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Three Rules to Beat Unemployment

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Unemployment Series

To understand corporate America’s view of its employees, read Execution:  The Disciple of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.  You are not the intended audience for this book; it was written primarily for consumption by C-level executives and Senior VP types.  A better title for this book would be, How to Treat Employees like Disposable Trash 101.  It teaches you that employees are assets, resources, but certainly not people worth caring about.  The attitude it conveys is unfortunately found all over the corporate world – toss your employees out, even well-performing ones, if you are unable to use them in the  future, or you can find a way to drive down costs by doing so.

In my personal experience, I find most people don’t understand this.  They expect to be rewarded with further benefits, bonuses, and at the very least, continued employment for pouring blood, sweat, and tears at the direction of upper management.  When friends and co-workers learned I had been promoted and given a raise not once, but twice in a two year span, they would say, “Looks like your job is safe, you’re doing really well.”  But I knew better – positive performance appraisals were no indicator of continued employment potential.

And so it was after 6 years of employment at Motorola Mobility, on the heels of the successful launch of what is now known as the OG Droid (the first phone to truly challenge Apple’s three year iPhone dominance) and as mentioned earlier, year-over-year promotions, I was laid off (along with the rest of my team).  The reason?  Mobility wanted to grow staff without growing cost, so it was more cost-effective to lay off staff domestically and outsource to China.

I spent six months in unemployment and wanted share whatever insights, tips, or tricks I found beneficial on my path back to employment.

Rule #1:  Success Begins within You

My heart pounded loudly in my chest, and I could feel my face and neck heating up, as though my body was about to implode from within.  It was a Friday, and my last day official day was Monday the following week.  I had known this for two months, but the realization of it finally hit me full force.  What would I do after my severance ran out?  How would I support my wife and 3 kids?  Did I have the skills to find a new job in the current market?  What if I didn’t?  Could I re-train with a new skill set?  Where would I get the money for this?  On and on, the questions kept coming, like a badly timed game of word association, unemployment edition.

Until that moment, I hadn’t understood why people lost their confidence and self-respect from losing a job.  An internal battle was taking place, and I was losing ground as I moved in the direction of trying to fight it myself.  Within an hour, I was able to shift this dynamic with the following “tweaks” in my thought process:

1.  In the End, It’s All Good for You

 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allāh and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” [Muslim]

From my perspective, Allāh had taken me out of what appeared to be a good situation and was preparing me to move on to bigger and better things.  There was a treasure out there somewhere, and it is implicit that a truly valuable treasure requires effort to find.  My effort in this case would be my plan of attack in finding a new job.

2.  Use Personal Anxiety and Fear to Your Advantage

There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush generated from procrastinating until a project is about to fall off the edge of the cliff into the abyss of no return, only to be saved by pushing through an over-caffeinated night or two, with the fear of failure hovering inches over your shoulder.

The same feeling may occur to you, except that instead of one project with a definite deadline, you may feel an inward attack of multiple tasks and projects to complete to get employed again, and no definite date in mind except “right now”.

Take a deep breath, focus, and write down everything that comes to mind down.  From that list, pick the two tasks that you feel will have the most impact on your job search prospects, and focus relentlessly on them until they are complete.  If you’re feeling anxious about the remaining list, use that anxiety to propel you to finish the first two tasks.

3.  Give Your Best and Leave the Rest to Allāh

If you were to take advice from either career experts, your family and friends, or even people in your work industry, you might find yourself confused about what direction you should take.  Evaluate however many options you can, and then take action in some way.  Predicting the future and knowing what is best for you is beyond your capacity.  It may be your time off has some benefit that would not be available if you returned to work immediately.  It could be to ward off some harm.

Whatever the case, take action, pray istikhārah, and keep moving forward.  It may be two months or two years before the right job falls into your lap, so be patient.  Take advantage of this time to benefit yourself in other ways, such as spending more time with family, taking care of your health, or learning new skills to enhance your résumé.

One note, I must say that I’m always confident in turning to Allāh because I make it a point not to fudge experience on my resume.  I always try to present my best self and stay truthful.  There remain many who lie about their qualifications (or lack of them) on the resume for a paycheck.  I don’t understand how people can do this and expect blessings with income that’s taken daily based on lies.  I would be afraid that just like the disbelievers, on a lesser level I was given something that be a blessing up front and a major curse later, either on me or my wife and kids.

Rule #2:  Get Smart with Your Money

I was given two months of salary post-employment and unemployment checks on top of this, so I was making more in unemployment than on the job.  When the two months expired, I turned to other means for either gaining income or saving money.

