Connect with us

Family and Community

Bullying, Islam & Everything In Between

Sarah Sultan, LMHC

Published

on

Noora runs into the house and slams the door behind her.  She bounds up the stairs and her mother hears her bedroom door slam.  She audibly sighs sadly thinking to herself, “She had another bad day at school.  I wish she would talk to me about it.”  Noora curls up on her bed and cries quietly wondering what she did to deserve what she goes through at school everyday.  Sometimes she even finds herself wishing she could just get a physical “beat down” rather than suffer through the daily emotional torment of being teased, ostracized and singled out for abuse.  She feels as though her mother won’t understand what she’s going through and she also doesn’t want to disappoint her by confessing that she just doesn’t know how to handle the bullies.  She feels hopeless and she doesn’t know to whom to turn so she cries quietly in her room, and each day holds in more and more of the torment she faces.

Bullying was once viewed as a necessary rite of passage of childhood, something children simply must endure.  However, bullying is not simply something children will mature out of; rather, bullying can result in serious harm and long-term consequences.  Bullying can take different forms, including[1]:

  • Physical bullying: includes hitting, punching, kicking and other types of physical harm, as well as destruction of a child’s property.
  • Verbal bullying: includes teasing, name-calling, taunting and racial slurs, as well as spreading gossip or malicious rumors.
  • Cyberbullying: includes harassing emails, instant messages and text messages, as well as intimidating or threatening websites, blogs or posts.

Parents often feel completely powerless as they witness their child’s tears day-after-day, as much a part of the afterschool routine as homework.  Bullying has reached a new peak in our society and with tragedies such as the shooting at Columbine, bullying has received a great deal more attention than it used to. With the advent of technology, bullying no longer occurs exclusively within the walls of schools.  Rather, social media has provided another opportunity to bullies who seek to demean others.  Home is no longer a safe haven for victims of bullying; a Facebook status can hurt just as much, if not more, than hearing the typed words spoken aloud.

The Victims of Bullying

Being the victim of bullying can evoke a great deal of shame in children and teens (and in adults as well, since bullying is not an epidemic that exclusively targets children).  Therefore, your child may not confide in you and may go through great pains to hide the fact that s/he is being bullied.  The signs may not be as visible as a black eye; although children are often physically intimidated, bullying can be also be targeted in a way that leaves psychological and emotional bruises.  Some things to keep a lookout for, which may signal that your child is being bullied includes (but is not limited to): damage to personal belongings, unexplained injuries, a decline in academic performance, physical complaints (i.e. stomach aches, headaches, tiredness, etc.), reluctance when going to school or riding the bus, few friends, or a noticeable change in sleeping or eating habits.

There are certain qualities that may make some children more susceptible to bullying.  These include the following characteristics: cautious, sensitive, quiet, withdrawn, shy, anxious, insecure, low self-esteem, unhappy, lack of a close friend, relate better to adults than peers, physically weaker than peers.  Bullying is a cycle, so these characteristics can be just as much a consequence as a partial cause of being victimized.  There is also another subset of people within this bullying cycle who are characterized as bully/victims, who are both bullies and victims of bullying simultaneously.  Bully/victims tend to experience a greater variety of symptomology including both internalized (anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts) and externalized (hyperactivity, rule-breaking) issues[2].

The Bullies

Although the focus of prevention and interventions are often on victims of bullying, it is important to provide support to bullies as well.  As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,  “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” The Prophet was asked: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Ṣahīh Bukhāri, Volume 3, Ḥadīth 624)

From this ḥadīth, we learn the importance of helping those who are oppressed but, even more profoundly, the need to assist oppressors by stopping them from committing this infringement on the rights of others.  Bullies are often misconstrued as people who simply take pleasure in the pain of others.  However, research has found that some are quite complex and somewhat of a mystery.  Many research studies have found that bullies are more likely to exhibit behavioral issues including aggressiveness, hyperactivity, attention deficits and conduct problems.  However, contrary to what is normally considered of bullies, one research study found that they suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, and eating disorders to the same extent as those who were victimized by their bullying[3].  Some things that may signal that your child is bullying others include: being aggressive with others, gets sent to detention often, has unexplained new belongings or extra money, quickly blames others, refuses to accept responsibility for actions, and has a need to win or be the best at everything.

