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A Muslim’s Guide to Student Loans in the U.S.

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By Uzair Sarmast

After recently attending the Pure Paisa: Fiqh of Money & Transactions seminar at Qabeelat Durbah, I imparted some ideas about minimizing/eliminating interest in financing one’s education with the volunteers.  Alḥamdulillāh, some people found it to be beneficial, so I am sharing it here on MuslimMatters, where I hope it will benefit others and serve as an impetus for further discussion.

Getting an interest-free education has always been and continues to be challenging, especially in light of increasing tuition costs.  I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts that may help you (or your friends/children) get a quality education without compromising your values. And even if one feels interest is a necessity in getting an education, one can still make an effort to minimize it along with the overall costs of education.

My thoughts come from knowing a few people who have completed undergraduate studies and medical/dental school without dealing with interest, walhamdulillah.

I should also point out that I’m unable to provide a one-stop surefire solution (because currently there is none as far as I know), but rather just a few meager thoughts that might help.  And by no means is anything guaranteed or easy; to the contrary I think being able to finance graduate studies without interest is the rare exception (and an immense blessing), rather than the rule.  Undergraduate studies may be easier due to lower costs and greater availability of scholarships and financial aid.

PREPARE THE SOIL & PLANT THE SEEDS

Intention

Intention is emphasized in everything we do, and pursuing an education is no different.  If one is absolutely committed to staying interest-free, then I think it’s paramount for the person to make an intention along the lines of: “If I can’t get this education interest-free, then I will delay it/won’t do it.”  I believe such an intention (if serious & sincere; not just lip service) will bring Divine Help for the person.

Du‘ā’

Ask the only One Who Can Help You; the only One Who is Capable of all things; the only One Who Knows what is best for you.

Integrity

With Allāh: A person may say “I want to enter such and such a profession so that I can earn money, and give it in charity to help others.”  Put your money where your mouth is from the get go.  If you are not charitable now (however little it may be), then how can you be entrusted to give in the future?

With People:  People aren’t looking to lend money, especially large sums, to people who aren’t reliable: reliable enough to pay them back, as well as reliable enough to successfully complete their education and obtain quality employment.

Excel in School

Since many scholarships are based wholly or partially upon academic merit, if you don’t have the grades, then you may be severely limiting potential sources of funding.  If you plan ahead, then you’ll appreciate the need to excel academically as early as high school and can hopefully lock in scholarships for your entire undergraduate education.  If you’re already in college and haven’t received any scholarships thus far, then you can still do well now and apply for scholarships going forward since many scholarships are offered on a per-semester basis.

Community Service & Extracurricular Activities

In addition to academic performance, many scholarships take your contributions outside the classroom into consideration.  Some organizations you can volunteer with offer their own scholarships. Furthermore, a friend or member of the community is more apt to help out someone who is a contributor to society.

Be Realistic

Realize that staying interest-free isn’t going to be easy and you may have to sacrifice some things.  For example, living in an apartment at an expensive out-of-state school might not be the most reasonable expectation (see “Living at Home” below)

START FARMING

Interest-Free Loans

Family & Friends: This is going to be a key (I’m inclined to say necessary) resource.  Hopefully someone you know has been blessed with surplus wealth, and is willing to help you out.  Ideally, you know someone who has wealth and holds the same beliefs as you.  The limitation is that many practicing people think that interest for educational loans is not a problem.  To find someone willing to help you avoid interest for school will be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Don’t lose hope completely because the opportunity arises when someone who may not have an issue with interest personally, but respects you as a person and is willing to help you so that you don’t have to compromise your values.  Or you might have someone who is involved with interest, but is regretful about it, and they may see it as an opportunity to attain the Mercy of Allāh 

(“I have my shortcomings & regret them, so perhaps if I protect someone from interest, then hopefully Allāh will Protect me”).

For example, I know someone who was able to borrow $50,000 and another person was able to borrow $60,000 over the course of 4 years.

Organizations
: There are a couple of charitable organizations that provide interest-free loans for undergraduate & graduates studies.  You can search for them on the internet, and apply.  Using this technique, someone I know received $50,000 over 4 years.

Scholarships

There are several scholarships that come in all different shapes and sizes based on field of study, financial need, ethnicity, academic merit, extracurricular involvement, etc.  Most will require effort in terms of applications and essays, but remember that if you’re serious about avoiding interest, you’ll need to put in the effort.  The great thing about scholarships is that you don’t need to pay them back.  I know someone who got about $45,000 over 4 years for graduate studies, and several others who had 60-100% of their undergraduate tuition covered.

How to find scholarships

1. There are numerous books and websites which you can look up
2. Ask your parents to find out if their employer offers scholarships because many companies do
3. Find out if your town/county/state offers scholarships for your field of study, academic merit, or volunteer work
4. Check with local organizations (ie. Rotary Clubs) for scholarships
5. And of course, check with your school for what scholarships they have that you may potentially qualify for.  If you’re a double-major, check with both departments for scholarships that may be uniquely offered for each major

Mountains are made of pebbles

While a scholarship for $500 or $2,000 may not seem like a lot compared to the total tuition, realize that receiving a few of these can add up quickly.  Additionally, you will probably incur other expenses such a books, and equipment, so any amount of money you can get counts.

Buy used books (unless absolutely impossible).  Email your professor before the class begins and find out what books are required; then search for used copies on campus or on the internet.  Also find out if an older edition of the book will suffice.  There is no need to pay out the nose to have a brand-new copy of the latest edition from the school bookstore if you don’t have to. Thus far, I think overall I’ve either broken even or made a profit on textbooks.

OTHER PRACTICAL TIPS

Live at Home

Attending an in-state public institution usually offers significant savings on tuition.  Combine that with a school that is within commuting distance (save on rent, utilities, food), and now you’re talking major cost reductions.

Work During School

Depending on the difficulty and quantity of your coursework, a part-time job can be a very realistic option for many.  Sure it’ll reduce the amount of time you can spend hanging out in the MSA lobby, but it’ll be a worthwhile sacrifice.

Evaluate the importance of your undergraduate program

Especially if you’re planning on pursuing graduate education.

For someone planning on attending medical school, my humble personal opinion is that going to a solid state school (ie. the equivalent of Rutgers in NJ) is an excellent choice.  I don’t think going to a brand-name, private school adds much to your medical career because what is most important in the long-run is the quality of your residency and fellowship training (which depend upon your performance and activities in medical school) as well as other factors not related to where you received your undergraduate education.

Furthermore, getting into medical school isn’t so much about where you went for college, as it is how well you did there.  There are plenty of people who went to an expensive college ($40-50k/year), but didn’t do well enough to get into a US medical  school, so ended up going to an outside medical school (which is increasingly a major limiting factor for future career options).  And even if someone from an expensive undergraduate institution does stay in the US for medical school, chances are they will be in the same school as you, taking the same classes and tests.  So now it’s a level playing field and your future opportunities depend on your performance in medical school. The only difference is that they already have pre-existing loans of $200,000.

I am not diminishing the prestige or intangible benefits of attending an elite undergraduate institution; I am simply offering a practical suggestion to minimize costs of education which I believe in general does not detract from your future success in the grand scheme of things for a career in medicine. 

Additionally, if you apply from high school, some state institutions have combined undergraduate-MD programs with local medical schools.

For those who may be pursuing a career in another field (ie. business), then it is possible that your undergraduate education may hold more weight because that will be your highest level of training when you apply for jobs (versus medicine where you have residency and fellowship beyond medical school, let alone undergrad).  Even within the business field, this may vary depending on the specific field (ie. finance, accounting).

I have a friend who went to a state undergraduate institution and now works in a highly sought after position for top-notch financial firm.  He told me that while he was able to “make it,” he had to put in much greater effort (working for practically free at times) to work his way up, in contrast to someone who came from a school with a better reputation in his field.

I have other friends who went to state schools for accounting and are now working for “big four” firms.  They said these firms have internships and a history of hiring graduates of these schools so they were confident they would do well.

Utilizing Subsidized Loans

A subsidized loan is one for which you are not charged interest while you are in school.

In most cases, it is highly unlikely that someone will be able to earn enough while attending school full-time to pay off a subsidized loan to avoid the interest (unless you borrow a small amounts and/or will be earning a high salary).

Strategy 1 Use the subsidized loan to give you & your interest-free lenders (ie. friend) some buffer time.  For example, if you start school in the year 2000, will graduate in 2004 and expect that it will take 5 years to be able to earn enough to pay back the loan (ie. by 2009):

A) You can borrow the $ from a friend in 2000 and have them wait until 2009 to get all of their money back.  In this case, your friend’s money is locked up for 9 years (2000-2009)

B) You take a subsidized loan in 2000, then in 2004 you borrow money  from a friend to pay off the subsidized loan within 6 months of graduating.  Then you pay back the friend by 2009.  In this case, your friend’s money is locked up for 5 years (2004-2009); this strategy reduces the time your friend’s money is locked up.  The caveat is that you must be absolutely certain that you have a friend who will loan you the money when you graduate so you can pay off the subsidized loan; or else you will be unable to pay off the loan and will have to pay the interest.

Strategy 2 One brother mentioned that he went to school part-time and worked at the same time.  Therefore, although he took 1.5 years longer to finish school, he was able to: A) Earn and save up money while going to school   B) Delay his graduation so that he had more time until his subsidized loans became due.  So when he did graduate, he had enough money to pay off the subsidized loan and avoid interest.

Unfortunately beginning July 2012, the government is no longer offering the $8,500/year in subsidized loans to graduate students, but  I believe undergraduate will still be eligible. Confirm with FAFSA at the time you apply because policies are often changing.

Loan Repayment for Working on Under-served Areas

There are programs in medicine/dentistry/nursing where if you commit to doing primary care and working in under-served areas, the government will pay all or part of your loans. (http://www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/index.html). The downside is that you limit your career options (ie. primary care only), and you must work/live in a potentially undesirable location. However, if you want to do primary care and are regionally flexible, then this might be an option to consider.  I’d recommend talking to someone who has participated in these programs to get an idea of what it’s like and what are the limitations, etc. There might be similar programs for other professionals (ie. lawyers) who commit to work in the public sector.

Job or Internship Tuition-Reimbursement

When considering potential job or internship opportunities, check if the company offers a tuition-reimbursement program.  Many companies will wholly or partially reimburse you for further education, often with the stipulation that you commit to work for them for a certain number of years.  I know a few people who have taken advantage of such programs for graduate business school. I also know two brothers who work for a college full-time (one in business, another as a police officer), and their graduate tuition (MPH, MBA) is free of charge. (Any full-time employee at this school is entitled to free education for their entire family; that is a pretty sweet deal!)

Take a Year “Off”, Save Up Money

“Off” doesn’t mean sitting at home watching TV or perpetually vacationing; rather what I’m referring to is taking time away from full-time school so that you can work in a setting that will improve your financial situation while simultaneously maintaining or even enhancing your qualifications for your ultimate career plans.

The part in italics is important because in the future you will be asked about what you did in your time away from school.  You want to be able to provide an answer that demonstrates that the time away was an asset for you and your career.  Hence the reason why spending a year watching TV probably isn’t a good idea (aside from the fact that you’re probably not saving up any money watching TV).

If you’re planning on a career in medicine, consider taking a year or two “off” in between undergrad and medical school so you can work and save up a decent chunk of change.  $30,000 in savings will give you a nice cushion to help pay for tuition or other expenses when your other sources of funding (ie. friends) fall short.  Don’t worry about “getting too old,” especially if you haven’t had any gaps in your education thus far.  When you start medical school you’ll find that a good portion of people in your class are older than you because they’re coming from another career, took time to do research or for personal reasons.  If you’re planning for a career in business, many graduate programs might actually prefer that you have work experience before getting further education because you will be better prepared to appreciate the real-world applicability of what you learn in the classroom.  You can utilize this opportunity take advantage of tuition-reimbursement  programs your employer may offer.

This was just a brief outline of some of my thoughts; by no means was this intended to be a comprehensive guide to financing your education or choosing your career.  I hope that this article will encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences in the comments, so that we can learn different ideas from each other. You may have already known some of what was said, but I hope that hearing about people who have utilized these resources to earn significant sums in scholarships and interest-free loans, and go as far as completing medical school without paying interest will inspire you to put in the effort and seek out similar fruits (despite the tediousness of filling out application forms, writing essays, and the discomfort of having to ask people to borrow money).  Perhaps you can use this outline as a checklist to go through and see if you’ve exhausted all possible resources. And I recognize that with increasing tuition rates, avoiding interest for even basic education has become very challenging, and unfortunately there isn’t any one, great solution that I’m aware of.  So we put forth our best effort, and leave the rest to the Mercy of Allāh, as He [SWT] is Aware of our individual needs and situations.

Disclaimer: Please consult a religious scholar, career counselor, and financial expert before considering any of the above ideas.  I am not liable in this world or in the Hereafter for any actions you do or do not take based upon the above thoughts.


73 Comments

73 Comments

  1. Pingback: A Muslim's Guide to Student Loans in the U.S. – MuslimMatters.org | Krispy Hut

    • Avatar

      Ketesha Frank

      October 23, 2016 at 1:34 AM

      How i got my Desired Loan Amount from a Reliable Loan Company called Adolf Alex Loan company and you can email them on: ( Adolfloancompany@yahoo.com) or Text them on: +1 571-322-5806

    • Avatar

      Ketesha Frank

      October 23, 2016 at 1:37 AM

      How i got my Desired Loan Amount from a Reliable Loan Company called Adolf Alex Loan company and you can email them on: ( Adolfloancompany@yahoo.com) or Text them on: +1 571-322-5806..

  2. Avatar

    Dr. O

    April 20, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    Fantastic article, masha’Allah! Wish I knew who wrote this so I can give proper thanks, but to whoever it was- jazakAllahu khair for sharing this.

    While I can’t speak for other career choices, the realities for financing education in the medical field are laid out really well here. For American graduates, it’s almost expected that all medical students will graduate with levels of debt hovering around $175,000 – $200,000. When you take into consideration the debt that students already bring in from their undergraduate years and then factor in the massive cost of medical school on top of that, you quickly realize how sad a doctor’s life becomes when you graduate medical school with debt the size of entire home mortgages, and interest rates that keep you buried in that debt for a significant chunk of your medical career.

    Muslims especially need to be extremely careful and cautious with their choice of colleges and graduate schools- personally speaking, the article is absolutely right that once you’re in medical school, no one cares what undergraduate school you went to, and your future patients certainly won’t ever care either, so slapping down ridiculous tuition costs and incurring debt for undergrad just seems like wasteful extravagance in the long run for medicine. If interest can be avoided through careful selection of programs and cost-effective schools, then by all means go for it.

    Do your best to apply (or encourage your kids to apply) to state-funded medical schools which have significantly cheaper tuition costs, and also save up money if you’re absolutely sure that medicine is the career path for you- it’s going to be a very long, arduous, and extremely expensive endeavor that will give you very little in returns until you hit your mid-30s.

    Sorry for the really long comment- the only other thing I’d mention is that as of this year, they’re officially removing subsidized loans due to federal budget cuts, and all Department-of-Education loans will become unsubsidized. That means there’s no longer an “interest-free” loan option for students anymore starting this Fall semester.

    I wish all the students and the parents of students reading this the very best, insha’Allah- may Allah (swt) ease your financial burdens and make the path to seeking knowledge and professional careers easy upon you, and may He save you from crushing debt and the shackles of interest.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 20, 2012 at 4:20 PM

       
      As salaamu Alaikum Dr. O,

      I’m glad you found the article beneficial, and jazakallah khair for your added insight; much appreciated!

      I just want to clarify the subsidized loan situation because there are changes that will be taking place for the next school year.  I just spoke to a FAFSA representative to make sure  I understood things properly:

      1. Subsidized loans will still be available for undergraduate students; meaning you do not accrue interest while you are in school.  The change is that there will NO longer be a 6-month grace period after a person graduates during which the person does not accure interest.  Basically: If you pay off your subsidized loan the day before your graduate, then you have no interest.  If you pay the subsidized loans after you graduate (ie. 1 month later), then there will be 1 month of interest.

      2. There are NO subsidized loans for graduate students anymore.  Yes, this makes things more difficult (but not impossible, iA) for those looking to pursue graduate studies without taking interest-bearing loans.

      Details can be found on Fafsa.gov, and for details about the recent changes one should read: http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/recentChangesSA.jsp

      Take Care,

      Uzair

      • Avatar

        Dr. O

        April 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM

        Masha’Allah, you are the MAN, Uzair. Thank you so much for the clarification! I thought the cuts were universally applied, but I didn’t know that they still kept the interest-free option available at the ugrad level (its a shame about the grace period being removed, though).

        JazakAllahu khair for writing this, it’s an excellent article!

      • Avatar

        Amber

        June 30, 2015 at 4:58 PM

        https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand#when-do-i-begin

        It says there is still a 6-month grace period for Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans, and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. Perhaps they reconsidered removing it.

  3. Avatar

    Umm Amber Asiyah

    April 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    This is great, mashaAllah…but we also need to discuss having more Muslim Americans graduate with all kinds of degrees. We need more people in the humanities. It’s great to be a doctor, lawyer, business person but we need to have top people in all fields. German language, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Psychology!!!!, Sociology, Social Work, Environmental studies, Political Science.  I know where this article is coming from, and I know people in the fields mentioned have huge student loans and of course it’s not haram to take those jobs or even to make lots of money in life but if we want and even, well developed society we need to diversify ourselves for sure. Just my two cents.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 20, 2012 at 4:25 PM

       As salaamu Alaikum Umm Amber,

      Jazakallah Khair for taking the time to read the article, and continue the discussion.  I agree with you wholeheartedly that the only fields are not medicine, law, and business; rather, people should pursue whatever field interests them because when people do what they enjoy, they’re more apt to work with ihsaan and exude passion in their life.

      I’m glad to see a lot of brothers and sisters pursuing creative fields such as graphics, film, etc and being able to benefit the ummah.  May Allah (SWT) Bless those people’s efforts who step outside of the box; I know it’s hard with parental and community pressures.

      Take care,

      Uzair

  4. Avatar

    Yasmin

    April 20, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    As a current college student I found these tips very helpful, Mashallah!

  5. Avatar

    feint

    April 20, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    It was narrated from ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) that a mukaatib (slave who had entered into a contract of manumission) came to him and said: “I am unable to pay off my manumission; help me.” He said:

     “Shall I not tell you some words which the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught me? And if you have debt like the mountain of Seer, Allaah will pay it off for you. 

    He said: ‘Say: Allaahumma akfini bi halaalika ‘an haraamika wa aghnini bi fadlika ‘amman siwaaka (O Allaah, suffice me with what You have permitted so that that I have no need of that which You have forbidden, and make me independent of means by Your bounty so that I have no need of anyone besides You).’”

    Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (2563) who said: This is a hasan ghareeb hadeeth. It was also classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi. 

  6. Avatar

    Isakeeni

    April 20, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Awesome Article.. This really helps. 

    • Avatar

      Isakeeni

      April 20, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      P.S. JazakAllahu khayran! 

  7. Avatar

    Mezba

    April 20, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    You could always study in Canada! Even as an international (US) student, programs in Canada are quite cheap (compared to US), the quality of education is quite high (Canadian universities rank favourably against US universities in world and North American rankings), and for many fields (such as Engineering, Computer Science, Business etc.) it ultimately does not matter what university you go to as long as you have a Western degree. 

  8. Avatar

    Uzair Sarmast

    April 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM

     As salaamu Alaikum,

    Jazakallah khair for taking the time to read the article; I’m thankful that people are finding it beneficial.  Hopefully you can share it with your friends and
    family so more people can benefit.

    Take care,

    Uzair

    • Avatar

      Alimran

      September 23, 2015 at 7:54 PM

      what about the loan charge, which is a small payment deducted from the borrowed money for processing the subsidized loan. is this halaal? , what is the general consensus on this? . For example if i borrow $800 in standardized loans [which does not accrue interest while i’m at school], the amount that is applied to my tuition costs after it’s processed is $792. But when i pay the loan servicer back i have to pay $800 and not $792 which they processed for my tuition costs. When i visited the financial aid office to inquire about this, i was told the $8 difference was used to cover the cost of processing the loan itself, but i am wondering if we look at it in simple terms, if i pay back more than i am actually borrowing am i not paying interest on the money? I will really appreciate your help on this, Jazakallah

  9. Avatar

    ibnpercy

    April 20, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    May Allah bless and have mercy on my parents.  They were bearer of the brunt of my college expenses.

  10. Avatar

    Reshma Hyder

    April 21, 2012 at 2:33 AM

    Jazak Allah Khair for taking the time to share what you learned at a seminar as well as adding so many nice ideas from your sources. I am a licensed Financial Services Professional in the Bay Area, mother of six kids with three in college and three in elementary schools (Happily married  AlhamdAllah) As someone who was a perpetual student for 9 yrs while raising 5 kids, I was very disturbed by the amount of burden my fellow students had in not just pursuing a career but also supporting them selves financially for housing and food. I felt guilty to see my husband pay for my studies but one thing I asked at time of marriage was education and I got one! 
    I followed many tips mentioned here,
     Buying used books, 
    selling them via internet, 
    attending community college for as many classes that I could, 
    taking maximum units (upto 21) for a flat fee per semester, etc.
    Besides reducing tuition, many kids utilized campus job qualifications to reduce housing fee. 
    Many students would get hired and attend business school and pay their way through college utilizing tax deductions or corporate level assistance in fees for college.
    Selecting unique majors where a scholarship is already tied in….for eg for science major, taking biotech management may add a stipend of $10,000 for 2yrs so why not grab it, it will still qualify a student to pursue medical field. 
    Selecting overseas qualified fast track programs like med school abroad (which my two kids decided to do, May Allah fulfill their academic dreams)
    When in Highschool , take on AP courses and do a middle college which saves time and money specially if one is pursuing a career in medicine or law.
     
     One thing I made sure of was praying never to borrow to study and AlhamdAllah did not have to as Allah increased rizq for my husband. Got my degrees in BS in Finance and minor in Accounting with honors then went off to starting two charities. Both of them social ones (Domestic violence and College mentoring) hence I learned that,
    Having a control on finances was a key responsibility on parents first and it should start early on when kids are in KG…..give 10 yr investment time and kids have a great start.
    Second thing is to address the financial burdens at a community level to come up with doable solutions and act upon them at any intial level and continue it even if you do nto have kids of your own in college anymore.
    We are not the first Muslims to be conscious of debt, there were methods used to reduce debt in historic times when interest was seriously high at above 30% and Muslims created  Waqfs for such needs. Waqfs or endowments help reduce financial burdens and are sustainable solutions but need initial seed investments.
     Another thing I noticed was a serious lack of effort from our Masajids in offering scholarships at High School levels to students so they not only get some support but also qualify for top school admissions grants after earning such scholarships.
    Another thing I see and still keep seeing and forgive me for being blunt, lack of knowledge on finance and debt issues amongst Islamic leaders. As a female, I have faced lack of respect from our Muslim Community men in trusting a Muslimah than a brother in the same field despite industry statistics reports on how 87% of financial decisions at home are done by women and women are generally better at planning and saving than men yet when the time comes to seek professional help, families prefer meeting a man vs a woman.
    I know I have written a lot here but another thing that is seriously troublesome is within our community is heresay……one brother/sister says something and it gets set in stone and goes viral without anyone taking the time to go research on their own to see if such a thing exists like interest free loans, subsidized education loans, employer provided educational assistance, studying abroad, middle college, liabilities of taking on big loans on families if one was to go through a tragedy like disability or death. I’d leave you all with a recent article on the student loan industry at this site:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/student-loans-could-next-housing-bubble-robert-reich-144742652.html 

    Jazak Allah khair for bringing up this topic and asking for our feedback.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM

       As salaamu Alaikum Sr Reshma,

      Jazakallah Khair for taking the time to read the article, and for adding a great deal of insight from your experience as well; greatly appreciated!

      “…research on their own to see if such a thing exists like interest free
      loans, subsidized education loans, employer provided educational
      assistance, studying abroad, middle college, liabilities of taking on
      big loans on families.”

      I can assure you programs like interest-free loans, subsidized education loans, and employer tuition reimbursement exist.  That’s why I actually mentioned that I know people who have utilized these means (including myself), and have even mentioned the approximate amounts which these people were able to borrow.  Without a doubt interest-free loans are not common, which is why in the
      article I wrote that there are a “couple of organizations.”  And as mentioned in the article, while not every employer offers tuition reimbursement, there are many that do.  Furthermore, subsidized loans also exist and in my comments to Dr. O’s post above, I provided some details regarding recent changes.

      Your point is well taken that one would be wise to consider the potential liabilities and burdens associated with borrowing large amounts of money from friends or family; surely this is not something to be taken lightly.  It would be best to borrow from someone who would not be placed into financial hardship if you were late in repaying them, and hopefully you as the borrower have contingency plans in place.

      It’s great that we’re able to briefly share various ideas here on this forum, but most definitely many of these ideas require further research for anyone considering them.

      Take care,

      Uzair

  11. Avatar

    Hassanmukhtar66

    April 22, 2012 at 4:45 AM

    Good. I like the first 3 headings like Du’a, integrity and excel in school. These are essential for everyone and then things may vary from person to person. I will try to tell my personal story which may be complimentary to the article and in real sense, prepare a student for the worst but still must not lose hope.

    I had a dream of doing Masters after my Bachelors Degree but the question was who will finance it?Believe me, it took me 20 years to wait for somebody to finance my Masters Degree.
    I finished my professional Bachelors degree in 1989-90, with  my family support. Since there was no financial support to do Masters, I started working. 6 months of teaching, 18 months of professional job outside my place of residence, 6 months of teaching back in my city, 3 years of academic administration/teaching after initiating my own entrepreneurial venture, then 3 years of professional consultancy and more than 10 years of government service. 
    This Masters degree kept me haunting because I believed that Muslims need to pursue higher education to compete with different communities/societies in order to be self-sufficient in all matters of modern scientific education. I had  a desire to study though it was not necessary for the job purpose.
    I started looking for fellowships from 2006 to study outside the country to gain new knowledge/experience and skills in new environment. Simulatneously I enrolled for Distance education courses so that before I leave the country, I should be prepared for university education after a long time. I was able to complete 2 certificate courses and 2 P.G.Diploma courses.
    I could not get selected for the first fellowship, I kept on trying. ultimately in 2010, I was selected for a prestigious international fellowship.
    Now the question is that if I go to a foreign country, who will bear the expenses of my family? This question was bothering me. I requested government/my organization but in vain. They allowed me to study but without salary. I applied for educational loan so that the loan money will be used for family expenses. The loan was sanctioned but the last moment my close friend refused to act as a guarantor (although earlier he had signed the form).
    I left the country in the hope that God will help me, even if no body comes to my help. The loan could not be disbursed despite being sanctioned because of short of one guarantor. The guarantor ditched me after I left the country.
    Now I was in a fix. But believe me, without availing that sanctioned loan, I tried to save money on rent, food, and fare and that is how, I was able to accommodate my family within my fellowship expenses.
    This saving saved me from the loan and also I got a real experience of how friends can ditch you at the last moment.

  12. Avatar

    if.but.maybe

    April 22, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    A great useful article on a topic that’s become really relevant to prospective students in the UK too ( gone are the days when the government would subsidise a university education for the least financially able!).

    Aside from mainstream scholarships – have the Muslim community in the US developed any specific schemes/scholarship programmes for young Muslims? Also are mosques/community organisations educating young Muslims & their families about the financial pitfalls of higher education? 

    Would be great to share good practice and highlight areas where we could do more to help future generations. 

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 22, 2012 at 9:52 PM

       As salaamu Alaikum

      With a doubt resources are lacking in this realm, but I think the community has acknowledged this and is starting to offer programs.  In our community there is a small organization that has been offering awards and scholarships for the past few years.  I’ve heard of a few others as well in other places.

      I guess the way I see things, now that mosques have been built in many places, communities are able to use funds for other projects such as these.

      Also, as many of us are finishing our schooling, we’re looking to see how we can use the knowledge and skills we’ve been given to help the next generation of students.  For example, a nearby masjid recently had a networking fair.  Similarly, we’re going to have a pre-med discussion panel geared towards high school & undergraduate students and their parents to help shed some light on important aspects of getting into medical school.  Hopefully people from other fields will do the same.

      Take care,

      Uzair

    • Avatar

      Sister

      May 14, 2012 at 2:27 AM

      “Aside from mainstream scholarships – have the Muslim community in the US
      developed any specific schemes/scholarship programmes for young
      Muslims?”

      Yes, Alhamdulillah. Though there is still much work to be done, here is an excellent organization which offers Muslim students scholarships in the fields of social sciences, humanities, liberal arts or law: http://www.islamicscholarshipfund.org/  This is for undergraduate and graduate students…please encourage people you know to apply!

  13. Avatar

    Muhammad Ali

    April 22, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Nice article, Uzair. One of the key ways I have found to avoid interest is plan from day one to limit the unsubsidized loan and then with subsidized loans (stafford, perkins, school specific) to stay a half time student online.

    This concept is never emphasized. But if you are taking 6 credits every other semester, subsidized loans stay in student deferment meaning no interest accrues. The cost of these credits can be minimized by taking online classes at cheap state community colleges. Cost is about $550-600 for six credits. 20% of that you will get back on taxes. This way you will save $2000+ just on the Federal Stafford Loans alone not to mention other subsidize loans. With these loans in deferment one can focus on unsubsidized loans as quickly as possible.

    Alhamdulillah, I have done this for 1.5 yrs and saved thousands in interest. We had a lecture on this topic at Rutgers as part of Ladders Initiative. Attached is an example how this will breakdown. It is important to highlight in student deferment unsubsidized loan interest doesn’t capitalize as well. There are other creative ways to avoid interest as well. The key is to plan early.

  14. Avatar

    Anti-riba

    April 23, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    I’d like to mention that we are too quick to give up these days. “I don’t think it’s not possible to go to school without taking riba”. This is unfortunate.

    We take fatwa’s out of context. We assume that bcs a scholar mentions that Education is a *necessity*, this immediately implies that we should go for the riba loan!! How odd is this? 

    People must examine/re-examine countless avenues(as Br. Uzair mentioned in this article) before turning to a interest based loans. 

    p.s.
    I personally think that the Imams/Ulemaa’ of North America should do a better job of conveying this. I hear the “Students loans are permissible” fatwa too often without clarification or even smart financial advice. Why not advise students to at least look for the lowest interest loans? 

    Just because a _____(inset any item commonly bought on interest) is considered a necessity doesn’t mean that there is no other option other then interest loans for it. 

    p.p.s
    If we haven’t learned from the housing bubble in America, (ex. McDonals employee buying a 300k house on mortgage), we should really take some financial planning courses

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM

       As salaamu Alaikum,

      Jazakallah khair for your input.  Like a lot of things, we tend to settle for taking the “necessity” route without putting in adequate effort.

      I found the following effort inspirational, and I hope others will too.  I was talking to someone a
      few days ago and he told me that his father received a very well put
      together package at his office from an aspiring medical student
      requesting to borrow money for tuition so that they can get their
      education without interest. The package contained the person’s academic
      & extracurricular records, a contract for the loan, etc. This is an
      example of someone who is putting forth a genuine effort, and I pray
      that Allah (SWT) Blesses this person with the means to pursue their
      education without dealing with interest. Have we put forth this level of
      effort?

      Take care,

      Uzair

      • Avatar

        Anti-riba

        April 26, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        alaikum asalam,

        Imagine that? Putting together a loan proposal. May Allah bless individuals like this with halal rizq!

    • Avatar

      Umm AR

      November 16, 2012 at 11:32 PM

      Well said.

      Some Muslims prefer to send heir children to public school because it is free of charge, so they say. But they buy a one million mansion on full-time riba.

      I mean, we have set our priorities wrong in the first place.

  15. Avatar

    Sami

    April 23, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    The definition of subsidized loan is not technically correct in this article. The author mentions:

    “A subsidized loan is one for which you are not charged interest while you are in school.”

    The It is actually a loan in which the government pays off the interest for you within the grace period. I don’t know if this changes the ruling  or not, but I thought I would throw it out there.

    Excellent article mA.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 25, 2012 at 12:19 AM

       As salaamu Alaikum Sami,

      Good catch.  I meant to write “A subsidized loan is one for which you do not pay interest while you are in school.”

      From the literature I’ve read and the people I’ve spoken to, subsidized loans are okay inshallah.  **As stated at the end of the article, I’d recommend everyone consult a scholar they are comfortable with to discuss their individual situation, as things may vary from person to person. **

      As far as online resources, I’ve found AMJA to be helpful for financial matters (http://amjaonline.org/).  Additionally, they have a Fatwa hotline which you can call and
      speak to a scholar (http://amjaonline.org/services/fatwa-services/).

      Take care,

      Uzair

  16. Avatar

    Ameer

    April 23, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair Uzair for your thoughts.

    I am a Muslim medical student a little over halfway done with school now insha Allah. From that perspective, this article provides lots of ideas about how students in professional schools can find ways to finance their education in a fiscally and Islamically responsible fashion. I think, however, that in the same breath, we have to stress the necessity for our communities to take this issue of financing our youth very seriously, and bring it off of the back burners.

    When speaking with the Dean of Research at my medical school, he was surprised when I discussed Muslims aversion of debt, especially debt with interest. He told me that Hasidic Jews have very similar beliefs, but they just go to their rabbi, and an interest-free repayment plan is set up for them.

    I would love that a Muslim would have to go no farther than his mosque to make his dreams a reality. I don’t mind living at home or going to a state school to drive down my costs, as a couple of you have mentioned. But if our children have to think that way 20-30 years from now, because there is no organization nearby that is interested in fostering their excellence and investing in them, we have failed our communities.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 25, 2012 at 12:26 AM

      As salaamu Alaikum Ameer,

      I agree with you completely that we need to provide solutions.  As mentioned in an earlier comment, I think going forward inshallah we will see more development in these areas because now that institutions like masajid have been taken care of in many places, our resources can be used for other initiatives. This is something that I’ve personally looked into starting, and hope to do so in the near future.  Keep us in your duas.

      Take care,

      Uzair

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  18. Avatar

    Asim

    April 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    JazakAllah khair for the article brother Uzair! I know someone that was at the class and found it very beneficial.

    Just like you mentioned, it’s important to purify your intention and have taqwa of Allah, because he is the one that provides. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, “And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out, And will provide for him
    from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah –
    then He is sufficient for him… (65:2-3)I also wanted clarification about the loan forgiveness programs. From what I understand, based on talking to a representative for the program in my state, these programs provide you with money to pay for loans that have been accruing interest over time. Thus, although you can pay back your loan with money they give you, you’ll still need to take out a loan and have it accrue interest. Is this how it works elsewhere?

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 25, 2012 at 12:47 AM

       As salaamu Alaikum Asim,

      Jazakallah Khair for taking the time to read the article.

      From my understanding the various tuition/loan repayment/forgiveness options vary program to program.

      There are definitely options where you do not take out a loan first; rather, the sponsoring organization makes the payment directly to your school at the beginning of the semester, and therefore there is no loan and subsequent interest. 

      For example: http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/scholarships/index.html
      The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program.  Tuition payment in exchange for a commitment to serve in limited-access areas for 2-4 years after completing training.

      From their FAQ:
      “When do the tuition and stipend payments start?
       
      The NHSC Scholarship Program notifies schools when
      their students are selected to receive an NHSC Scholarship. The school
      is required to submit an invoice to the NHSC for payment of tuition and
      fees each term.”

      So NHSC pays the tuition for you.

      On the flip-side, there are probably other programs like you mentioned, which entail you taking the loan first and its associated interest, and then they pay you back. 

      I’d recommend researching the different options and inshallah you find something that works for you.  I know a brother who is doing one of these programs, so if this is something you are seriously considering, give me your email address and I’ll put you in touch with him.

      Take care,

      Uzair

      • Avatar

        Asim

        April 25, 2012 at 7:30 PM

        Wa Alaikum assalam brother Uzair,

        Wa iyyakum. Thank you for the clarification and thorough response. I would actually love to hear more about these programs. I sent you a message through fb. InshaAllah we can get in touch through there.

        JazakAllah khair,

        – Asim

  19. Avatar

    Azeem

    April 24, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    I think pple like me, who are living in developing countries are more deserving than devoped countries citizens. Sometime I think there is also some kind of cartel who support a specific breed to come forward and ruled on others while remaining will ruled by them. There is some kinda hypocracy, double standard we have in our so called equal system.

  20. Avatar

    Tr Pe

    April 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Salaam, My only negative feedback on this article is that it would have been a lot more useful if the author had researched the items he refers to and linked to them, rather than vague references like “There are charitable organizations that provide interest-free loans….”  “There are numerous books and websites which you can look up…”   OK, where are they? Referring me to google is not that helpful; I may not find the items you are referencing.

  21. Avatar

    juveGT

    April 26, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Good article, especially like the bit about fiscal responsibility. I think more than anything, that can make the biggest difference in terms of how many loans with interest are required. I do disagree with the choice of undergraduate school – maybe that works in medical school, just get in somewhere and you’re ok. And the author did allude to business, accounting schools.. But if you’re considering a pure sciences, engineering – STEM field. It absolutely does matter.. And these are the fields where you can usually get your graduate degreees paid on fellowship.. Would have liked to have seen some discussions on paid felloeships, TA’s, graduate researchers, etc. the trade off is if you’re looking to work in a technical lab, technical job – you need a top -10 level education. As my brother who graduated from UM – Ann arbor put it to me.. I’m locked out of jobs that go to graduates from MIT, CalTech, Harvard. But glad to see the author has the discussion started.

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      April 27, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      As salaamu Alaikum,

      Jazakallah Khair for taking the time to read the article, and providing feedback.

      I did mention:
      “For those who may be pursuing a career in another field (ie. business),
      then it is possible that your undergraduate education may hold more
      weight because that will be your highest level of training when you
      apply for jobs”

      While I only listed “business” as an example of a field where the undergraduate institution can play a role in future career success, the reader can plug in any other field where this applies; I simply couldn’t list every possibility.

      Take care,

      Uzair

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  23. Avatar

    Umm Noor

    May 6, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Masha Allah, there are a lot of nice points here.  But, do you have a reference to support that subsidized loans are halaal?  They almost always include a clause that states, in effect, that if the loan is not paid back in a fixed amount of time (i.e. 6 months) that you agree to pay interest on it.  To sign a contract, agreeing to commit haram, is haram itself.  It doesn’t matter if you never commit that deed (in this case, paying interest). 

    One of the problems, though, with the loan proposals and borrowing from others is that there is no way to enforce getting paid back.  I have seen and experienced people wanting loans to avoid interest, but then when the time comes to pay, they are unwilling to fulfill their commitment.  Yes, sometimes there may be a genuine reason, but sometimes there are not.  I think it would help if people were willing to offer some sort of collateral so that the creditor is not the one who is taking the financial risk.  That said, what kind of collateral would a college age student have?  There are just so many hoops to jump through…

     

    • Avatar

      Uzair Sarmast

      May 6, 2012 at 11:04 PM

       As salaamu Alaikum Umm Noor,

      “To sign a contract, agreeing to commit haram, is haram itself.  It
      doesn’t matter if you never commit that deed (in this case, paying
      interest).”

      Like many things, I’m sure there will be differences of opinion on the permissibility of subsidized loans.  I guess those who are of the opinion that they are not based on the principle reflected in quotes above would also hold the opinion that having a credit card is impermissible since it’s essentially the same concept. Or do you see a difference?

      If no difference, then I would say: Every major Islamic organization I know of accepts credit cards as a method of payment for their courses/conferences, donations, etc.

      Additionally, some of the answers on AMJAonline.org, indicate subsidized loans as an option for education (I would post links, but site is currently down).  Furthermore, I’ve spoken to people with knowledge whom I personally trust.  As always, please consult a shaykh who you are comfortable with, and may Allah make things easy for everyone in pursuing the means which they believe to be correct, yet practical.

      Without a doubt borrowing large amounts of money, as well as lending it is not an easy task; surely there is risk involved.  It definitely requires homework to be done by both parties.  Some sort of collateral would help add some security; perhaps the parents could get involved in this regard.  The people I know who borrowed money for school actually did not give any collateral, but they had a close relationship with the lender (ie. relative, close family friend), and very importantly they were known to be mature, responsible, and trustworthy people.  And the sad reality is that many youth, while they may be religious-minded, unfortunately aren’t the most reliable, professional people and haven’t demonstrated sufficient responsibility (and may have actually shown the opposite).  So for those considering this as an option, it would be wise to make oneself worthy of such a Blessing and responsibility.

      Take care,

      Uzair

      • Avatar

        Umm Noor

        May 7, 2012 at 10:11 PM

        Wa alaikumus Salaam,

        I was asking about a reference because I, personally, would like to see the perspective of scholars saying that the subsidized loans were OK.  I have always been taught that a commitment to commit haram was forbidden, and I’m curious to see how/when that might be compromised.  Some people might call it necessity, but then others say the loan itself is necessity, so where does anyone draw the line?  If you do have a reference that you trust, it would be nice to get a documented opinion that others could read and use for their own benefit.

        The real reason I brought it up is that if people are reading your article with the hope of implementing some or all of your suggestions, they should know as much as possible so they can make the best informed decisions that they can.

        I don’t want to get into an interest debate or anything, but ,no, I don’t believe a credit card contract is halal, for the very same reason.  On the consumer end, one can get a bank card that works the same way.  I don’t know how things work on the business end,  so I can’t comment on that.  Of course, indirectly the whole system supports interest, but that is beyond the scope of both your article and our discussion.

        And I guess when you talked about the loan proposal, I was imagining a youth seeking help from the community. When family and other close relationships are involved, there is a degree of oversight that would reduce or eliminate the need for collateral.  But those without a support system are still with very limited options.  The chances of them getting an interest-free loan, no strings attached, is almost nil.  Most people with the financial means to help have been burned enough times to not want to take yet another risk.  If some collateral could be worked out (and I’m doubtful that this would be a common scenario) it would increase the chances of getting a loan for those who otherwise might not.

        I really liked your comment about intention.  My personal experience has been that my resolve was always tested before Allah opened His abundant gates of mercy.  I hope He gives us all the strength to do what is right.

        • Avatar

          Uzair Sarmast

          May 13, 2012 at 11:00 PM

           As salaamu Alaikum Umm Noor,

          I apologize about the delayed response; I hope you come back to read this.

          Here is the fatwa from AMJA (which is an organization I personally trust; they seem to be in the know about financial matters).

          http://amjaonline.com/00en_f1_details.php?fid=85455

          “The chances of them getting an interest-free loan, no strings attached, is almost nil. ”
          I agree with you 100%.  So if one even eliminates subsidized loan as an option then what are we left with? And alhamdulillah it appears that’s what the people of knowledge also share the same sentiment.

  24. Avatar

    Salikah

    August 25, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    Asalamu Alikum,

    Jazakum Allahu Khiran for the beneficial advice and feedback from other readers.
    I am currently an undergrad student at an in-state private school. Alhamdulillah, with the grace of Allah swt I have nearly a full ride scholarship for the first four years. The program I am in will take five years to complete. After asking around and talking to my financial adviser, my only choice in paying the last year is loans, and since that would count is being in the “professional” phase, the loans are unsubsidized. I know that there are Islamic financing options for house mortgages and business, I have been looking to see if there are any for student loans. If you know of any such organization please let me know.

    Jazakum Allahu Khiran

  25. Avatar

    Jane

    August 29, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    Salaam brother Uzair

    In Australia, the gov has the HECS-HELP, which is an interest free loan to help students study. I wanted to ask, even though it is interest free according to their standards, would it be riba free, with the issue of inflation?

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    Rooci Brown Finance

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    Anthony Cruz

    November 16, 2016 at 3:15 PM

    Hello Mr Hornung,

    I understand what you have said that you cannot send the last requested payment of 570 euro to any one,this is Really interesting and Fantastic..I want you to know that you have already paid all the necessary fees. There for your loan transfer fee, is what is holding down the transaction. So you only need to pay for the transfer fee which is the only payment you need to send before you will have your loan to you successful. You don’t need to be discourage because of the fees you are asked to send now..I want you to try all your possible best and Co-operate with me by sending this requested payment so that our Dream can come through. It profit no one to gain the whole world and loose his soul at the end.Don’t give up because we have already started the race and we must end it.

    Take my word. Try as much as possible to come up with this fees, i assure and guarantee you that immediately you make the payment the loan will reflect into your bank account. This is what the Lord told us in the Book Of John 14 VS 1 that will should always be faithful and let our mind not to be trouble.The ultimate measure of a human is not where he or she stands in moments of comfort, but where he or she stands at times of challenge and controversy.I want you to know that this fees is a challenge to you..You have to try your best and send the 570 euro okay.

    it may interest you to know that Setting a goal is not the main thing,but it is depending on how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan. You have already receive this loan,the transfer fee is what is holding down this transaction,i know how things are with you right now and This is why you need a loan. But feel free because you will soon receive this loan if really you take my world and send down the fee…It is a general phenomenon… I want you to be rooted to your faith so that you can be a champion..Let me tell you the Meaning of champion Mr Hornung… A Champion is not a person that have never made a mistake…NO!!!! this is fallacy and overstatement, But a champion is a person that have made a mistake and NEVER give up and relent of his or her effort…Don’t give up,I am very much assured you that this loan will reflect into your account as soon as you have been able to send the requested payment of 570 euro for the Non
    transfer fee of your loan. Without this fees, there is no way you can get your loan okay….

    I will be the happiest Man on earth after this funds must have been transferred to you. NOTE: There is no secret to success, it is the result of preparation, hard work,Life Risk and seriousness. Please try to come up with this fees so that we can make each other happy..I am advising you because i want your Name to be in my Monthly Payer list/File..This is an opportunity I won’t allow you to miss it. If you should miss this opportunity , it then obviously means that I don’t love your progress..This is how Mrs Becky from Spain that is inviting me right now to her own house in Spain was complained about her transfer fee..Until she take the Risk to sent the money and know that really, she is dealing with a true lender…All fingers are not equal..

    I know how you feel right now, but feel free because you will soon receive this loan. The great opportunity in your life is where you are right now. Every situation, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity for you. You have grand opportunities all round you. Open your eyes, and you will find it. Just believe that you have already receive this loan. The Bank will not fail immediately they receive the transfer fee your loan will be reflected to your bank account okay…. NOTE: Motivation is very important, but it is determination that will make you cross the highest mountain and most difficult river is reared. I will advise you don’t give up,the root of this transaction is were will are now.