1.  Create a Budget

Without a doubt, you won’t do anything meaningful with your money if you don’t know how or where it is spent.  I admit I don’t have the patience to collect every receipt, write down my spending, and balance a checkbook.  For people like me, there’s mint.com (this is free).  I’ve hooked up my two bank accounts on there, so any transaction I run through my debit card (I live on cash only) shows up both in my online bank statement and on Mint.  I can categorize each transaction according to a category (it can be either automatically categorized or manually) and I can quickly see how money is spent.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of REALLY seeing how you spend versus how you think you spend.  You can use the tool to create a budget for different items and track whether you stay in or out of budget.  If you’d like to start, you can set aside budgets using the categories I use:

  • Gas and Fuel:  self-explanatory
  • Bills and Utilities:  Electricity, Gas, Internet, Cell Phone (some may also need water, trash, and sewage)
  • Business Services:  Subscription fees for internet services, online software like Turbotax, etc
  • Education:  My wife’s budget for kids homeschooling subscriptions and purchases
  • Entertainment
  • Monthly Savings:  Meant for anticipated future expenses
  • Groceries and Eating Out
  • Shopping

2.  Find Alternative Sources of Income

One means of income was collecting unemployment insurance.  It wasn’t enough, but it covered rent and some expenses.  For extra food costs, we were able to get food stamps on a special debit card (about $300 worth) and WIC (women, infants, children) vouchers because two of our children were two and under.  If you ever go to a grocery store and see a label that says WIC next to the price, it means that food qualifies for trade in with a WIC voucher.

Another way to get income is coupons.  Coupons for the food you buy regularly is essentially free money, so if you’re tight on budget, make sure to get coupons.  Related to coupons, I picked up the book Coupon Mom and found I was able cut my grocery bill tremendously by implementing her tips.

Yet a third way is getting part-time or temporary jobs (because your other “job” is finding a permanent job that pays to the standard you expect).  I worked for one organization writing their advertising copy.

Finally, look within your local community for resources.  At the county level, you may find grants for studying (I actually acquired a $7000 grant which I was unable to use as I found a job before I could use it).

3.  Save Money on Expenses

The two expenses that have the most impact on your finances will likely be your rent or mortgage with utility bills, and your eating expenses.  Others might be car and health insurance, credit card debt (if you have a high monthly minimum), and random hits (like unexpected required car repairs).

One of the best ways to cut down on costs is rent/mortgage costs – if you can, move back in with your parents or your in-laws temporarily until you’re back on your feet.  I don’t normally advocate moving back in with mom and dad because of the strain this often puts on a marriage, particularly if it’s the husband’s parents, but in the case of layoffs and the potential for extended unemployment, I think it’s a good idea (I think parents moving in to live with kids is great once they can’ take care of themselves any longer).  If you can’t do that, then consider if it’s possible to move to a cheaper home.  If that’s not possible, look for ways to cut utility costs – some agencies have programs for people who are unemployed, often via the city or the county you’re living in.

Another big way to cut costs is reducing your grocery bill, utilizing the methods taught in the book Coupon Mom (there are other books and programs written by people into saving via couponing, that’s the one I read).  One tip which reduced my bills greatly: looking at the per ounce or per unit cost of an item, and compare it with others around.  This will tell you if something is truly on sale.  You’d be surprised to find buying in bulk or buying generic is not always the cheaper way to go.  Another tip is to pay attention to sale cycles, as the price of many items will rise and fall regularly on a cycle.  For example, recently I bought 20 boxes of oatmeal because the price dropped from $4.79 a box to $2.50 a box.  Over the amount of time it will take me to consume that much, the next cycle will hit and I can buy it dirt cheap again.

For health care costs, I personally opted not to go the COBRA or single payer route once my group insurance ran out, and took Medicaid instead.

Rule #3:  Communication Skills are the Essential Job Hunting Tool

1.  Networking is King

When I searched for my first job out of college, a headhunter gave me this piece of advice – get an expensive suit, clean your shoes, and go to all the companies in your area, offer your resume to the receptionist, and tell them why you’re there.  He told me most people are trying to find jobs in their PJs and underwear through Monster.com, and that you had to go out there and really go after it.

I have to admit, I haven’t been successful in job-hunting via search engines, so I have no tips to offer about writing keyword friendly resumes, or creating high hit profiles.  Every single interview I received or job I’ve worked in the past 10 years came about as a result of networking with people who knew of positions that were about to open (but had not yet been communicated to HR).  That seems to be the reality of job searching – someone wants to hire, checks around internally with co-workers, interviews that person, then opens the position to meet HR requirements, then hires the person.

Given this, I recommend networking with everyone possible (trading phone numbers, emails, business cards, etc), both in person and on social media (including Facebook and Twitter, not just LinkedIn).  One phone interview I received was through networking I had done with professors I knew from Purdue (my alma mater), and when I posted a note on Facebook asking for du’aa for an upcoming interview, I was messaged by multiple friends asking me to send over my resume, and in this manner, I received future phone interviews.

My list, in no particular order of importance, goes:

  1. College Associates (professors, fellow students, TAs, RAs, etc)
  2. Family (cousins, siblings, in-laws, uncles, aunts, etc)
  3. Friends (via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+)
  4. Previous Co-Workers
  5. Recruiters on LinkedIn

You can double, triple, and quadruple your list by recruiting people who have a stake in your getting a job (wife, kids, parents who are also professional and/or networked).

When you give your resume to others, don’t wait for them to follow-up with you. Ask them when you can contact them for follow-up, and keep doing this after each follow-up until that lead is closed off in some way.

I also highly recommend making the effort to network with people who are top performers.  When top performers give recommendations to management, it’s taken more seriously and the chance for an interview rises dramatically.

After all that, the most important networking you can do for yourself is, as the clever cliché goes, sending du‘ā’s in the form of knee-mail during the last 3rd of the night in qiyām’l-layl.

2.  Speak with Confidence and Integrity During Your Interview

The job interview can be an intimidating experience if you’re unprepared for it.  The only way to get good is to practice giving interviews.  I would suggest checking Amazon for the top-selling interview questions book (I’ved used the Knock ‘Em Dead series by Martin Yates) to get a feel for some of the questions you’ll be asked on a general level (tell me about yourself, tell me one weakness you have, what are your strengths, etc), and start practicing those answers.

If you expect a technical interview, then research online and try to find the questions you’ll be asked.  If you’re interviewing with a specific company known for strange questions and interviews (Google, Microsoft, etc), then check online for these types of interviews; you’ll find message boards and websites dedicated to listing the experiences of past interviewees.

For general questions, have a family member or friend take you through a mock interview.  For technical questions, see if you can do a mock interview with a colleague or someone in your field.  Ask for feedback on the content of your answer, your delivery, and non-verbal cues (looking down or away, fiddling, shaking legs, slouching, not smiling, and so on).

If you feel uncomfortable doing this with your family and friends, there are services in the state unemployment offices that will do this with you for free.  You may also find post lay-off  that your company has services to support you in preparing a resume and doing mock interviews, so take advantage of this.

Practice often, and make sure you don’t exaggerate or lie.  The most confident interview you’ll deliver is the one where you don’t have to second-guess yourself or keep track of half-truths or full-untruths you told the interviewer.

3.  Communicating with Dress and Personal Hygiene

Dress well (laundered and pressed clothes, no holes, no stains, shouldn’t be faded or threads hanging out, clean shined shoes), smell good, and see the dentist if there’s visible crud in your teeth when you smile.  If you came from the East and were not taught to wear deodorant (no offense), start wearing some.  While you may not realize it, everyone can smell you (I say this as a person raised in the West who suffered this ignorance in my younger teen years).  And please don’t use Axe, it doesn’t last more than a few hours!

Conclusion

This article is by no means exhaustive. It’s just a jumping off point, beginning with my own experiences as someone who has primarily (only) large enterprise corporate America experience.  Please use the comments area below to share your own insights, tips, and tricks.


Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Dreamlife

    December 12, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    JazakAllah for that. Perfect timing for me, given the circumstances at my company recently…

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      December 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM

      What’s happening at your company?

      • Avatar

        Dreamlife

        December 13, 2011 at 1:42 AM

        They have to retrench about half the employees. But alhamdullilah – found out yesterday that I’m not one of those leaving. It was a wake-up call, though, and has prompted me to consider doing further training so that I can diversify my skillset for the time I do seek another job insha-Allah.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          December 13, 2011 at 1:44 AM

          Some advice since you’ll still there:

          1. Get the resume ready
          2. Look online at the skills in your field that keep coming up and pay well.
          3. Get that skill =) Or some work during your next few months that will make anyone glancing at your resume sit up and take notice.

          Siraaj

  2. Avatar

    Bahader

    December 12, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    Gr8 advice jazzakAllahu kheir

  3. Avatar

    SimplyMe

    December 12, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    Jazakallah khairen for this perspective on unemployment in the West.

    I would just like to point out that the coupons and unemployment benefits available in the West are not necessarily available in the rest of the world.

    And the cycle about lowering of food prices, it hasn’t happened where I am for years. Probably increasing every month, with new taxes and more money going out of our pockets than incoming.

    It is a blessing for many living where you are if you are able to rely on coupons,grants and other benefits. From where I am looking inshaAllah you have a better chance of getting back on your feet than any of us living unemployed in the Asian region.

    Praying for a better future for the unemployed around the world.

    • Avatar

      RCHOUDH

      December 12, 2011 at 10:41 AM

      Ameen to your du’a and make all the current corruption and exploitation around the world give way to a just and righteous order based on Deen.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      December 12, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      Ameen to your du’aas, there probably should have been a disclaimer about which audience would best benefit (likely people in similar circumstances as myself, as you mentioned, in the West).

      Over here, pricing cycles are done because if inventory is sitting on the shelf, it’s considered capital that isn’t being put to business use to bring in more profit, so the price is dropped from whatever very high markup it’s at to something lower (but still profitable) to clean out inventory, take whatever profits can be reaped, and then re-invest again.

      Are there people within the system you live that have written about dealing with unemployment via local means? I’d be interested to know how others get by.

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        SimplyMe

        December 12, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        If you could email me I could provide the details .

        I could not find your email address to contact regarding this question.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          December 12, 2011 at 2:36 PM

          I could, but it may be better to share in the comments section so others can also benefit if they’re in similar circumstances, right? If you’d not like to share publicly, I’ll email you privately.

          Siraaj

          • Avatar

            SimplyMe

            December 12, 2011 at 2:40 PM

            I wont mind adding to the comments after editing details. It is easier to explain with details that cannot be published here, as some details maybe personal and political.

  4. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    December 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Mash’Allah great article with alot of sound advice! I’d just like to add a few things based on personal experience:

    1. For those of us wishing to someday open up our own business now may be a good time to look into that. The business doesn’t have to start out big you can initially do it from your own home if you want. The same goes for those wanting to become self-employed by working as a consultant, freelance writer, etc.

    2. I think temporarily moving into one’s family home can only really work if your family is the type to be supportive of you no matter what. There are some families unfortunately who may increase the level of stress you already feel over being unemployed, by “blaming” you for losing your old (due to some imagined incompetence on your part). There are also families who may try to pressure you to stop completely practicing Islam (by telling women to take off that headscarf or men to shave that beard) because they believe that’s preventing you from getting hired! I think that under those circumstances if you can still afford to, you should stay put in your own home or move to a cheaper place rather than deal with family like that.

    3. If you’ve always wanted to experience living in another country now’s a good time to start looking for a job outside of where you currently reside. Usually jobs abroad are contract-based so you can take the opportunity to experience life anywhere around the world and then return to your home country with greater job experience (and greater cultural awareness).

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      December 12, 2011 at 1:45 PM

      Salaam alaykum,

      Great advice, about point #2, I generally tell people to move out fast exactly because of the reasons you mentioned, and even with stellar in-laws, many couples still want privacy, and while brothers think their wives smiles and, “It’s really ok,” assurances mean the story is over, often they just don’t want to stir trouble and tension.

      Opening a business is a great idea. If I could say one thing about this, pick an idea and stay focused on completing it. I began working towards a personal trainer certification and was a good deal through reading and preparing when my slightly ADD personality took over (not clinical, I’m just making fun of myself) and I started looking to write apps for android and iPhone. In the end, I did neither, and didn’t establish a business.

      Have you opened up a business for yourself?

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        December 12, 2011 at 5:32 PM

        Wa alaikum salaam wr,

        Right now I’m self-employed as a freelance writer. My name links back to one of the websites I write for. I just have to say though that most of the writing gigs I’ve landed so far don’t pay much so they’re only good to work towards acquiring supplementary income. People who can use such income include students, stay-at-home moms, the retired, etc. I’m sure there’s better writing gigs out there I just haven’t really looked into that yet.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          December 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM

          I find that many who are paid specifically for writing have established a rep in their community and get paid for whatever niche or market they’ve become the designated expert in. More often, I’ve seen bloggers use their writing skills as a marketing medium for their expertise in specific areas where they either draw readers to their blogs for free info (and then have them click ads), or they sell products and services related to the topic.

          Siraaj

          • Avatar

            RCHOUDH

            December 16, 2011 at 5:36 AM

            Jazakallah for this info and yes I’ve seen these types of markets in the writing field too. The only drawback is that you have to be aggressive in marketing yourself and your writing and you have to stand out from the competition, which is hard. But yes it is possible to make more money through writing by doing this.

  5. Avatar

    Farhan

    December 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    SubhanAllah :-)

    “For the general questions, have a family member or friend take you through a mock interview.  For technical questions, see if you can do a mock interview with a colleague or someone in your field.  Ask for feedback on the content of your answer, your delivery, and non-verbal cues (looking down or away, fiddling, shaking legs, slouching, not smiling, and so on).”

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      December 12, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      Aha, here’s the friend who’s also in my field and led me through both sets of questions during a late nighter at Denny’s :D Got the job right after ;)

      Siraaj

  6. Avatar

    waheedsofi

    December 14, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    MashaAllah super super super ……love ur blog bro …ur words touch my heart thanks for sharing such.a wonderful info …..

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  8. Avatar

    Farhat

    February 8, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    Funny, what I did was ask the right question. What are they outsourcing? Why can’t I outsource it and make money as well? What I found blew my mind.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      February 8, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Salaam alaykum Farhat,

      There’s no problem with outsourcing, but many of us have to re-calibrate the way we view our relationship with the companies we work for.  In the minds of many, the long hours and hard work should have translated into continuous employment, not being replaced by cheaper labor.  This is the story workers are sold as they are asked to put in more hours for less money – loyalty, and determination to see the company succeed.

