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Self-Hate, Racism ‘In Style’

Umm Zakiyyah



“Pakistanis are the worst!” a young Desi woman exclaimed wrinkling her nose, “I would never advise marrying any of them.” The other Pakistani women present nodded in emphatic agreement while others shook their heads knowingly.

“Arabs are so extreme,” an Arab woman interjected, “Everything is harām to them.” “Americans are much better,” another woman agreed, “They’re the only men worth marrying.”

At the last comment, unease knotted in my stomach…

Like most people, my friends and I enjoy the lighthearted discussions that allow us to look at our cultural flaws and critique them.  But recently, amidst this sort of talk, I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable.  Perhaps I’m being oversensitive. I’ve certainly considered this possibility.  But careful introspection suggests that Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is simply answering my oft-repeated supplication…

O Allāh! Make me love what you love, and make me hate what you hate.

And no matter how much I tell myself that our talk is harmless, that there’s nothing wrong with having a “good laugh” every now and then,  there remains in my heart a wavering that tells me this talk isn’t amongst the speech beloved by Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Once when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked about righteousness, he said, “Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and sin is what creates restlessness in the soul and moves to and fro in the breast, even though people give you their opinion (in your favor) and continue to do so,” (Ahmad and Al-Darimi).

I certainly don’t think it’s contrary to righteousness to critique ourselves from time to time.  Surely, there are even moments when we may find humor in our faults and ignorance.  The famous story of how ‘Umar b. Al-Khaṭṭāb raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) laughed as he recalled eating his “date god” during his pre-Islamic days makes that point quite clearly.

However, there is a marked difference between having a healthy sense of humor or engaging in necessary self-analysis and being condescendingly judgmental — even if we imagine ourselves as part of the group we are judging.

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


“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group. It may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let [some] women scoff at other women. It may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How ill-seeming is it to insult one’s brother after having faith. And whosoever does not repent, then such are the wrongdoers.” (Al-ujurāt, 49:11)

We often think of this āyah as referring to scoffing at the other—a group wholly disconnected from ourselves. But even if this is the case, Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not limit this “other group” to those who share no common traits with us.  As such, it is quite possible that those whom we are cautioned against mocking share our race, ethnicity, or background.

Moreover, most times when we are speaking with condescension about “our” culture or ethnic group, we are excluding ourselves from “our” group. Thus, even if we never take time to analyze the implications of our scoffing, our condescending speech suggests that we imagine ourselves as “remarkable exceptions” to a “deplorable rule.”


“I would never marry my daughter to a Black man,” an African-American woman shared honestly as we sat amongst a group of mostly Black Americans.

“And I would never let my sons marry a Black woman,” another African-American woman responded quite brusquely.

I grew quiet, and again I felt that knotting in my stomach. Then who amongst our children will marry at all? I wondered. I found it quite sad that these women had memorized Qur’an, studied Islam from scholars, and were actively engaged in da’wah, yet they somehow missed a quite basic point of human righteousness…

That “good” or “bad” is determined by the state of one’s heart and commitment to righteous action—regardless of the color of their skin.


“My parents are so racist,” an Indian woman told me once after saying she would never marry a man from her country, “They would never let me marry outside my culture.”

“And why can’t you marry a righteous Indian man?” I’d asked. “Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has placed righteous people amongst all cultures. Why can’t your future husband be from yours?”

I then added, “Make du‘ā’. Certainly Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is capable of making your spouse someone whom you and your parents approve of.”


“A righteous woman is a righteous woman,” my husband said once in response to some brothers expressing disdain for marrying women of a particular ethnic group,  “And an unrighteous woman is an unrighteous woman.  And if a woman isn’t righteous,” he added, “it doesn’t matter what race she is.”

Unfortunately, this is not the lens we use to view the world. Rather, it has become quite “in vogue” for us to cast judgments based primarily (if not solely) on race, culture, and ethnicity—especially if we happen to be part of these groups. What’s most heartbreaking is that amongst many of us, this form of self-hate is associated with practicing “true Islam”—as if Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is asking us to leave racism and nationalism that harms others only so that we may inflict this same harm on those who look like us.

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

“…And [reverence] the wombs [that bore you]. For Allāh ever watches over you.”

(Al-Nisā’, 4:1)

And what are these wombs if not our parents, homes, and cultures from whence we all come? And how do we imagine that we can attain righteousness by scorning those whom Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose to nurture us from young? Is this not one of the greatest forms of ingratitude to our Creator?

Yes, we will certainly find amongst all people—especially amongst ourselves—much that needs to be improved, rectified, or even shunned. But if Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) graces us with knowledge such that we see the faults of our people, this is not an opportunity to scorn or mock the wombs that bore us; rather, it is an opportunity to show patience and gratitude for the favors that Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has bestowed on us.

Is it not amongst Allāh’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) innumerable bounties that He provided us with parents, homes, and cultures at all?

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

“Verily, Allāh is full of bounty to mankind, but most of them are ungrateful.”

(Yūnus, 10:60)

So let us not rush to express hatred and scorn for the bounties that Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has bestowed on us—even when these earthly bounties come with human fault and erred cultures. Instead, let us be thankful for these favors—through showing patience with the faults of others (even if these “others” are from our own race, ethnicity, or culture) and through showing gratitude for the good within ourselves.

Like racism toward the “other”, racism toward the self is what deserves our scorn—no matter how “in style” it is amongst some Muslims to harbor bigotry toward the wombs that bore them.

Surely, for the believer, reverencing the wombs that bore them—like living a life of patience and gratitude—is always “in style”.


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


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



  1. Avatar

    Abu Yusuf

    February 20, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Salaam Alaykum, I can’t help but agree with the comment of the Pakistani ladies. We must understand that the context that they were speaking in was in terms of marriage suitability and this is an exceptional case where ‘backbiting’ is allowed. Our Rasool (SAWS) himself when someone approached him about proposals from 2 particular men – he described one of them as being heavy with the stick (meaning he beat women) and the other as being niggardly (miserly). In matters of marriage it is important that the ladies discuss this without feeling self-conscious and it is true what the Pakistani ladies stated. At least in Houston there are too many cases of Pakistani men beating their wives, drinking, womanizing, engaging in paying mortgage interest, taking bus trips to Louisiana to gamble, and many other peccadillos. I think the rooster has come home to roost in the case of Pakistani brothers. They used to laugh at Bangladeshi brothers in the 80s due to the floods they would suffer and then Allah sent major floods to Pakistan and devastating earthquakes and encroachment of their sovereignty by foreign troops. Pakistan brothers used to laugh at the Arabs, now the Arabs are laughing at them. Pakistani brothers in Houston used to make incendiary comments against Indians, now India has overtaken them by strides whilst infighting and civil strife has gripped Pakistan. The situation is so embarassing that several Pakistanis I know refuse to acknowledge that they are Pakistani. Even Yasir Qadhi, when he visited India stated to the audience that he was from Lucknow. Pakistan’s plague is so insidious that it has turned off its own women against their own men and not even the men living in countries abroad are spared from the inhumane treatment they mete out to their kinsfolk and womensfolk. Go to the local Muslim women’s shelter and see how many are victims of Pakistani men who have run amok. So in terms of marriage suitability it is absolutely the right of the Pakistani sisters to speak ill of their own men so that they can save themselves. White Muslim brothers, Black Muslim brothers, Asian Muslim brothers, Arab Muslim brothers, they are all better than Pakistani Muslim men (on average). The latter will argue about whether Denny’s chicken is halaal or not till he’s blue in the face but he will be the same bloke paying interest and consuming it and selling liquor. This applies to Houston because a large percentage of Pakistani brothers here are blue collar and uncouth. Pakistani brothers in more well to do locales like Baltimore or Manhattan may be different. Although I’ve also heard from residents in training that Pakistani doctors in America exhibit tremendous hubris compares to their peers from other ethnicities. 

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      August 23, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      Interesting, brother Abu Yusuf,
      I was one of those self-deprecating young women who wanted to desperately marry outside of my race until I left the bubble of US of A. You are doing exactly what this article is saying not to do. All those things you mentioned about uncouth Pakistani men, I can replace that with arab men as well, no doubt, and any other ethnicity. I know Pakistani people are hated in parts of the world due to the political turmoil and the foreign policies namely vis e vis Afghanistan and Bangladesh but please do not generalize. I can tell you among the educated Pakistani class the men have better akhlaaq than other people. And a righteous man is a righteous man no matter where he comes from provided he has education and good family background. Perhaps the Houston brothers are from blue collared backgrounds same can be said about Pakistanis in England but you do not know anything about the blue collarness of the arabs and other muslims. I can tell you arabs living in Chicago own all the liquor stores and in many countries it is common that they beat their wives like crazy and have had cases where biological brothers have killed each other and and the list goes on……

      When I was living in the US, I did not like to identify myself as being Pakistani, now that I moved to the middleeast and traveled to Pakistan and non arab and arab countries alike, I tell people purposefully I am Pakistani (especially when they assume I am a khaleeji arab) because there is still religion in Pakistan amidst all the troubles there. I have seen the average everyday Pakistani folks in Pakistan and I have seen many of the stuck up muslims in turkey(who discriminated against me because I was wearing niqab) gulf region(where they have no manners whatsoever). I have neighbors that are muslims that do not even give me the time of day. I have attempted numerous attempts to invite my arab(hijabi ) neighbors as well as the Pakistani non hijabi neighbors to my house and I gotta hate to break it to you despite all the bad, the Pakistani were the non judgemental and kind and accepted my invitation. So unless you have traveled the world, please do not speak about a group of people based on one locality.

      disclaimer: I am sorry I cannot speak for the men to be fair because my Pakistani father, brothers and husband are total opposite of what you have listed :)

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    Miss M

    February 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    “And what are these wombs if not our parents, homes, and cultures from
    whence we all come? And how do we imagine that we can attain
    righteousness by scorning those whom Allāh chose to nurture us from young? Is this not one of the greatest forms of ingratitude to our Creator?”

    Whoa. I never thought of it that way. Excellent point. Loved the article.