Verbal, Emotional & Psychological (Nonphysical) Bullying

Interactions between individuals, from an Islamic point of view, are governed by the fundamental right of sanctity of life, honor, and property.  Therefore, anything that compromises these rights should be stopped.  In Sūrat’l- ujurāt (49:10-12), Allah says, Verily, the believers are brothers…

  •   let not some people mock others, for they may be better than themselves,
  • nor (let) women (mock) women who may be better than themselves.
  • And do not slander yourselves, nor revile by (offensive) nicknames
  • O you who believe, avoid (indulging in) much suspicion; truly, some suspicion is a sin.
  • And do not spy or backbite one another; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that.
  • And be conscious of Allah; indeed, Allah is Relenting, Merciful.” 

These verses emphasize the non-physical face of bullying.  Verbal and emotional bullying can have even greater and longer-lasting negative effects on the victims than physical bullying.  Many of us may have grown up asserting the maxim, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” however, we soon realize that sometimes words can hurt more than anything else.

According to Rachel Simmons’s Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls[4], this type of bullying is particularly common among girls and often goes unnoticed by non-participants (such as teachers and parents).  Due to the expectation of girls to be sweet, nice and caring, direct aggression is deemed unacceptable in them.  However, girls are just as likely as boys to experience anger, a natural human emotion, so they engage one another in nonphysical, alternative forms of aggression.  This includes:

  •  Relational aggression: acts that harm others through damage (or the threat of damage) to relationships or feelings of acceptance, friendship, or group inclusion.
    •  This is seen through behaviors such as ignoring someone to punish them, excluding someone socially for revenge, using negative body language or facial expressions, sabotaging someone’s relationships, etc.
  • Indirect aggression: the bully avoids confrontation using covert behaviors.  In this way, it may seem as though there was no intent to hurt anyone and others may be used as vehicles to cause pain to the targeted person.
    •  This is seen in the spreading of rumors, backbiting, “accidentally” knocking over someone’s books, etc.
  • Social aggression: intent to damage the self-esteem or social status of a targeted individual.
    • This can include rumor spreading, backbiting, and social exclusion.

Rather than using physical intimidation as a weapon, relationships are used for leverage.  What could be worse than the threat of loneliness and social isolation as you wander friendlessly through the halls of school?  Hearing lies spread about you to cause you to lose your friends and fall into a downward spiral of lowering self-esteem?  One of the issues inherent in these forms of alternative aggressions is the fact that they can easily be committed under the radar of others.  Teachers are often caught unaware when their students speak with them about this type of bullying and don’t know how to deal with it since it is not easily spotted.  When engaging in covert aggression, the bullies often seem like the type of people who would never mistreat someone; it’s the perfect disguise for accomplishing as much damage as possible while ensuring their actions are undetectable to others.

Girls in this type of situation often have nowhere to turn; they may feel too ashamed to speak to their parents or teachers about the torment they’re enduring because they may feel as though they have failed at a fundamental rite of passage – making friends.  There is also a great deal of uncertainty regarding these alternative aggressions; girls may question, “Did she just bump into me on purpose?;” “Did she roll her eyes at something I said?;” “Is that note she’s passing about me?” It’s easy to know when someone gives you a black eye, but if you’re uncertain whether others are shutting you out or teasing you behind your back, it becomes much more difficult to discuss it with others.  By the same token, many girls withstand emotional abuse from their close friends in order to maintain the inclusion as a part of a group; they fear that the creation of any conflict (including voicing their concerns) will cause them to lose a relationship.  Due to this, anger continues to simmer and issues pile up and are rarely addressed.

Practical Tips & Possible Solutions

It is incredibly important to arm our children, our students, and ourselves with the proper methods of coping with bullying.  This is not simply a rite of passage that children must endure. Furthermore, the issues brought about by bullying can quickly, and dangerously, spiral out of control.  In the next segment, practical tips and possible solutions will be offered to promote healthy relationships.