      So my message is that we set our expectations correctly – we’re in a transactional relationship, and when either side can find a better deal, they’ll walk.  The job is a job, and we do it well for the sake of doing it well, and for what we’re being paid to do.  Corporations more often do not care for you, and you ought to look out for #1 – yourself.

      Siraaj

  9. Avatar

    Anonymous

    February 8, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Jazakallhu Khairun for all the awesome suggestions. I am from UK graduated in Electronic engineering in 2010, but finding it so difficult to get into the field. I have done temporary admin jobs, charity jobs and others (now unemployed for longest time ever). Sometimes I get depressed :( then I look for some positivity online (like i discovered this article) and continue applying. Make Dua for me inshallah.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      February 9, 2012 at 1:28 AM

      Wa iyyakum bro, hang in there.  When I first graduated with a computer science degree and a math minor, it was some time before I landed my first full-time job (2.5 years), and the economy wasn’t as bad as this =)

      Give it some time, and when it’s right, Allah will provide you with a job.  If you have free time, make good use of it to develop yourself.

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  11. Avatar

    Sarandeebiyy

    February 12, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum

    There are some Quranic verses that really help cope and dissipate the anxiety and grief:

    1….for surely WITH hardship there is ease (they have been created together!) : Surah Inshirah, verses 5-6

    2.No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to get, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you. And Allah likes not prideful boasters:Surah Hadeed, verses 22-23 (What was going to happen to you was written for you before it happened)
    Also, do not forget the possibility of starting one’s own business!

    Wassalaam

    Shiraz.

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  14. Avatar

    Ismaeel Abed

    February 16, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    As salaam mu alaykum
    I’ve been out of work for five months and it takes its toll on your self confidence and respect. I find it really hard to ask people for anything and am fortunate that my parents are alive and are helping by giving me a place to stay.
    Taking jobs that are readily available help in the short term and seem like you’re a job hopper-I’ve taken a course in Networking and have my CCNA but I just cant seem to land a job in this field as they require that you have 2-5 years of experience. I’m not big on lying either. I live in South Africa and would appreciate it if you could offer some advice

    • Avatar

      siraaj

      February 23, 2012 at 1:08 AM

      Walaykum as salaam Ismaeel,

      I can’t speak to south africa well, but generally speaking, I would advise using your free time to expand your skills.  CCNA is ok to start, but you ought to consider a CCIE either in R&S or Voice.  Try to take advantage of as many free online resources as possible, or if you can afford it, subscribe to safari books online and start reading, training, and making yourself a more attractive prospect.

      your first job will be low-paying, but the real payment is the experience you can put out afterwards.

      Siraaj

  15. Avatar

    Anjuynia Setashikato

    February 20, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Assalamualaikm, brother, I was wondering if there is a way to contact you directly, I am looking for a guest speaker for an MSA event in Dallas, and am hoping that you will be able to point me in the right direction.

    • Avatar

      siraaj

      February 23, 2012 at 1:09 AM

      you can email at siraaj AT muslimmatters DOT org

  16. Avatar

    Anjuynia Setashikato

    February 20, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Assalamualaikm, brother, I was wondering if there is a way to contact you directly, I am looking for a guest speaker for an MSA event in Dallas, and am hoping that you will be able to point me in the right direction.

  17. Avatar

    AzzamS

    March 3, 2012 at 6:08 AM

    The most valuable tip in there:

     “Every single interview I received or job I’ve worked in the past 10
    years came about as a result of networking with people who knew of
    positions that were about to open (but had not yet been communicated to
    HR). ”

    However you should have expanded on what entrpreneurship as this was a Sunnah and the methodology of the Sahabah

    • Avatar

      siraaj

      March 3, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      Jzk for reading, i wish i could expand on that, but i’ve never been one so i couldnt really do that discussion justice.  If you’d be interested in submitting such an article, that would be welcomed :)

      • Avatar

        AzzamS

        March 4, 2012 at 4:15 PM

         InshAllah I will do some research on this and come up with a post if possible on time contraints.  Working closer with a few young Muslim who are interested in setting up own business and is highly encouraged according to the Sunnah.