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    February 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    a salaam alaikum,

    al hamdulillah, this topic is a needed talk that we Muslims almost never have. I am a sort of self hater. May Allah forgive me. There is balance in everything. When the cultures, places and people who gave us birth go against Islam, then in the best way, we need to speak up and resist flowing with those un-Islamic elements. I am no scholar, but Islam is basically, praise in public and gently criticize in private. We should never bash just for the sake of bashing, but our bashing should be very cautious, calculated solely for the benefit of Islam and most of all private. We all know Surah Humaza. And this small knowledge should greatly restrain us. But the other side, from my black American view is that I see black American Muslim leaders who NEVER say anything bad about all the saved people that surround them in the black community. Whitney Houston died unhappy even though she was rich. We Muslims know why and yet we keep quiet out of respect for saved people. Now the saved people have no problem spreading misinformation about Muslims and Muslim history as it relates to black America. So the real effect of our modesty is sometimes we help to maintain lies because we don’t want to speak up and point out the institutional faults in the cultures that raised us. For example, saved people, the whole theology, often leads black Americans to deep ignorance about religion, (you don’t need knowledge, just faith), it leads to ignorance about culture and black history (most don’t know that the Africans who came to America in the slave boats were Muslims).  If you speak the truth about black American religious history, the old saved people are going to be offended and too many black American Muslim leaders don’t want to offend black Christian leaders. We don’t backbite. But our Prophet spoke the truth even when it caused him to bleed. You can’t just be pleasant alone. If our criticism is about standing up for Islam and not just an exercise in self-loathing, our speech becomes necessary and healthy. We Muslims have HUGE problems with prejudice. Indo/Pakis do NOT let their women nor their men marry black people. They only marry whites or other Indo/Pakis. Black American Muslims trained by Warith Deen Muhammad, are proud of maintaining an Islam that does not exactly match immigrant Islam and part of the difference is traces of the Nation of Islam, which is something we black American Muslims should be dropping like a hot poker. Insha Allah, we learn to criticize more out of love instead of hate and that love should be for Allah and His messenger. Good intentions makes for many solutions…..subhanallah.

    Fee Amanallah

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    February 20, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    When one spoke of American men, they sure werern’t speaking of African-American men.  I know plenty of African-American men who are single and wanted to be married, but had difficulties finding a wife.  Especially if she is of a different nationality.  I find a lot of racism in diffent nationalities.  I was told here that many African women who happen to be Muslims find it very difficult to marry.  And no man, unless he is Black like her, will even think of marrying a Black woman.  The racism here is outrageous.  And no our Imams do not talk about it because sadly enough, they too are very racist.  That is the big problem.  It starts from the top.

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      February 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Everything really is not about racism. We have to understand very clearly that Allah made different nations and tribes with diff. languages so we may know eachoth.

      There is a distinction that should be made with situations when african americans or white converts are turned down for marriage whether by prospective spouses or fathers of prospective girls.

      Many times the sister or brother themselves originally from a muslim culture will not themselves feel comfortable marrying outside. They would rather marry into their own culture or a culture that is very close to their own culture. This is human nature. In fact forcing people to marry ppl they dont feel comfortable with would be injustice and serious dhulm.

      Where it is racism is when there is compatibility and the girl and guy are in agreement and THEN the father refuses for no reason other than race? EVEN then if im a wali lets say and i have the choice of marrying my daughter into a muslim family or with a guy from a non muslim family , given the fact that i have to look out for the BEST interest of my daughter, i would prefer to marry her into a family who is muslim simply because when children come into the picture it is more beneficial for them that they have muslim grandparents. Also if the parents die and the only ppl available to care and raise the children are non muslim, thats a HUGE ISsue.

      So all im saying is that this issue is one that is actually a bit more complicated than saying ‘racism’.

      My own brother who is good looking, can support well , is practicing, outgoing had a vey difficult time getting married. He got turned down by girl after girl. From converts to arabs. He wanted to marry out of the culture. Its easy to say that oh she said cuz of culture. But really each time the parents said no or the girl said no it was cuz of compatibility issues. Alhamdulillah he is married now to a palestinian sister. He wanted someone arabic speaking to raise his kids with arab and the culture is easy for him to deal with cuz its a bit less annoying to HIM than his own culture. So is that racism too that u marry someone yur comfortable with so that u can raise a good family?
      I myself married Arab also cuz i felt very confortable with the level of culture. For ME it was way more freeing than marrying into pakistani. I could not really imagine marrying a revert for instance because there is too many cultural differences. Why would i put myself through that? Is that racism that i find what im comfortable with?

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        February 22, 2012 at 3:49 AM

        as salaam alaikum,
        Sister I know your intentions are good. but you say, converts don’t have Muslim families and that makes us inferior. So here I am stuck with no Muslim family and you have a daughter, and you say it is good for you and your daughter that you don’t associate with my Christian relatives…but is it good for Islam? if you are the Muslims they way you should be the children will not be in danger and  the interaction of our two families will only make more Muslim converts. When you keep yourself to your immigrant Muslim families, you isolate and build walls that keep the larger world ignorant about our faith. You do not spread Islam. Converts are not less Muslim than born Muslims. You infer that when you say it is more trouble to marry a convert. Allah Knows how the kids will turn out. We all know kids from Muslim families who either don’t practice or are flat out murtads, so keeping Islam in the heart belongs to Allah and to discriminate against a brother or sister because they converted is wrong. Conversion to Islam is an act requiring a strength only Allah gives. For us to convert and go against your whole family and culture is something that many born Muslims don’t have a clue about. We don’t do Islam because someone made us do it when we were kids. We converts, praise be to Allah, through the guidance of Allah and the will of Allah walked away from the religion and deen of our parents and all their threats and punishments have not turned us back.We stand against the Christian culture that raised us. We make our stand for Allah. This is a unique gift that belongs only to the people Allah converts to Islam. We converts are a people in a sea of Christians, yet Allah has chosen us and He holds us in His deen. We are chosen, pulled from a sea of disbelief. Yet you openly talk about how we are “too much trouble” Subhanallah! God decided we are not too much trouble for Him! Muslims are supposed to eschew prejudice. Your statements are prejudiced…if you were American, you would have known before you said them. Please recognize the prejudice and embrace converts at least as equals, even if don’t understand our experience. 

        All praise belongs to Allah… 

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      Pakistani Sister

      August 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM

      To sister Sylvia,
      you are right there is a lot of racism in that muslim families from back home do not marry their daughters to brothers that are American Black or White but bear in mind that despite this if it is written for someone it does happen. I know arab brothers that have married African American sisters and they specifically only wanted to marry African American sisters. So despite the racism if Allaah SWT has written for you(in general you) then no one an prevent it and I implore my brothers and sisters to not become dejected or depressed but continue to improve yourself in the sight of Allaah SWT and think that “those” other people did not deserve you and not the other way around.

      In shaa Allaah hopefully this helps

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    February 20, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    As Salaamu 3alaikum

    Excellent advice and a reminder for all of us who strive to complete our Islaam. On a personal note something I detest is nationalism since pride in one’s personal race, or nationality only serves to elevate one race or nation against another…this is not what Islaam is about. For those who obstinately adhere to the idea of their own race or nation being above that of others, think about the consequences of Nazism…was there ever a greater instance of racial and nationalistic ego gone too far? 

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    Maryam A

    February 20, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    subhan Allah, I just submitted a race-related article for the Islamic website for which I write. I’m glad there are enough people who have had enough and are trying to create dialogue to inshaAllah help things change. barak Allahu fiki 

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    February 21, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    Marry any1 you like,just make sure they are righteous first,and then good luck.

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    February 21, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    MashaAllah good advice. I agree with you on everything you stated but at the same time I can understand where these women (who complain or despise particular culture) come from. It is very easy for us who have normal families with good religious tendencies to state that these women sound racist etc but the fact of the matter is, its their experience that has seeded those feelings in their hearts, towards particular culture. It is a FACT that particular cultures have their own defining traits even if they are Muslim. I, for once despised, hated Pakistani culture because of what I have seen and witnessed in my merely 25 years of life but I also married a Pakistani man who I was lucky enough to find, and who is the only ray of light among the “majority” of patriarchal-self loving Pakistani men. Even though I was lucky enough to find a Pakistan man who loaths every cultural belief that has no origin in Islam, I also know that majority of Pakistani men aren’t like him.

    Even though all these women, or men were complaining about a particular culture, I can guarantee, they would not hesitate in marrying a righteous man from one of those cultures. I believe they were making that statement based on the general NORM in these cultures and not the EXCEPTIONS (righteous men/women) Which are not that common as we might like to believe.

    Just my view based on my experience

    • Avatar


      February 23, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      sorry to hear about your experience with pakistani men but I would like to state something, just because you had a bad experience with a handful of pakistani men does not mean that the entire nation of pakistani men is bad and that pakistani culture breeds bad men. it’s really who you come across in your experiences. In my 22 years of life I have seen plenty of good pakistani men who help their wives at home and likes of such things, that we consider should be in a good husband, who were raised and lived in pakistan for  most of their lives. So to say you hated pakistani culture because of the handful of men you saw would be wrong. the way a person turns out to be depends on a whole bunch of things family, education, society, personal circumstances and experiences. The men I am talking about are also from pakistan and have the same culture as the pakistani men u r mentioning but they turned out to be extremely different from what you mention. An additional point to make, is the men that I have seen aren’t even extremely religious or even super educated, but understand their duties as a husband, and as a father taught to them by their family, culture, islam and society. it really comes down to your family values, your own personality, and social factors. bad and good men alike come from all cultures, and races. we should make dua’a for a righteous spouse from Allah SWT. 

      • Avatar


        February 24, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        well if we make it more general than that, yes pakistani culture doesnt say go oppress your wife etc. but a lot of times what happens in a LOT of cases is that because of certain built in norms (ex. wife lives with husbands family and is generally expected to serve his parents and please them. etc) there is alot of dhulm that happens to women.
        alot of women are lax in covering for instance in front of brother in laws . why? because its the norm to live together. Just this one rule makes for a lot of problems. definitely not all pakistani men are bad. for sure. but the family dynamics in pakistan makes alot of men very subservient to their mom in a way that ends up wronging the wives.

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          August 23, 2013 at 4:10 PM

          sister, I am sure you are more knowledgable than me on this but the arab men have their share of problems too. In Pakistani society the dhulm is coming from the in laws but in arab societies it is the husband themselves that are dhaalim. And I am saying this from hearing a friend from XYZ arab country who is an arab and has family members that are cultural and non-practicing. but perhaps your perceptions might be different if you grew up in the USA and your spouse grew up in the USA as well, no?

