Connect with us

Family and Community

The Apprentice




بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

As someone who had no younger sibling; who never in her life babysat any little children for even an hour; who has more than the average penchant for personal privacy, solitude and demarcated boundaries of living space, I often find myself at the receiving end of the following question:

How can you have your children (now numbering three, masha’Allah) around at home all day without going crazy?

I was at some point along the first-time parenting journey myself such a skeptic who would have asked any other homeschooling mother exactly the same question! What’s more, I would have privately questioned her sanity or marveled at her – what was for me – an almost superhuman level of patience and forbearance.

However, this post is not about homeschooling per se, perchance I alienate those conscientious parents who are striving to bring up their children well but choose to send them to school, lest they stop reading ahead with a dismissive eye roll.

In this post I want to talk about how, as a parent, something inside me regarding my inner views about parenting changed along the way, and today I want to talk about just that (i.e. what changed).

Answer: My own mindset – the way I chose to perceive the presence of my children around me for most part of the day – tantrums, bawls, dirty diapers, runny noses, incessant interruptions, and unwelcome preemption, et al.

I was once a snap-happy, cranky, short-tempered, prone-to-scream-at-the-drop-of-a-hat mother; at least I hope that now, I am less of that, as compared to when I had just one toddler and blew a fuse as soon as she climbed up on a chair and toppled a bowl of hot milk or tea on the dining table as soon as I turned my back.

Fact is, it was analysis of the words of Allah in the Quran, and incidents in the seerah of His Prophet [صلى الله عليه و سلم] that made me change the way I thought. There are a few historic events narrated in the Quran that highlight how someone young, a child or a teenager at the most, helped an adult in his or her work, quest or journey.

Consequently, now when I look at my children and realize that they are just that – little human beings pre-programmed by Allah to act and react a certain way to environmental stimuli because of the age they are at – I cringe and seek forgiveness from Allah for my past skewed perception of them as a new parent.

The sister of Prophet Musa helping her mother get him back

A young mother-daughter duo worked as a team once to deal with the separation of a new baby boy. Yes, I find it endearing to read in the Quran, how the older sister of Prophet Musa [عليه السلام] helped her mother fend off anxiety and sorrow after the latter submitted to Allah’s command and put her infant son afloat in a river inside a chest:

إِذْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّكَ مَا يُوحَى

“Recall (when) We inspired in your mother that which is inspired,” [20:38]

وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

“And We inspired the mother of Moses, saying: Suckle him and, when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not nor grieve. Lo! We shall bring him back unto you and shall make him (one) of Our messengers.” [28:7]

Anyone who has a baby (and even those who don’t) can perhaps only imagine the pain Prophet Musa’s mother must have felt upon being separated from her infant boy; how she must have summoned up enough fortitude and trust in Allah to cast her baby into a chest along a flowing river! Yet, she did it.

After her infant vanished from her sight, and her heart became empty, her “apprentice” came to her aid:

إِذْ تَمْشِي أُخْتُكَ فَتَقُولُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى مَن يَكْفُلُهُ فَرَجَعْنَاكَ إِلَى أُمِّكَ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ وَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا فَنَجَّيْنَاكَ مِنَ الْغَمِّ وَفَتَنَّاكَ فُتُونًا فَلَبِثْتَ سِنِينَ فِي أَهْلِ مَدْيَنَ ثُمَّ جِئْتَ عَلَى قَدَرٍ يَا مُوسَى

“Behold! Your sister went forth and said, ‘Shall I show you one who will nurse and rear the (child)?’ So We brought you back to your mother, that her eye might be cooled and she should not grieve…..” [20:40]

Why did the sister step in to help? I think that perhaps if the mother had herself followed the chest containing the infant down the river, it would have roused onlookers’ suspicion that the infant belonged to her i.e. it was her own son. Further, since the Israelites were killing the male babies that year, the baby might have gotten killed as a result.

In order to be discreet in the pursuit of the baby, and also perhaps because a young girl child can perhaps run faster without garnering others’ attention to herself in public than a mother whose heart is torn with sorrow, the older sister of the infant not only kept the floating chest in sight but also played a key role in Allah’s plan of returning Prophet Musa to her mother without being killed that year:

According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir: “Then, his sister came and said, هَلْ أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَكْفُلُونَهُ لَكُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ نَـصِحُونَ – “Shall I direct you to a household who will rear him for you, and look after him in a good manner?”. She meant, “Shall I guide you to someone who can nurse him for you for a fee?” So she took him and they went with her to his real mother. When her breast was presented to him, he took it and they (Firaun’s family) were extremely happy for this. Thus, they hired her to nurse him and she achieved great happiness and comfort because of him, in this life and even more so in the Hereafter.”

By pondering on this incident in the Quran, I realized that Allah has used even young children to establish His decree on earth and used their “services” to carry out his Divine plans.

Could it be that children are smarter and more capable of handling responsibilities than we think?