    Regards on your kind understanding, trust and co-operation in regards to this transaction. I am indeed healthful..Do get back to me for the fact you have receive this mail so that i can send you the info on how to make the payment …..
    Thanks and God Bless.

    Regards

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    November 27, 2016 at 4:01 PM

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    Umar Tahir

    May 14, 2018 at 2:36 PM

    As salaam aleykum Uzair. Thank you so much for sharing these points!

    I am a high school senior right now. I have been very conflicted and stressed about avoiding interest. I want to try and use every option available to me to finance my education. Thank God I came across this article and learned about unsubsidized loans which hopefully I can take advantage of Insha’Allah. Also, I didn’t know scholarships were offered on a semester-basis which is great because Insha’Allah I want to have more time to keep searching for more and more scholarships. I am hoping to put all of my effort into my academics and may Allah make it easy for me to do so.

    This article has removed a great burden from my life! And the most important thing that I pray I always remember is that I need to make the intention to use my education to get a good job and be charitable, so that Allah may bestow his forgiveness on us in the future. Even interest can be forgiven, because shirk is considered the only unforgivable sin.

    This article has completely renewed my motivation to do as well as possible in college. May Allah bless you tenfold and grant all of us Jannatul Firdaus!

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#Islam

When Faith Hurts Inside Out, You Don’t Have To Like It

Loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way- even if it hurts. It is a time to learn.

Zeba Khan

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hurts, hardship. Allah, test, why Allah is testing me

The Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the faith in our hearts wears out the way our clothes wear out. Deterioration, maintenance, and renewal are part of the cycle.  That’s life with all that hurts. That’s normal.

But what happens when that’s life, but life is not your normal? What happens when it feels like life isn’t normal, hasn’t been normal, and won’t be normal for a foreseeably long time?  For some of us, refreshing faith becomes secondary to just keeping it.

It’s easier to say Alhamdulillah when you are happy. It’s harder when you’re not. That’s human nature though. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with what we teach about faith that can leave us unprepared for when Allah tests it. I believe that our discussions about faith tend to be overly simplistic. They revolve around a few basic concepts, and are more or less summed up with:

Faith = Happiness

Righteousness = Ease

Prayer = Problem Solved

Good Deeds Equals Good Life?

Basically, the TLDR is Good Deeds = The Good Life. None of these statements are technically untrue. The sweetness of faith is a joy that is beyond any other gratitude, for any other thing in this world. Righteousness in the sight of Allah will put you on the path to the good life in the afterlife. Making dua can be the solution to your problems. But when we say these things to people who have true faith but not happiness, or righteous behavior yet distressing hardship, we’re kind of implying that that either Islam is broken (because their prayers seem unanswered), or they are broken (because their prayers are undeserving of answers.) And neither of those is true either.

Allow me to elaborate. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a single parent who has not begged Allah to make their sick or disabled child well again. Yet, our Ummah still has sick and disabled children. Through history, people have begged Allah for a loved one’s life, and then buried them – so is prayer not equal to problem solved?

Many righteous people stand up, and are then ostracized for their faith. Many people speak truth in the face of a tyrant only to be punished for it. Many of us live with complete conviction, with unshakeable belief in the existence and wisdom and mercy of Allah, and still find ourselves unhappy and afraid of what He has willed for us.

Are We Broken?

No, but our spiritual education is. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to anyone else?

No one ever told me. It was hard for me to learn that lesson on my own, when I pleaded with Allah to make my son’s autism go away, and it didn’t. Everyone told me –Make dua! The prayer of a mother for her child is special! Allah will never turn you down!

It was hard trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting messages- that Allah knows best, but a mother’s prayer is always answered. It was even harder facing people who tried to reassure me of that, even when it obviously wasn’t working.

“Just make dua! Allah will respond!”

I’m sure people mean well. But it’s hard not to be offended. Either they assume I have never bothered to pray for my son, or they imply that there must be good reason why Allah’s not granting to my prayers. What they don’t consider is that allowing my test to persist – even if I don’t want it to- is also a valid response from Allah.

I have been told to think back in my life, and try to determine what sin caused my child’s disability, as if the only reason why Allah wouldn’t give me what I asked for was because I was so bad I didn’t deserve it. As if good deeds equaled the good life, and if my life wasn’t good, it’s because I hadn’t been good either.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

You can assume whatever you like about my character, but bad things do happen to good people, even when they pray. You can try your hardest and still fall short. You can pray your whole life for something that will never come to you. And strength of faith in that circumstance doesn’t mean living in a state of unfulfilled hope, it means accepting the wisdom in the test that Allah has decreed for you.

That’s a bit uncomfortable, isn’t it.  When we talk about prayer and hope, we prefer to talk about Zakraiyyah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – who begged Allah for a child and was gifted with one long after anyone thought it even possible. But we also need to talk about Abu Talib.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, and in his mission to preach Islam he was protected by Abu Talib.  But Abu Talib died without accepting Islam, was there something wrong with the Prophet, that Allah did not give him what he asked for? Was he not good enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Astaghfirullah, no. So if Prophets of God can ask for things and still not get them, why are we assuming otherwise for ourselves?

Making a Bargain with Allah

If we can understand that faith is not a contract for which we trade prayers for services, then maybe we can cope better when fate cannot be bargained with. Maybe it won’t have to hurt so bad – on spiritual level – when Allah withholds what we ask for, even when we asked for the “right” things in the right way and at all the right times.

Life is not simple. Faith is not simple. The will of Allah is not simple, no matter how much we want it to be, and when oversimplify it, we create a Muslim version of Prosperity Gospel without meaning to.

If you’ve never heard of it, prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that health and wealth and success are the will of God, and therefore faith, good deeds and charity increase one’s wellbeing. Have faith, and God will reward you in this life and the next. That’s nice. But it’s too simple. Because the belief that Good Deeds = The Good Life doesn’t explain how Ibraheem 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s father tried to have him burnt alive.

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s brothers left him for dead in the bottom of a well. He grew up a slave and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aasiya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – the wife of the Pharoah – one of the four best women in the history of womankind – died from her husband’s torture.

Good people are not guaranteed good lives. Islam is what we need, not a system of practices that we use to fulfill our needs.

When we limit our understanding of faith to a simplistic, almost contractual relationship with Allah, then we can’t even explain the things that Allah Tested His own prophets with.

Nor can we understand, or even begin to cope with- what He Tests the rest of us with either. We have to be real in our talk about faith, because otherwise we set each other up for unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation for when we face hardship. Faith is not protection from hardship. Faith is part of hardship. And hardship is part of faith.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks us in the opening of Surah ‘Ankabut,

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And ˹in this way˺ Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.

Allah says in Surah Baqarah, ayah 155: “And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who are patient in adversity.

tests, hurts, faith , hardship

Allah Tests Everyone Differently

Allah tests each of us differently, but in every single case – every single time – a test is an invitation to success. Hardship is the process through which we prove ourselves. Experiencing it– and then drawing closer to Allah through it –is how faith is tested as well as strengthened.

If we can change how we perceive hardship, then we can also change how we perceive each other. On our cultural subconscious, we still see worldly failure as being equivalent to spiritual failure. So when we see people who are homeless, we assume fault. When we see people facing depression or divorce, we assume fault. We even look at refugees and victims and special needs children and we look for fault. Cuz if it’s that bad then it’s gotta be someone’s fault, right?

Fault is how we place blame. Blame is how we know whose mistake it is. But the will of Allah is never a mistake, it’s a test.  Instead of faulting each other for what Allah tests us with, we could respect each other for the struggles we all endure. We could see each other with more compassion for our challenges, and less aversion when Allah tests us with dealing each other.

So when you’ve done things the right way, but the right things aren’t happening. Or you’ve been charitable to others, and they’re being evil towards you. Or you’ve earned only halal, but haram- it’s been taken away from you, remember this- your faith is being tested. Allah tests those that He loves. When He raises the difficulty level, Allah is extending a direct invitation for you to climb higher.