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    February 21, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    love the point you made sister….this was an issue to be addressed and i’m glad you did.
    May Allah allow us to see the good in every race and culture and save us from the evil qualities of any of them and from falling into idle talk. Ameen

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    February 22, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Does anyone know the arabic of the du’a mentioned in the article “O Allah make me love what you love, and make me hate what you hate” JazakAllah Khair in advance

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    February 23, 2012 at 2:21 AM

    I can recall numerous occasions when sisters have blatantly stated that they will not marry person of country/culture x and sure everyone is allowed to have preferences, but on each occasion I recall a hint of cruelty and disgust in the tone with which it was said. And thus it moves away from being a “personal preference” to being out right racist. 

    Jazake Allah Khair for writing this :) 

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    ibn Ahmed

    February 23, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    loved the article. I can tell you that I definitely needed that reminder.

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      February 26, 2012 at 5:52 PM


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    March 25, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    As salaam alaykum Brothers and Sisters,

    I’m going to apologize in advance for anyone I
    offend.  My intention is not to bash,
    denigrate, or offend anyone.  My intention
    is to speak from my heart based off personal experiences, observations, and
    provide research for my own opinions.

    I’m an African American female convert and have been
    married to a West African born Muslim for ten years. Alhamdilal, Ma’sha’Allah.  I will be honest and say that based off the
    behavior of African American men from ANY class tier I wouldn’t marry our
    daughter to another African American Muslim. 
    I also don’t believe that people are being racist, hateful, or exclusive
    for not wanting their daughter to marry outside of their race or culture.

    I believe that post-modern African Americans are
    culturally dysfunctional.  I believe that
    post-modern African American men are failed men, and are not equipped to handle
    the obligations of family life.  I
    believe that many foreign born Muslims and their offspring are looking at the
    abuse of marriage amongst working class Black Muslim: many black men have
    soiled women and children leaving a trail of 5, 10, 15 Muslim women behind
    them. Tariq Nelson, Abdur Rahman of  A
    Singular Voice and Salafi burnout documented the numerous predatorial behaviors
    of Black Muslim men.  No one wants to
    throw their own beloved flesh and blood underneath the bus.  Unlike the Nation of Islam, many orthodox
    Muslim communities don’t have rehabilitation programs, mentoring, and self
    policing programs for black men who come from dysfunctional backgrounds.  These men are just going around soiling women
    and deserting children.  If black men don’t
    want that reputation they should self correct and repent.  Based off their disgraceful behavior, it appears,
    no transformation of consciousness or behavior has transpired.  Islam is not a gang or rap club.  This is a noble religion.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Umm Zakiyyah

      March 28, 2012 at 10:00 AM


      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, SisterMaryam

      I apologize in advance if you get two replies, as there seems to be a slight glitch in posting replies so my first one seems to have been lost, and Allah knows best.

      Firstly, I want to thank you for reading and taking time to comment. I appreciate your clarification that you do not wish to offend or bash anyone, and I assure you that I as the author of the post was not offended in any way. However, as I read your comment, I grew very concerned for you as my Muslim sister (and for the Muslim ummah at large). My prayer is that you will take time to reflect on your words as they relate to your soul and your Hereafter. Know that every single thing we do or say (or write) is recorded for us, and we will be held accountable for it all, down to the atom’s weight of good or evil in our hearts. And I ask Allah to forgive you, me, and all believers; and may He have mercy on us.

      Regarding your personal preference not to marry an African-American Muslim man or allow your daughters to do so, this is fully within your right as a Muslim woman and mother should you feel this is best for you and your daughters. Allah in His infinite Mercy gives us all choice regarding marriage, and we have full right to choose what we deem best. However, where you err is in justifying your choice with the very sin that was discussed in my post: racism. If we have a preference for one race over the other, this is no problem. But we do not have a right to make statements about entire races/ethnicities while amongst these people are believers who worship Allah and are beloved to Him. Reflect on the fact that the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, taught us that a servant may say a word that he does not even think of as good or bad and he is put in Hellfire for it. Likewise, we may say a word that earns us Paradise. I suggest you read your comment word-for-word and sincerely ask yourself if Allah would write this down for you amongst your good deeds or evil deeds. And Allah’s forgiveness is sought.

      Know also, ukhti, may Allah have mercy on you and all believers, that the righteous amongst the entire world population—whether White, Black, Pakistani, Arab, African, etc.—are the minority. This is a fact confirmed in the Qur’an and Sunnah in many places. Therefore, if you or anyone observes a negative pattern amongst any group of people, there is a strong likelihood that you will be correct in your observations, at least to some extent. If you were then to present “research” and “personal observation” about what you’ve seen, you would also likely be correct to some extent. Nevertheless, Allah still forbids racism and cautions us against making remarks the like of which you have made here, wherein there is little to no exception made for a negative pattern that you observe. What makes this error more glaring in this case is that you are specifically discussing Muslims amongst a group of people; and as you know Muslims are the best of creation. Yes, amongst Muslims there are the sinful and the righteous, those of bad character and good character, and so on.

      During my travels and social circles, I’ve noticed both positive and negative aspects of all cultures I’ve come in contact with, and in every culture I have witnessed a pattern of dysfunction on some level. It takes different forms but it is there; non-Blacks (including West Africans in many instances), there are serious problems regarding involvement in sihr/jinn as well as the mistreatment of women in families; there is often alcoholism and sexual abuse as well as adultery, and the list goes on. So when you say that your “research” reveals that Blacks are culturally dysfunctional and you make statements about “…African American men from ANY class tier…” [emphasis yours] and that you’ve seen “…no transformation of consciousness or behavior…” this is less a representation of a factual reality than the racism that already exists in your outlook. No, I certainly do not and could not deny the reality of dysfunction prevelant in SOME Black communities; however, I must be very honest and say that in my 36 years of living on this earth as an African-American and my more than 15 years of being married to an African-American man, and being the sister of 8 African-American Muslim men and the sister-in-law of 4 African-American Muslim men, as well as the close friend of dozens of other African-American women married to African-American men, I’ve witnessed amongst them almost NONE of what you describe. Yes, I know it exists, but certainly if this is a cultural dysfunction on “ANY class tier” as you say, I should have lots of personal experience with it, especially seeing as though I counsel married women on a regular basis; and incidentally, some of the most heartbreaking stories come from non-Black families.

      In any case, my prayer is that you will do some soul-searching, not to deny the reality of Black struggles, but to reflect on your case before Allah on the Day of Judgment. I fear your words here could cause you harm if you are not inspired to “self correct and repent” as you so aptly suggested that Black men do. I pray you take your own advice. After all, as you said, Islam is a noble religon, ukhti. So next time, let that nobility reflect in your words when you speak about Allah’s servants, regardless of the color of their skin.

      May Allah forgive us and guide us to what is correct. May He allow us to recognize, regret, and repent our sins. And may He guard our tongues from harming others—and ourselves, in this life and in the Hereafter.

      your sister in Islam,
      Umm Zakiyyah

      • Avatar


        August 23, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        Sister Umm Zakiyyah ,

        jazaakumullahu khair,
        I am glad to have read your article and this one especially made me feel less inferior(or not inferior lol) for many reasons. may Allaah SWT reward you for you insight and wisdom. All my life I never had self confidence/self esteem issues until my marriage situation came along. I ended up marrying my Pakistani cousin from abroad and for a while felt this unwritten rule of descending the man made social ladder in American MUSLIM society(i.e marrying a cousin…i.e not marrying outside of my race) but coming across your article and your responses to the comments I feel much better.


  14. Avatar


    March 25, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    As salaam alaykum Brothers and Sisters,

    I’m going to apologize in advance for anyone I
    offend.  My intention is not to bash,
    denigrate, or offend anyone.  My intention
    is to speak from my heart based off personal experiences, observations, and
    provide research for my own opinions.

    I’m an African American female convert and have been
    married to a West African born Muslim for ten years. Alhamdilal, Ma’sha’Allah.  I will be honest and say that based off the
    behavior of African American men from ANY class tier I wouldn’t marry our
    daughter to another African American Muslim. 
    I also don’t believe that people are being racist, hateful, or exclusive
    for not wanting their daughter to marry outside of their race or culture.

    I believe that post-modern African Americans are
    culturally dysfunctional.  I believe that
    post-modern African American men are failed men, and are not equipped to handle
    the obligations of family life.  I
    believe that many foreign born Muslims and their offspring are looking at the
    abuse of marriage amongst working class Black Muslim: many black men have
    soiled women and children leaving a trail of 5, 10, 15 Muslim women behind
    them. Tariq Nelson, Abdur Rahman of  A
    Singular Voice and Salafi burnout documented the numerous predatorial behaviors
    of Black Muslim men.  No one wants to
    throw their own beloved flesh and blood underneath the bus.  Unlike the Nation of Islam, many orthodox
    Muslim communities don’t have rehabilitation programs, mentoring, and self
    policing programs for black men who come from dysfunctional backgrounds.  These men are just going around soiling women
    and deserting children.  If black men don’t
    want that reputation they should self correct and repent.  Based off their disgraceful behavior, it appears,
    no transformation of consciousness or behavior has transpired.  Islam is not a gang or rap club.  This is a noble religion.

  15. Umm Zakiyyah

    Umm Zakiyyah

    April 5, 2012 at 2:44 PM

     Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, ukhti

    Thank you for taking time to clarify. It is certainly possible that you were misunderstood; however, even if this is the case, I would not change my initial reply in the least. My message to you was to be careful what you say, not to be careful what you mean.

    In any case, I am glad on your account that Allah gave you the opportunity to clarify what you meant even as the serious error of your initial word choice remains. May Allah forgive you and all of us for our inevitable and repeated faults and sins.

    Regarding your observations of African-American issues, I’ll leave that discussion alone, as it is completely unrelated to both my article and my initial reply to you.

    My article was simply a message to all believers to guard their tongues, not only when speaking about the other, but also when speaking about the self. It was also a message to the believers to seek companionship with righteous believers whoever they may be. This may mean marrying “your own” or “the other.” Everyone has a right to a preference, alhamdulillaah.

    But in the end, when settling on the best life mate, we turn to Allah to guide us, not to the racism or self-hate in our hearts.