        I have a book on the ‘benefits/rewards of busines’ written by a scholar which should make a good framework to write the post on

    • Avatar

      Sara

      December 19, 2016 at 8:26 AM

      I think this is really disheartening, because nowadays, it is almost impossible to make these connections if you don’t know anyone. Finding a job is becoming increasingly difficult, and knowing that most people get jobs through networking, when they don’t even have a foot in the door, is just not good advice for most people.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        December 21, 2016 at 12:05 AM

        Salaam alaykum Sara,

        When I was in college, my foot wasn’t yet through the door, but that of family and friends were. Sometimes it’s friends of family and friends, other times it’s attending conferences for your field where you meet others like yourself. Read some books on how to network when you have no connections at the moment, you’d be surprised at what turns up :)

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  19. Avatar

    isa

    November 11, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    Im 29 and jobless. i have never had a stable job. i live at home. i have been struggling with depression and social anxiety for about 10years. i have no friends. i have no social life. i have no money. i am in debt. i have a difficult relationship with my parents. i never want to get married because i don’t believe in happiness. i believe life is a curse. i have been thinking about ending my life for years. i would be ok if i could just find a quiet simple job but i cant. the world doesn’t have quiet jobs anymore. its all about interaction, customer service, communication and teamwork. and i believe in none of that. my ideal job would be to work on my own and not to have to ever talk or see anyone. i hate work politics and interviews.

    i dont want kids or a wife. i have never been close to anyone in my life and never want to be. i relish loneliness. but not having any stability in my life has affected my relationship with Allah. i cant get close to Him now because I have nothing to offer Him. I feel bad about that. i have no stability and no money so i just feel like a hypocrite when i pray coz in islam you should work. but no one understands how much i hate this world. i feel i was born in the wrong century. if i lived a few hundred years ago i could just get away and find a simple job somewhere.

    i wish i could go to alaska and live off of the land. but i live in england sigh..im just sat in my bed writing this thinking about how many years of my life i have lost to depression. if i wasnt a muslim i would slit my throat open and die right now. what a wretched curse my life is

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      November 11, 2015 at 4:06 PM

      Salaam alaykum Isa,

      Life is certainly difficult, and I can understand that extreme difficulty in putting one foot in front of the other when you’re constantly bombarded with feelings of depression and anxiety. Nothing seems worthwhile, it wears on your nerves, and ultimately you wish you could just be put out of your misery.

      But if I could say something I see in your post that’s positive, it’s this – I can see from what you’ve written you still care about your relationship with Allah (swt) – you still care about His good opinion of you, you still care that your mistakes impact your standing with Him. Life is meant to be a test, and despite all the tests that are piled on you, despite wanting to be away from people, despite all the negative things you think about yourself (which may not all be true), there is a shining positive that outweighs all of it – it’s that you’re relationship with Allah (swt), the connection, is alive and well, even if it’s not where you want it to be.

      The best advice I can give you is this – increase your ‘ibadah with Allah and never stop making du’aa, but also see if you can get help from qualified Muslim mental health professionals. If you need help getting in contact with brothers in the UK who can be supportive, let me know and I’ll see if I can find some who will be there for you. I know you said you prefer to be alone, but having a support group, at least via chat like whatsapp or some other way, is good in encouraging you forward towards positive healthy feelings and behavior, insha’Allah.

      Please don’t give up, insha’Allah when the time is right, you’ll turn it around and do what’s best for you in the way that’s best for you :) May Allah (swt) ease the pain and pressure in your heart, mind, and body.

      Siraaj

  20. Pingback: Three Rules to Beat Unemployment | islamlife.info

  21. Avatar

    shahana

    June 28, 2018 at 4:58 AM

    ASAK,

    Wonderful article….just at the right time….i am jobless since last one year….please pray for me….

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#Life

Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Ammar Al Shukry

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students

I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7) 

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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Highly Educated, Willingly Domesticated

Laura El Alam

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Doctor.  Engineer.  Certified Nurse-Midwife. Writer and Literary Critic.  Lab Technician. Parliamentary Assistant. These highly-trained, respected careers are the culmination of years of intense study, training, and self-discipline.  Most people, upon achieving these esteemed positions, would happily dedicate the rest of their working years to putting their knowledge and expertise to use. They would gradually gain more experience, earn greater pay, and amass professional perks.  Most likely they would also, over time, assume leadership roles, earn awards, or become sought-after experts in their field.

What kind of person has all this at her fingertips, but decides to give it up?  Who would trade in years of grueling study and professional striving for an undervalued position that requires no degree whatsoever What type of professional would be willing to forgo a significant salary to instead work for free, indefinitely, with no chance whatsoever of a paycheck, recognition, benefits, or promotion?

Who else, but a mother?

While certainly not all mothers choose to give up their careers in order to raise their children, there is a subset of women who do. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) may spend the majority of their days performing unglamorous tasks like washing dishes, changing diapers, and reading storybooks to squirming toddlers, but behind the humble job title are dynamic, educated, and capable women. They may currently have a burp cloth in one hand and a sippy cup in the other, but chances are, SAHMs have a mind and capabilities that reach far beyond the apparent scope of their household duties.

What motivates a capable and ambitious woman to give up her career and stay home to raise children? Is she coerced into it, or does she choose it willingly? What is her driving force, if not money, status, or respect?  I had many questions for these women -my sisters in Islam and my stay-at-home “colleagues”- and some of their answers surprised me.

For this article I interviewed seven highly-educated Muslim moms who chose to put successful careers on hold, at least temporarily, to raise their children. Between them, they hold PhDs, MDs, and Masters degrees. While the pervasive stereotype about Muslim women is that they are oppressed and backward, these high-achieving females are no anomaly. In fact, according to her article in USA Today, Dalia Mogahed points out that, “Muslim American women are among the most educated faith group in the country and outpace their male counterparts in higher education.” Across the pond, The Guardian reports that more young Muslim women have been gaining degrees at British universities than Muslim men, even though they have been underrepresented for decades.”    

 

Ambitions and dreams

Every single one of the women I interviewed grew up in a household with parents who highly emphasized their daughters’ education. In fact, all of them were encouraged -either gently or more insistently- to pursue “top” careers in medicine, engineering, or science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the women I interviewed were at the head of their classes at university.

In their school years, before marriage, all of the women I spoke with considered their career to be their main priority; motherhood seemed far-off and undefined. “When in uni,” explains Neveen, an endodontist who eventually put her career on hold to be a SAHM and homeschooler, “I never, ever thought I’d homeschool (nor did I believe in it), nor did I ever think I’d be a SAHM. I was very career-oriented. I was top of my class in dental school and in residency.”

“I absolutely thought I would be a career woman,” agrees Nicole, a mom of three in California who holds a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. “I never considered staying at home with the kids, because they were totally out of my mind frame at the time.”

“I expected that after graduation I would follow a research-based career,” adds Layla*, another SAHM in California who holds a PhD in Computer Engineering. “I never thought I’d stay at home because I believed it was fine for kids to be in daycare. I also thought SAHMs were losing their potential and missing out on so much they could otherwise accomplish in their lives.”

As young women, many assumed that if they ever chose to start a family, they would have assistants, nannies, or domestic helpers to lighten their load. Several of them believed they would put their future children, if any, in daycare. However, the reality of motherhood made each of these women change her mind.

“My child was highly attached to me,” explains Sazida, an Assistant to a Member of Parliament in England, “and I could not envision him being looked after by anyone else despite generous offers from relatives.”

“After I had my first child all I wanted to do was be able to care for her myself,” concurs Melissa, a Certified Nurse Midwife from New York.

 

Other Motivations

It turns out that maternal instincts were not the only factor that made women choose to drop out of the workforce. Dedication to Islam played an enormous part in their decision-making.

“After having my first child,” explains Layla, “I decided that he was far more precious than working. He is a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave me to protect and care for.”

“After I became Muslim,” shares Nicole, “My goals changed, and I hoped to marry and have children. I do think it was beneficial for my children to have a parent always there to depend on,” she adds. “I feel like I was the anchor in the family for them, and I hope to continue that role.”

“What’s important to me,” asserts Neveen, “Is to raise my kids as good Muslims who love -and are proud of- their life and deen.”

Another reason many highly educated women choose to stay at home is because they have the opportunity to homeschool some or all of their children.  Remarkably, out of the seven women who answered questions for this article, five reported that they chose to homeschool at least one child for a few or more years.

“I really enjoy my homeschooling journey with my kids and I get to know them better, alhamdullilah,” states Layla.

The opportunity to nurture, educate, and raise their children with love and Islamic values is the primary reason why these talented women were willing to put their successful careers on hold. “Hopefully Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will reward us in Jannah,” muses Layla.

 

Challenges

Although none of the women I interviewed regrets her choice to be a SAHM, they all agree that it is a challenging job that is actually harder than their former career.

One obstacle they must overcome is the negative perception others have about successful women who make the choice to put their career on hold. “I soon learnt that casual clothes, a toddler, and a buggy don’t give you the same respect as suits and heels,” says Sazida.

One would expect, given their faith’s emphasis on the dignity of mothers, that Muslim SAHMs would enjoy the support of their family and friends.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

One mom explains, “My in-laws offered to look after my child, and my father-in-law couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay at home when there was perfectly good childcare that they were offering. After two and three years passed, he got more and more disheartened that I was not earning and complained about the lost potential income.”

“My non-Muslim mother told me that I wasting my education,” confides Nicole. “She did not support me staying home, though I think she appreciated that I was there for my children and have a good relationship with them.  She was a SAHM as well, so I am not sure where that was coming from, actually.”

Melissa’s mom was similarly skeptical of her daughter’s decision. “My mother didn’t love me being fully dependent on my husband,” she admits.

“I was not at all supported by my family or friends,” laments Radhia, a Lab Technician with a BS in Microbiology with a Chemistry minor.