So How Do We Succeed When Faced With Failure?

The first thing to do is redefine failure. There is only one true failure in this life, and that is dying on the wrong side of Siraat ul Mustaqeem, because if close your eyes and wake up in Jahannam, no success in this life can compensate for that.

I find that helpful to remember, when I fail to stay fit because I can’t exercise without hurting myself, when I fail to fast in Ramadan because it’s dangerous for me to do so- when I fail to discover a cure for my family’s personal assortment of medical issues through rigorous internet “research,” none of that is my failure either. And I can feel a lot of different ways about these situations, but I do not feel guilty- because it’s not my fault. And I do not feel bitter, because my test is my honor. Even when I do feel scared.

Being scared in not a failure either. Neither is being unemployed. Being unmarried is not a failure. Being childless is not a failure. Being divorced is not a failure. Nothing unpleasant or miserable or unexpected is a failure. It’s all just a test, and seeing it as a test means you have the state of mind to look for the correct answers.

Not even sin is failure, because as long as you are alive, your sin stands as an invitation to forgiveness. The bigger the sin, the greater the blessings of repenting from it.  Everything that goes bad is the opening of the door for good. A major sin can be the first step on a journey that starts with repentance and moves you closer to Allah every day thereafter. Sin only becomes failure when it takes you farther away from Allah, rather than closer to him.

Jahannam is the Only Failure

Addiction is not a failure. Depression is not a failure. Poverty is not a failure. Jahannam is the only failure. Everything else is a gap in expectations.

You assumed you would have something, but it’s not written for you. You assumed you’d ask Allah for something and He’d give it to you, but what is that assumption based on again? That good deeds are the guarantee to the good life, and that prayer equals problem solved?

Allah has all the knowledge, Allah has the wisdom, Allah is the best of Planners – how are you assuming that your wishes supersede His will? Even when you put your wishes in the form of a prayer?

They don’t. It is absolutely true that Allah may choose to rewrite Qadr itself based on your prayers – but that’s still His choice. Allah has always, and will always be in control of this world. And that means your world too. If you still think you’re in control, you will find it really, really hard to cope the first time you realize you’re not.

When we understand that we don’t get to control what happens and what doesn’t, we can then release ourselves from the misplaced guilt of things going wrong.  Lots of special needs parents struggle with guilt. I meet them often – and every single parent has asked the question- directly or indirectly-

What did I do for my child to deserve this?

Can you hear the presumption in there? That the parents were good, so why did something bad happen? They were expecting for good deeds to equal the good life.

There’s a second presumption in there too, that their life choices were a determining factor of what happened to their child. That is a presumption of control. And as long as you try to hold on to that presumption of control, there is the constant feeling of failure when it just doesn’t work the way you think it will.

I am not proposing that we lose hope in Allah and despair of His mercy. I am in no way insinuating that Allah doesn’t hear every prayer, hasn’t counted every tear, and isn’t intimately aware of your pain and your challenges. Allah hears your prayers, and in His wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we want. In His Wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we need.

Even if we don’t see it.

Even if it scares us.

Even if it hurts us – because Allah has promised that He will never, ever break us.

hurts, hardship, special needs

Allah Tests Us in His Mercy

I am proposing that we put trust in the wisdom of Allah, and understand that when He tests us, that is part of his mercy, not a deviation from it. When he grants something to us, that is part of His mercy, and when he withholds something from us, that too is part of His Mercy, even if we don’t like it. Even when we ask Him to take it away.

The third thing I would like to propose, is that we correct our understanding of – Fa Inna Ma’Al usri yusraa, Inna Ma’al usri yusra.

So verily, definitely, for sure- with hardship there is ease. Again, Inna – for sure, with hardship there is ease.

I’m sure lots of you have said this to people you loved, or to yourself when you’re struggling with something and you’re just trying to get through it. But did you mean that this hardship will end, and then things will be good again? Like as soon as things have been hard for a while, Allah will make them easy again?

Would you believe that’s not really what that means? Ma’a means with, not after. With this hardship, there is ease. And maybe you’re like aww man, but I wanted the ease! I want the hardship to go away and Allah I’m ready for my ease now!

But that hardship, will bring you ease. Allah does not tell us what the ease will be, or when it will be- but He says it’s there, so trust Him. Even if you can’t see it right away, or in this life –it will become apparent.

I can tell you some of the ease I found with mine.

Learning When It Hurts

When my son was diagnosed with autism, my husband and I had to drop everything. We dropped our plans to save, to travel, and to live the charmed life of neurotypical parents whose only fears are that their children may grow up and NOT become Muslim doctors. We spent our earnings and our savings and our time and our nights and our tears and Alhamdulillah, we learned patience. We learned perspective. We learned compassion.

We really learned what we thought we already knew – about unconditional love and acceptance. We learned to be bigger than our fears, and smaller than our own egos. We learned to give and take help. We learn to accept what wisdom our cultures could offer us, and respectfully decline what did not. We learn to set boundaries and make rules that did justice by our children and our family, regardless of whether they were popular. With hardship comes ease.

When we couldn’t afford therapy for my son, my husband and I founded a not for profit organization in the UAE that provided it for my son and dozens of other people’s sons and daughters. Three and a half years ago I left that organization to seek better educational opportunities for my son here in the US, but it’s still running. The seed that our challenges planted has grown into something beyond us. With our hardship came ease for ourselves and others as well.

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my health issues were upgraded from challenging to permanent. I had to rethink how I lived, how I planned, how I dressed, and even – my relationship with Allah. But if I had never been sick, I would never have started writing. When it hurt, I wrote. When I was scared, I wrote. When I was lonely, I wrote. And by and by the grindstone of fear and sickness and frustration sharpened my skills. Where I am today both spiritually and professionally – is actually a direct result of both autism and chronic illness. With hardship comes ease.

I don’t like my hardships, but I don’t have to. You don’t have to either. Being a good Muslim doesn’t always mean being a happy Muslim. It just means being Muslim, no matter the circumstances.

That means loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way – even if not loving everything He throws your way. You may hate your circumstances, and you may not be able to do anything about them, but as long as you trust Allah and use your hardships to come closer to him, you cannot fail, even if this life, you feel as if you never really succeeded.

hurts, depression, faith , hardship

Faith Wears Out In Our hearts, The Way Our Cothes Wear Out on Our Bodies

The hardship that damages and stains us is Allah’s invitation to repair, renew, and refresh ourselves. Our test are an invitation, an opportunity, an obstacle – but not a punishment or divine cruelty. And when we know that those tests will come, and some may even stay, then we can be better prepared for it.

Trust Allah when He says that He does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. He told us so in Surah Baqarah Ayah 286. Remember that when you are afraid, and Allah will never cause your fear to destroy you. Take your fear to Allah, and He will strengthen you, and reward you for your bravery.

Remember that when you are in pain. Allah will never cause your pain to destroy you. Take your pain to Him, and He will soothe you and reward you for your patience. Take it all to Allah – the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion. Do not assume that the only emotions a “good Muslim” takes to Allah are gratitude and happiness and awe. Take them all to Allah, uncertainty, disappointment, anger — and He will bless you in all of those states, and guide you to what is better for you in this life, and the next, even if it’s not what you expected.

The struggles in your life are a test, and whether you pass or fail is not determined on whether you conquer them, only on whether you endure them. Expect that they will come, because having faith is not protection from struggle. Faith is protection from being broken by the struggle.

I ask Allah to protect us all from hardship, but protect us in our hardships as well. I ask Allah to grant us peace from His peace, and strength from His strength, to patiently endure and grow through our endurance.

Ameen.

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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#Current Affairs

Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians

Raashid Riza

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On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.

It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.

Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.

In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.

Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.

Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.

Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead

Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.

Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.

However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.

Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.  Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.

Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.

It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.

I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.

I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.

I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah

Raashid Riza is a Sri Lankan Muslim, the Politics & Society Editor of The Platform. He blogs here and tweets on @aufidius.

 

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