    May Allah guide us and forgive us, and may He keep us firm upon what is beloved to Him.

    your sister,
    Umm Zakiyyah

    • Avatar


      April 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM


      I think this article is interesting for a lot of reason but I would like to point out a few things and also present another point that I believe is being missed. Muslims of every race spend time together. They may not marry each other, however they do play basketball, study, play pool etc, with each other. Marriage in a lot of ways can be complicated. For first generation Muslims to America, it’s important to their parents to marry someone who is the same culture as them. I believe also the reason for this is because Islam is practiced different by different cultures (regardless of if it should be or not) Another point I would like to make is that Muslims are still people. At the end of the day they care about status, money, and power. It is rare to find someone who doesn’t. As far as marriage is concern, it is easier in some ways for an African American to marry a white American ( largest interracial marriage group according to 2010 census) and it may be easier for an Arab to marry a Persian due to cultural reasons. Now I have seen many African/African American-Arab marriages and I have seen many Indian-Arab marriages. Both groups come from different cultures, however as these ethnic groups start to assimilate into the American culture, it will be more common. Lets not forget that there are whole countries in the Muslim world where people are the product of two cultures (Eurasian Muslims, East African Muslims etc). In regards to racism towards each other..well I have yet to see someone talk down upon someone who came from a country that was worth visiting so i wouldn’t put too much into what they say ( Even when the British were in Indian, they rarely asserted their racial dominance.) At the end of the day, the reason why certain groups dislike each other is because of money and education. One group thinks they make more than this group, or one group thinks that they are more educated or ‘cultured’ If you go through life thinking of Muslims as just people as you would Christians or Jews, then you won’t be disappointed. I can assure you that this issue will never go away.

  16. Avatar

    jazzy jaz

    May 19, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    You can’t say it the least, but many muslims are prejudice and most of this dates back to colonialism which put the color white as being superior. And therefore, the further you get from white skin, the least likely you are to be accepted into any cultural group. black, mexica, indo-paki, every culture! come on, within our own cultures our families favor the lightest ones first.
    but what is sad, is that this has affected the Muslims, actually this pathetic, come of the most prejudice people I have met, have been Muslims actually, I try not to fault them, and given them benefit of the doubt, but at some point, we have to take responsiblity. It is not “society” or “culture” these are just instituions to blame, to take the light off of us, it is us, and we are resembiling shaitan, come on, why didnt he bow down to adam? because he thought he was better, he was made of fire and adam was made of dirt. Same thing, people think they hold some kind of superiority because they are light skin or arab, when in the site of Allah this means nothing. and at the end of the day what Allah thinks is all that matters.
    so we need to be fixing ourselves not making excuses. Because every excuse is a justification for what you are doing.

  17. Avatar


    June 17, 2012 at 2:00 AM

    how do we stop hating ourselves then ?

    I’m Pakistani, wherever I go I’m not accepted. Even in Pakistan because to them, im “white washed” or “an Arab wannabe” (since I’ve lived in both the Middle East and the West I’ve picked up on those cultures). It’s come to a point where i’d feel sorry for anyone who ends up with me because I have such a mix of cultures.
    I never lived in Pakistan, I can’t even speak Urdu right, when I do I have a slight Arabic accent which people think I do on purpose…My Arabic is horrible too but I know and understand the culture and some of the language.
    I love diversity, I think that every culture has good that people can learn from, but I feel unwanted just because of my roots who don’t even accept me. I hate when I’m asked where I’m from. What does it matter? I’m a Muslim, thats the label Allah gave me and that’s all that really matters,so I wear hijab with pride because that is my identity. I guess its a good thing in a way, cuz every time I see a cute guy I know I don’t have a chance, I mean after all I am just a “dirty Paki” eh. I hope I don’t come off as ignorant, or that I failed to understand the message in this article, but I really want to stop hating me for something I had no choice in. Allah made me born to this family this nation for a reason I love it none the less, but I chose to be a part of His ummah and I love that more. & I mean diversity is for us to “know one another” I feel if I were with a non-Pakistani I’d hate myself more because he’d deserve better and if I were with a Pakistani i’d still hate me more, because I’m not your typical Pakistani I’m a mix of cultures…Allah hu Alam I just hope to stop hating me for that.


    with love and duaas <3

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Umm Zakiyyah

      June 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      BarakAllaahufeeki, Hirra, for your desire to be grateful for how Allah created you.

      I believe the first step to overcoming any disease in the heart, whether it is self-hate, racism, or any other form of ungratefulness to Allah, is to turn to Allah for guidance and forgiveness. Ask Allah to purifiy your heart, give you ikhlaas (sincerity in doing everything for His sake alone) and allow you to live and die amongst the truly grateful (shaakireen). As you said, it is Allah who decreed for you your circumstances, and it
      is in this knowledge you should find peace of mind and heart.

      But it’s also important to not allow your internal struggles and natural insecurities to open the door for sin. As long as you believe that you “don’t have a chance” with a “cute guy,” then know you’ve opened yourself up to being a victim of one of Satan’s deadly plots. We (women and men) all “have a chance” with a host of people from the opposite sex. The real question isn’t about how this “cute guy” feels about us, but how Allah feels about us–and how we’ll behave with that person who will certainly see in us the beauty we imagine isn’t there.

      There is no such thing as a “dirty Paki” though it is a fact of life that you’ll hear Pakistanis and others referred to like this. But know that the only true filth reflected in these statements is in the heart of the speaker. May Allah guide them.

      One thing I learned in life is this: “I am not defined by others’ words and actions. I am defined by my own.”

      So live your life with only one goal in mind: To meet Allah with a pure heart, which inspired words and actions that pleased your Creator during your brief time in this world.

      Forget everyone else and how they define “Pakistani” or anything else. And focus on how Allah has created and defined YOU.

      So be the best of yourself, Hirra, and know that in doing this, Allah will take care of everything else for you. He always does. :)

      BarakAllahufeeki, ukhti.

      May Allah love you and give you Jannah. And may He write you down amongst the grateful and sincere in this world and in the Hereafter.


      Umm Zakiyyah

      • Avatar


        June 17, 2012 at 10:37 PM

        JazakAllah khair for the great advice, as always and taking the time to respond =) ! I look forward to reading more of your articles =)

  18. Avatar


    June 12, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    None of the examples you give are actually racism. Its about culture, and that it what the peoplre are pointing out. For example, the woman says ‘Pakistanis are the worst, I wouldn’t marry any of them’ – Well, she is probably pointing out the fact that in Pakistan the rate of physical abuse to women is extraordinarily high compared to other countries, which is a fact. Can I say that without being racist?

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure




How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.


You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor



muslim led institutions

Habib Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) explains how we are affected by the spiritual state of those around us.

Every person has rays which emanate from their soul. You receive these rays when you come close to them or sit in their presence. Each person’s rays differ in strength according to the state of their soul. This explains how you become affected by sitting in the presence of great people. They are people who follow the way of the Prophets in their religious and worldly affairs. When they speak, they counsel people. Their actions guide people. When they are silent they are like signposts which guide people along the path, or like lighthouses whose rays guide ships. Many of them speak very little, but when you see them or visit them you are affected by them. You leave their gatherings having been enveloped in their tranquillity. Their silence has more effect than the eloquent speech of others. This is because the rays of their souls enter you.

The Organizational Light

As a Muslim organizational psychologist, I know that organizations and institutions are a collective of these souls too. Like a glass container, they are filled colored by whatever is within them. So often Muslim organizations have presumed clarity in their organizational light and looked on with wonder as children, families, and the community wandered. The lighthouse keepers standing in front of the beacon wondering, “Where have the ships gone?”have

Our Muslim led institutions will reflect our state, actions, and decisions. I do believe that most of our institutional origins are rooted in goodness, but those moments remain small and fade. Our challenge as a community is to have this light of origin be fixed so that it can pulsate and extend itself beyond itself.

Reference is not being made regarding any specific type of institution and this is not a pointed critique, but rather a theory on perhaps why the effect our variety of institutional work wanes and dissipates. Any type of organization or institution — whether for profit or nonprofit, whether capital focused or socially conscious — that is occupied by the heart of a Muslim(s), must reflect light.

Our organizational light is known by an ego-less assessment of intentions, actions, and results. We must move our ‘self’ or ‘selves’ out of the way and then measure our lumens. If the light increases when we move out of the way, then it is possible that we — our ego, personality, objectives, intentions, degree of sacrifice, level of commitment, and possibly even our sincerity — may be the obstructions to our organizational lights.

The Personal Imperative

What will become of our institutions and their role for posterity if we neglect to evaluate where we stand in relation to the noble courses they mean to take? We may currently be seeing the beginning what this may look and feel like.

When was the last time you walked into a Muslim led institution and felt a living space that drew you in because of the custodians, leadership, individuals, and community that made up its parts? It was probably the last time you and I looked deeply inward at our lives — our intellect, our relationships, our purpose, our spiritual state, our work, our decisions, and our intentions. If we cleanse our hearts so infrequently the dust which settles can become thick making them opaque. And perhaps this individual and collective state is what limits the reach and impact of our communal work thus, resulting in the opacity of Muslim led institutions. Note: Lighthouse keepers clean the lens of the beacon every day.

We must consistently assess the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual loci of our individual and organizational states. They are not fixed givens. Rather, they are capricious states that necessitate vigilance and wara’. Being aware of this will help in our organizational design and work.

The Collective Affect

When we are prepared to evaluate the efficacy of Muslim led institutions with the inclusion of some form of spiritual assessment, we will give ourselves a better opportunity to determine where, how, and why we may be missing the mark. The inefficiencies and inattentiveness we have on an individual level can permeate our relationships, our work, and our organizations. As organizational leaders, we must critically assess the amount of light our work emanates to illuminate the lives of the people we serve.

These inward evaluations should be in the form of active and ongoing discussions we have internally with our teams and colleagues, and ourselves. If done with prudence and sincerity it will not only strengthen our organizations but our teams and us God-willing. This collective effort can lead to a collective effect for those we serve that inspires and guides. We — and our institutions — can then return to the Prophetic example of being beacons of light that help ourselves and others arrive to a place of sanctuary.

And Allah always knows best.

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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware





Modeling Mindfulness


“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.


Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette.
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences.
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association:

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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