For those of you in Dubai, the Dubai International Peace Convention was two weekends ago, and I was an exhibitor there. Oh, yeah. And I had stickers. And I stuck them on people.
They said “Hello, I am: Autism Aware” and in order to earn one, you had to be naïve enough to be disarmed by my cheesy grin and then ambushed with “So, what do you know about autism!”
Then, if you were patient enough to nod through my five minute presentation/tirade on what autism is, why early recognition is important, and how to recognize it in a child as young as two (Poor eye contact, less than six words, lack of social interaction) and if you nodded at all the right bits and laughed at my attempts at funny bits, you got a sticker. Whether you wanted one or not.
(When a child isn’t talking by a certain age and the parents get worried, people typically say: Give him time! My friend knew this guy who had an uncle who didn’t talk until he was six, and now he’s a ninja-neuroscientist-pastry chef-professor! *rimshot* But actually, any child who isn’t talking by the age of two should have autism ruled out before any more time is allowed to pass.)
It was cool actually, people would come to the autism awareness stall because they had seen someone else wearing a “Hello, I am: Autism Aware” sticker and they sought us out because:
A) They wanted a sticker too -or-
B) They didn’t know was autism was but they wanted to find out -or-
C) They knew very well what autism was and wanted to compare notes
I met school kids who giggled and slapped stickers on each other, parents whose children were in other centers, teachers who were sure they had undiagnosed cases in their own classes, doctors who were not sure who to refer children to, and lots and lots of young mothers who I accosted with a flier that had some warning signs of autism divided by age from 18 months to four years.
I also met:
- Dr. Zakir Naik, briefly, surrounded by his entourage, as he made the rounds of all the stalls at the convention. He politely listened to my autism awareness tirade before the entourage juggernaut rolled onward to the next stall. He seemed like a nice man, MashaAllah.
- The mother of a nice young volunteer, who came to the stall out of politeness and left somberly with a “Signs of Autism” checklist in her hands with way too many underlined to take to her own non-verbal, hand-flapping, head-banging nephew.
- A man who, when cheerfully ambushed with my typical “So, what do you know about autism!” replied with a slow blink, some agonizing moments, and the shaky reply of “I know that it destroys your life.” He turned out to be an autism parent.
- A little boy with Asperger’s syndrome and his mother. He didn’t say a single word, and he stood reading a book the entire time his mother and I chatted, but he did look up and laugh at my one ninja-neuroscientist-pastry chef-professor joke before re-immersing himself in his book.
- A father who was just passing by when he saw the word autism and stopped because he had just been told the day before by a concerned friend that his son might have autism. He got the ‘Where to get help’ flier.
My duty at the Dubai International Peace Convention was four hours on Thursday and then nine hours on Friday and twelve hours on Saturday. It was emotionally intense, not just because I had to talk non-stop, but because I met so many people with terrible fears that were completely founded. SubhanAllahiWabihamdihi– my son has progressed to the point where we have hopes for him being able to get through primary school, InshaAllah. Most other parents get the door slammed in their face right from KG and it is never opened to them again, and here I was telling them: There is hope! But not for you, because your son is ten now! And hope has a waiting list! And based on the misery in your eyes, you couldn’t afford it anyway!
Allah u Akbar. A person who never speaks won’t be held accountable for lies, but it is agony for the parents every single day. Their child will never go to school, they will grow into an adult who cannot provide for their own needs- forget having a job- will they ever be able to dress themselves?
Let that question mark hang there for a moment, and imagine an old widow trying to care for an adult male who communicates by hitting, punching, and breaking- who collapses at home one day and no ambulance is called because her adult son can’t speak let alone use a phone.
When is she discovered? In what state will her son be at that time? Who among her relatives will take care of an adult male who cannot bathe himself? What institution will care for him? If he runs out of the house, confused by the noise and the ambulance and the strangers, who will chase him down and bring him back home to safety? If he fights the well-meaning strangers trying to take him home, how many of them will stay calm and keep trying after the first time they’re hit in the face or bitten in his panic? A better question to ask might be: what color car will hit him first?
These are the questions I ask myself when I meet other families with autism, and the only light in the darkness of that scenario is that Allah knows best.
He does. Allah knows best. And we suffer in this life so that we can be rewarded in the next, but never beyond what we are able to cope with. Allah will care for the grown man with autism, and nothing will happen to him that Allah has not willed and has not deemed to be good for his status in the Akhirah. I was asked, by one woman at the conference, how I could even think of having other children (I have three) after my first child was discovered to have autism. I told her that it must be good for him- maybe if my son didn’t have autism he would have been a thief, a rapist, or a murderer. Or worse- he could have been a very successful and handsome intellectual sort of young man who fell in love with the dunya and left Islam to become one of its enemies because it was easier and more glamorous than being one of its defenders. There are worse things than being autistic- getting your account in your left hand on the Day of Judgment is definitely one of them.
My son was kicking the wall last night at 10:30 pm. I went into his room and asked him if everything was alright. He sat up in bed and said, in his funny robotic way:
“I have – a –secret – Idea.”