[1] Mayo Clinic Staff (2010, August 24). Bullying: Help Your Child Handle a School Bully. Children’s Issues.  Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bullying/MH00126

[2] Olweus, D. (1999). Sweden. In P. K. Smith, Y. Morita, J. Junger-Tas, D. Olweus, R. Cata- lano, & P. Slee (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross national perspective (pp. 7–27). London: Routledge.

[3] Kaltiala-Heino, R., Rimpelä, M., Rantanen, P., & Rimpelä, A. (2000). Bullying at school. An indicator of adolescents at risk for mental disorders. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 661–674.

[4] Simmons, Rachel (2002).  Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.  San Diego, CA: Hartcourt Trade Publishing.

Sarah Sultan is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has experience in a variety of therapeutic interventions and has worked with several age groups including children with special needs, adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues, families undergoing difficulties and survivors of trauma and domestic violence. Sarah is currently working as a therapist at a residential treatment center for teens in crisis, where she works with adolescents dealing with suicidality, trauma, self-harming behaviors, aggression and a variety of other issues. She is also an instructor with Mishkah University, where she teaches a course about the intersection between Islam, psychology and counseling. She has been actively involved in serving the Muslim community over the course of the past 10 years through providing lectures, halaqas and workshops.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Wagiah

    February 24, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    one of the worst feelings i have experienced as a parent is having my child come home and cry because of another child “making fun of her” , you feel extremely helpless and it is a hard problem to deal with.  between a rock and a hard place, teach them how to ignore it and be patient, but a child may not understand that and hence, continue to get bullied day after day , or teach them to fight back and risk your child becomng the bully………when push came to shove, and we met with the other child and her parents, i was informed that their daughter too comes home every day complaning of being bullied herself…………………..

    • Sarah S.

      Sarah S.

      February 25, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      SubhanAllah, it is definitely heart breaking to witness someone you love so much go through something so difficult.  And you have pinpointed an issue that is not commonly known: The fact that there are not only victims and bullies but also bully-victims who experience the pain of being bullied while also using intimidation of others as a defense; these children have a wide array of psychological issues.  Insha’Allah we’ll be going over practical tips in the second part of this article so please stay tuned for that, Wagiah!

      • Avatar

        Hamdi

        November 22, 2016 at 1:55 AM

        i too am a mother of 2 and don’t know how to deal with their issues such as one of my oldest child has anger problems and most of the time takes it out on other classmates wheras the other gets bullied and i don’t know what to do

  2. Pingback: Bullying, Islam & Everything In Between - MuslimMatters | PSYC0203 Human Development | Scoop.it

  3. Avatar

    Nahla

    February 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    thank you for bringing light to this issue…I was bullied in elementary and junior high school and the damage is terrible and long lasting. I am way past that age now but those years still have a tremendous effect especially when dealing with people.  I am looking forward to the next segment in this series.

    • Avatar

      Sarah Sultan

      March 2, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      Jazaaki Allahu khairan for sharing that, Nahla.  The impacts of bullying can last long after the bullying has stopped.  Many of us can be affected with regards to our self-esteem, trusting others, social interactions, etc.  

  4. Pingback: Bullying, Islam & Everything In Between – MuslimMatters.org

  5. Avatar

    Nadya

    February 25, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    Awesome article Sarah! 

  6. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    February 25, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    It should be “You’re ugly” not “your”. Sorry, bad grammar is a pet peeve :)

    • Avatar

      mirace

      February 25, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      I think this is more of an intentional thing…bullies are usually not the brightest, you know. I am sure the misspelling is intentional to make the picture look more authentic! (To let you indulge in you’re pet peeve, I’ve included a mistake in my comment, though :) )

    • Avatar

      Sarah Sultan

      March 2, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      I noticed that too, Umm Ibraheem :)  It’s actually a pet peeve of mine as well lol.

  7. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    February 25, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Great post Alhamdulillah! I’m looking forward to the next one Insha’Allah. I remember reading this tragic story once in which a young Bosniak girl killed herself after being mercilessly bullied in high school. As the story pointed out, it was terribly ironic that the victim’s family escaped from their homeland during the Balkan War, only to lose their daughter here in the United States. 

    • Avatar

      Sarah Sultan

      March 2, 2012 at 6:05 PM

      SubhanAllah, such a tragedy.  It is so difficult to get respite when one is being bullied, particularly with tools such as chatting and Facebook, which prevent even our homes from being a safe haven from bullies.  Jazaak Allahu khairan for sharing that- it is so important for us to realize that bullying is something that should not be brushed off or minimized.

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        March 2, 2012 at 11:21 PM

         Wa iyyaki sister. And you’re right about bullying being more pervasive nowadays. No adult should think that there’s anything ever “innocent’ about today’s bullying.

  8. Pingback: Walking Away From Suicide - Part 1 of 3 - MuslimMatters.org

  9. Avatar

    Aneesa

    February 4, 2016 at 4:37 PM

    I get bullied by a Muslim girl she swears,pushes and fights with me.I want to know can I handle her in Islamic way.

    • Avatar

      Cristalexi

      August 11, 2016 at 4:32 PM

      I’m getting bullied by a Muslim woman at work. She keeps making unfounded allegations to the manager that get me into trouble which the manager believes even though I have been here for 8 years and never had any problems and the Muslim woman just started a couple of months ago. We don’t have any work interaction so there is no reason for her to be doing this – it’s weird. I never give instructions to anyone, I just do my work. This is the first actual personal contact I have ever had with a Muslim woman. I have always defended the way Muslims appear to get treated badly but I have to admit what’s happening to me at work does not make me feel any compassion for their plight any more. There is also another Muslim woman who has also just started working here who is a little bit better but both don’t even respond when people say “Hello” to them in the morning – several people have mentioned this. What’s that all about. I bet if work colleagues start leaving them to themselves and having the bear minimum of contact with them, they will then claim their being discriminated.

  10. Avatar

    Farah

    February 23, 2016 at 11:35 PM

    Very important topic, to say the least.

    Yes, it is painful as hell – being bullied or watching your dear one(s) being bullied. I wish we had these blogs about 40 years ago – I have been a victim of extreme bullying at home, school, work. Although today I am super-strong, extremely witty, over-confident, I’d like to point out that it’s taken four looooong decades to get to this stage. And not a single day passed without being a victim of shameless bullying by the very people who should have protected me.

    Let me assure you, we only have our own selves…….we came here alone and we shall leave alone…..who are people? who are parents? who are siblings? who are friends? They are all a peripheral part of our existence, the essence is our own selves and the Almighty Creator who created each and every single one of us. Who are people to make me cry??? It took four long decades to realize that I am answerable to the Almighty………..not his slaves!!!

    Be strong and kick ass, okay? IF the losers bully you at school, start walking towards them, move closer and closer, maintain eye contact, move so close to them that it would be possible for them to feel you bat your eyelashes……look at them IN THE EYE…..and tell them this: you are nothing…….you will eventually turn into dust because that is what you are made of……I don’t care what you do, think, lie about, etc……..I am not answerable to dust……..I am answerable to the Almighty who is right here (indicating the jugular vein)! So just bugger off, and stop wasting my time, yeah????

  11. Pingback: Bullying in Islam – mylittlebreathingspace

  12. Avatar

    Natalie

    October 17, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    I am experiencing being bullied as an adult, taking my child to nursery parents have turned on me starting of with jealousy and have taken the step to turn others against me with spreading merlioslous lies, back biting & turning others against me. I didn’t even experience such behaviour in my school days.
    Unfortunately to say a Muslim sister is involved in this greatly, giving me the evil eye at every given opportunity!.
    I can’t run away from this as this is for my child and she loves her nursery but at times I dread going there and at times when I’ve picked her up and been given bad vibes I get home and feel completely depressed.
    I pray to Allah I can get a resbite from this!.

Leave a Reply

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

#Life

Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim

Published

on

trust

Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outright uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

Continue Reading

#Society

Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

Avatar

Published

on

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.

Delegate

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.

Continue Reading

#Society

Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Trending