Connect with us

Family and Community

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. 

    • Avatar


      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 :)

  2. Avatar

    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.

  3. Avatar


    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

  4. Avatar


    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.

    • Avatar


      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?

      • Avatar


        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… 

    • Avatar

      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

  5. Avatar


    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? 

  6. Avatar

    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 

  7. Avatar


    February 21, 2012 at 5:15 AM

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

  8. Avatar


    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.

        • Avatar


          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?

  9. Avatar


    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

  10. Avatar


    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

  11. Avatar


    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 :) 

  12. Avatar

    ibn Ahmed

    February 23, 2012 at 2:25 AM

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

    • Avatar


      February 26, 2012 at 5:52 PM


  13. 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.

    • 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?

  19. Pingback: Umm Zakiyyah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

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

So what do we believe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading


MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

Bill Chambers



“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within the Muslim community.

The first in this series, the MuslimARC Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. It is a tool and resource for engaging in conversations about racism and provides guidance in how to truly be a good ally to Muslims of color in this anti-racism work.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

We cannot always be aware when we say or write something that reflects our own white privilege and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of color. In our own experience in developing this Guide, we worked to practice that approach when we received feedback from other MuslimARC members and incorporated their analysis to strengthen this work.

My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of color especially women, when I had to not only check my white privilege, but also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you. As one behavior the Guide suggests we avoid, “Don’t assume what People of Color need and try to swoop in to deliver. Instead, ask what you can do.”

For the white Muslim audience of the Guide, in reading this you will automatically feel defensive either that others may do these things but not me or that none of this behavior is based on racism or white privilege. Our advice is to examine that defensiveness and take the opportunity not to act on it, but instead, consider some of the alternative approaches we recommend in the Guide. 

The Guide provides a review of our role in addressing racism in the ummah; description of some of the ways white Muslims perpetuate racism; and specifically, how to be actively anti-racist in our work. A list of educational resources is provided including available training; articles on white Muslims and allyship; and guides to anti-racist parenting. A last and very important part of the Guide is organizations like MuslimARC that you can be involved in to do this anti-racist work.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another.” (49:13) One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” the different races and groups Allah has put us in, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire self-knowledge about our white privilege as Muslims and help us to get to know how to be better allies to our brothers and sisters of color.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

Continue Reading


Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam



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

Salma and Yousef: 

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

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

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


Sarah and Hasan:

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

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

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

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


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

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

Hamza and Tamika

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

The Family Unit in Islam

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

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


Layla and Ibrahim   

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

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

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


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

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

Family Roles:

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

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

Razan and Farhaan

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

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

Mawaddah and Rahma

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

Aliyaah and Irwan

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading