyone in its path.

The imperial hubris of nations, with and without nuclear weapons has crumbled. Mighty militaries have been reduced to mere spectators. Borders are closed. Markets have tumbled. Even the gods amongst humans – rulers, monarchs, dictators, religious heads, generals, billionaires, movie stars, icons of sports and music –have been forced to recede from the limelight. Neither they are in control nor can they perform. All of them are forced to surrender by an unseen microscopic speck with an insatiable appetite to devour humankind, bit-by-bit, part by part.

A pre-COVID19 world is now a blurred memory. It was not long ago that we were a different planet and a different people. Neither hand-sanitizers nor masks were precious enough to purchase let alone hoard, or even think about. YouTube was popular but not so much for videos on how to wash hands or what to do when self-quarantined. And, shaking hands were a norm and we used to respond with a “bless you” to our neighbor’s cough or sneeze.

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That was pre-COVID19.

Places of worship are already shut down and airports, train stations and shipping ports are shutting down. Boulevards and avenues are eerily silent. Shopping malls and theaters stand abandoned.

This is post-COVID19.

Yet, there are flashes of hope and inspiration. Medical professionals and health care workers are fighting to save mankind, a patient a time. Our ill equipped and fatigued hospitals are abodes of our new heroes and true patriots. And no less are trash collectors, grocery workers, truck drivers, postal workers, fruit pickers among others whom we took for granted all along.

Covid-19 is not just the biggest story of our time, it is the only story.

Amidst a piercing cacophony of politicians’ press conferences and public interest advisories, we cannot afford to miss out the soft whispers of COVID19.

It is telling us to pay more attention to the under-estimated meaningful over the hyper-marketed mundane. Its whispers remind us to remember that we are but a mere mortal. We are reminded in the Quran that God made us from a mere speck (40:67).

Not, too long ago, we seldom had to remind ourselves that we are human. Not too long ago we could afford to be enemies of ourselves. Humans were enemies of humans, fighting and taking life of those considered ‘others’. We fostered division … “them” and “us,” “citizens” and “illegals.” COVID19 has spoken: no more. We stoked exclusion … “black, brown and white,” “conservative and liberal,” and “urban and rural.” COVID19 has spoken: no more.

In its sweeping trail of destruction, COVID19, is imploring us — harness my power to cause dread in each one of you, across borders, across genders, across races — and unite. COVID19 is challenging us: find a common cause against me. When any of you find an antidote against me, may that be a reason for your coming together, even if right now I have forced you to stay away from each other – six feet part.

COVID19 is an equal opportunity and a non-discriminating enemy, which will kill no matter how we worship, what we eat, where we live. One touch strikes all with equal precision.

Today, as we face an existential threat from a mortal molecular foe, we must remind ourselves about what matters most, our humanity and not our race and nationality.

The truth is that long before COVID19 struck us, we were sick. We spread viruses; hate and bigotry, we held thoughts of xenophobia for those who did not deserve it. We wallowed in bias and built echo chambers. COVID19 exposed all of our pre-COVID19 shortcomings.

Coronavirus will kill us for a while, but then in the end, we will overpower it. But before that happens, all the human deaths would be in vain if we don’t realize that in a world of such threats, we never needed to have been at each other’s throats.

In fear and panic, people resort to extreme behavior, it amazes us with their capacity for wisdom and kindness, or stupidity and cruelty. COVID19 is beseeching us to reclaim and regain our humanity of compassion and kindness. It is telling us to come together to fight our common battles. It is forcing us to wash our hands of all sins of our past and then lock our hearts and hands and build a world where meaning must matter more than the mundane.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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