Other than being doubted and blamed for their choice, there are other challenges that SAHMs face. Accustomed to mental stimulation, exciting challenges, professional accomplishments, and adult interaction, many former career women find staying at home to raise youngsters to be monotonous and lonely. The nannies, assistants, cleaners, and other workers they had envisioned often never materialized, since hiring these helpers was usually too expensive. Husbands who spent the day working as the family’s sole breadwinner, were usually too tired to help with household duties.  A few women admitted that they felt guilty asking for help in the home when their husband was already exhausted from work. To exacerbate the problem, most of the women I interviewed lived far from family, so they could not rely on the help one normally gets from parents and siblings. That means the bulk of the childcare and housework fell onto their laps alone.

“The main challenges for me,” states Nicole, “were boredom, and finding good friends to spend time with who had similar interests. I was also very stressed because the raising of the children, the housework, the food, and overall upkeep of our lives were my responsibility, and I found that to be a heavy burden.”

“I think the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity about whether I was a good enough mother and housewife was difficult,” shares Melissa. “All my sense of worth was wrapped up in the kids and home, and if something went wrong I felt like a failure.”

“It was not as easy as I thought it would be,” confesses Radhia. “It was overwhelming at times, and I did miss working. Emotionally and physically, it was very draining.”

“Staying home has been harder than I expected,” adds Summer*, a Writer and Literary Critic from Boston. “I didn’t realize how willful children could be. I thought they’d just do what I said. I’m still trying to get used to the individuality! It’s harder than my job was, only because of the emotional load, and the fact that the effort you put in doesn’t guarantee the results you hope for.”

 

Money Matters

Giving up their salary also put women in a state of financial dependency, which can be a bitter pill to swallow for women who are used to having their own resources.

“I felt very dependent on my husband, financially,” says Radhia.

“Alhamdulillah, my husband does not refuse if I ask him to buy anything,” explains Layla. “However, I felt like I was losing my power of deciding to buy something for someone else. For example, if I want to buy a gift for my mother or my sister, he never refuses when I ask him, but still I feel internally it is harder for me.”

“Alhamdulillah my husband’s personality is not one that would control my financial decisions/spending,” shares Neveen. “Otherwise I would never have chosen to be a SAHM.”

“Giving up my career limited my power to make financial decisions,” asserts Summer. “I could still spend what I wanted, but I had to ask permission, because my husband knew when ‘we’ were getting paid, and how much. He paid the bills, which I didn’t even look at.”

“Asking permission,” Summer adds, “is very annoying.”

Re-entering the workforce was difficult for some women, while not for others.  The total time spent at home generally affected whether women could easily jump back into their profession, or not.  Some of the moms felt their skills had not gotten rusty at all during their hiatus at home, while others felt it was nearly impossible to make up, professionally, for missed time.

 

Words of Wisdom

Although all of the women I interviewed firmly believe that their time at home with their children is well-spent, they do have advice for their sisters who are currently SAHMs, or considering the position.

“If I could go back and speak to myself as a new mum, I would tell myself to chill the heck out and just enjoy being a new mum,” says Sazida.

Melissa offers, “I wish people understood how talented you have to be to run a home successfully. It’s a ton of work and it requires you to be able to do everything from snuggle and nurture, to manage the money, budget, plan precisely, be a good hostess, handle problems around the home, manage time, and meet goals all while trying to look cute.

“I would always recommend that women have their own bank account and money on the side,” advises Nicole. “You never know when you are going to need it.”

“Once their kids are in school,” adds Radhia, “I would suggest SAHMs start something from home, or take on part time work, or courses, if necessary.”

“For moms choosing to stay at home,” Layla suggests, “I would say try to work part-time if your time permits, and if you have a passion for working. Trust that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will protect you, no matter what. Remember, you are investing in your kids, and that is far more important than thinking ‘I need to keep money in my pocket.’”

 

Support, don’t judge

As a Muslim ummah, our job is to support one another as brothers and sisters.  It seems people forget this oftentimes, and erroneously believe that we are entitled to gossip, speculate, and sit in judgement of each other, instead.  In our lives we will all undoubtedly encounter women who choose to continue their careers, and those who put them on hold, and those who decide to give them up completely. Before we dare draw conclusions about anyone, we must keep in mind that only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows a person’s entire story, her motivations, and her intentions. Only He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is allowed to judge.

We must also remember that some women, for a variety of reasons, do not have the luxury of choosing to stay at home. They must work to the pay the bills. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their intentions and will reward their sacrifices as well.

 

It is my hope that this article will not cause more division amongst us, but rather raise awareness of the beautiful sacrifices that many talented and intelligent women willingly make for the sake of their children, and even more so, for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  They are the unsung heroes of our ummah, performing an undervalued job that is actually of utmost importance to the future of the world.

 

*Name has been changed

 

 

For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam. Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism. A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

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OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

Abu Awad

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Ali ibn Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.” 

I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.

I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.

Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).

To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.

I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.

It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.

The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.

It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.

1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.

2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.

3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US,  part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.

Aameen.

Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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