I smiled in the dark. My son is verbal, Alhamdulillah, and after years of wondering what he was thinking when he sat staring into space for hours, I sometimes get to find out.
“You have a secret idea? Really? What is it?
“I’m thinking- what is charity? Is it an idea?”
Two days ago, one of his ABA therapists was helping him with a worksheet in which he was supposed to sort a pile of nouns into categories- people, things, and ideas. A fireman is a person, a car is a thing, a discovery is an idea. Charity was not in that list.
“Yes, charity is when we give things to other people to make Allah happy with us. It’s something we do, but it’s not a person or a thing. It’s an idea.”
“Good night Khalid.”
He dives back onto his pillow and I can hear him kicking the wall again later, but I know he’s awake because he’s busy sorting nouns in his head. On some nights I go into his room hours after he’s “gone to bed” because I can hear him talking to himself, and he’s reciting Dubai street names and road numbers. (Two seconds ago: “Baniyas road. Baniyas. Baniyas road.”) I went into his room one night at 11 pm and asked him if he was feeling alright because I could hear him flipping around in bed.
“Khalid, do you need help?”
“Yes, where’s TECOM?”
“Near Barsha. After Mall of the Emirates. Before Knowledge Village I think. Good night.”
He’s asleep right now, and in our little home, all is the right with the world. Throughout Dubai, and the UAE, and the rest of the world where one in eighty-eight children are diagnosed with the nearly crippling developmental delay of autism all is still right with the world.
For Muslim parents, autism is the opportunity to have the false pretenses of societal expectations and wealth and family pride and superiority forcibly stripped away from the core responsibilities of what it means to be both Muslim and parent. You don’t need to worry about keeping up with the Joneses- they stopped inviting you over after that meltdown one time and don’t call anymore once they found out your son had special needs. Trust in Allah and take care of your child. His disability is a gift, because accountability is harsh. Worry more for yourself than for him and whether you are able to justice to your child without growing to hate what his label stands for, and have faith- really- in Allah’s plan without allowing Shaytan to plant the seed of bitterness in your heart with what Allah has willed for you.
May Allah have mercy on us all, and give us the patience and Taqwa to see even our disabilities as opportunities for Jannah.
Please speak with a specialist immediately if your child:
By 18 months:
- Doesn’t point to show things to others
- Can’t walk
- Doesn’t know what familiar things are for
- Doesn’t copy others
- Doesn’t gain new words
- Doesn’t have at least 6 words
- Doesn’t notice or mind when a caregiver leaves or returns
By 2 years:
- Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”)
- Doesn’t know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, spoon
- Doesn’t copy actions and words
- Doesn’t follow simple instructions
- Doesn’t walk steadily
- Loses skills she once had
By 3 years:
- Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
- Doesn’t speak in sentences
- Doesn’t understand simple instructions
- Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
- Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
- Avoids or doesn’t make eye contact
- Loses skills he once had
By 4 years:
- Has trouble scribbling
- Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
- Ignores other children or doesn’t respond to people outside the family
- Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
- Can’t retell a favorite story
- Doesn’t follow 3-part commands
- Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
- Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
- Speaks unclearly
- Loses skills he once had
The signs of autism- excerpted from The Mayo Clinic website:
Some children show signs of autism in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life but then suddenly become withdrawn, become aggressive or lose language skills they’ve already acquired. Though each child with autism is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior, these are some common autism symptoms:
- Fails to respond to his or her name
- Has poor eye contact
- Appears not to hear you at times
- Resists cuddling and holding
- Appears unaware of others’ feelings
- Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her “own world”
- Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months
- Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
- Doesn’t make eye contact when making requests
- Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
- Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
- May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them
- Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
- Develops specific routines or rituals
- Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals
- Moves constantly
- May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car
- May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain
Jannah Wall Art | MuslimKidsMatter
Assalam Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh
Jannah Wall Art
We thought long and hard about what to focus on this Ramadan. We decided it would be motivation! The desire to do pray has to spring from motivation. Being obedient to parents has to spring from motivation. Racing to do any good deed has to spring from motivation. Children love rewards and what better reward and motivator to focus on, than Jannah itself, the best and ultimate reward.
Each day in Ramadan, the challenge is to read a description or two of Jannah, cut out a petal, and write the description in a few words on the petal. Children then need to stick the petals next to each other to make a flower. By the end of Ramadan, the children will have made a beautiful flower containing the descriptions of Jannah to hang up on their walls to remind them why they need to pray, be good to their parents, give charity and accumulate as many good deeds as possible.
Everything has been provided for you including the descriptions of Jannah, the petal template, a sample of what the flower should look like and step by step instructions. You just need to print and execute!
GET YOUR FREE RESOURCE NOW
May Allah allow us all to witness Ramadan and make us from those who excel in worship throughout the blessed month.
The Ilmburst Family
MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims
The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction
“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide
As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.
The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.
The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.
The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.
As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.
Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.
“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.
You can find the #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/
Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change
Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.
When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.
We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.
Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.
One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.
“اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”
“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? ”
The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.
Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.
A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.
Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.
My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”
Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.
*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind
Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.
 Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.