The young lad traveling with Prophet Musa to seek knowledge

In Surah Al-Kahf, Allah describes how Prophet Musa [عليه السلام] firmly resolved to go on traveling until he could meet and attain knowledge from Khidr. Interestingly, he had a young lad with him throughout his journey, who was called Yusha Bin Nun, and their closeness and mutual companionship is evident from the way they talk about matters:

وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِفَتَاهُ لَا أَبْرَحُ حَتَّى أَبْلُغَ مَجْمَعَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ أَوْ أَمْضِيَ حُقُبًا

“Behold, Moses said to his attendant, “I will not give up until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I spend years and years in travel.” [18:60]

The Arabic word used for the young lad is “فَتًى”, which means a youth in the prime of life (Lane). This implies a boy who is a tween or in his early teens.

At one point in their journey in the quest for knowledge, this young boy – the apprentice – played a key role in informing Prophet Musa [عليه السلام], when the latter asked him to bring him his food, about how their fish had escaped from them and taken a route in the sea, and how Shaitan had made him forget to inform him before about this:

قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَ إِذْ أَوَيْنَا إِلَى الصَّخْرَةِ فَإِنِّي نَسِيتُ الْحُوتَ وَمَا أَنسَانِيهُ إِلَّا الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ أَذْكُرَهُ وَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ عَجَبًا

“Did you see (what happened) when we betook ourselves to the rock? I did indeed forget (about) the Fish: none but Satan made me forget to tell (you) about it: it took its course through the sea in a marvellous way!” [18:63]

The escape of the salted dead fish into the water after coming back to life, was actually meant to be a signal from Allah that they had reached the place where they would find Khidr (Tafsir Ibn Kathir). When the lad told him this, Prophet Musa replied: “This is that which we have been seeking!” and then they both retraced their steps to that point in order to finally find and meet Khidr.

This incident brings to light quite a few things about adults dealing with youths:

  1. Adults should delegate responsibility to young people (tweens, teens, or even younger) and allow them to help them in their daily tasks, especially during strenuous journeys.
  2. We should take our children along on quests for knowledge of Deen.
  3. It really is okay for children to hang out with adults, contrary to the contemporary trend of pressuring children as young as two to “socialize” mostly with same-age peers and friends.
  4. Adults should have a frank and friendly relationship with younger people, especially their own children, students or helpers. Such an open and friendly relationship can make both benefit from apprenticeship. It was this easygoing openness that allowed Prophet Musa’s attendant to openly tell him about the escape of the fish, and admit that it was Shaitan that had made him forget to tell him. Note how he doesn’t lie nor give flimsy excuses, but comes clean and speaks up honestly.
  5. Adults should forgive and overlook the mistakes and errors of youths, as did Prophet Musa.
  6. One of the biggest advantages of being old(er) is that younger ones can serve you! E.g. Bringing you your food when you are tired. ;)

Prophet Ismail helping his father build the Ka’bah

Another interesting and historically poignant event narrated in the Quran involves a father-son duo doing what many father-son pairs would love doing in any era: a construction or building project. Only, the building they were putting together was no ordinary one:

وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ

“..And We imposed a duty upon Ibrahim and Ismael, (saying): Purify My house for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship).” [2:125]

وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

“And when Ibrahim and Ismael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! You, only You, are the Hearer, the Knower.” [2:127]

We already know that Prophet Ibrahim was quite old when two sons, first Ismail and then Ishaq, were born to him. This indicates the considerable age difference between Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail when they were instructed by Allah to not just construct the holy Ka’bah, but to also purify it from the filth of idols and other physical and sexual impurities (Tafsir Ibn Kathir).

Once again, the Quran encourages us parents, albeit indirectly, to employ the aid, help and companionship of our children, even when the latter are young (barely out of childhood) in all our endeavors, but in particular, in those of our efforts, activities, toils and quests that are aimed at seeking the pleasure of Allah and upholding or propagating the Deen of Islam (monotheism).

In the above verses, it is obvious that not only did the young son help his elderly father physically build the Ka’bah, but he also helped him purify it, then engaged along with him in earnest supplication to Allah that He accept their efforts.

Contrast that to how some modern-day parents are themselves extremely active in propagating knowledge of Deen and doing Da’wah, yet their children are always in others’ company, be it nannies when they are younger, or secular-minded (or even atheist) friends when they are older.

I have personally attended religious talks in homes where the youngsters are never in attendance as their mother or father discusses/teaches the Quran to others. They are either watching television, out socializing with friends, or shut up in their rooms studying for exams.

It is a bit alarming to witness some Muslim families in which the parents are righteous and obey the tenets of Islam, and on top of that, they have been doing active teaching of the Quran and sunnah since their children were minors, yet as these children of theirs grow up, they seem to disregard obedience to even the obligatory rules and commands of Islam, such as praying all the five daily salah‘s or observing hijab at the mandated time.

As the years pass, a clear diversion is seen in the lifestyle and religiosity of the children of some da’ee’s and religious teachers, from the path of righteousness that their parents have adopted for themselves, so much so that, as the parents go off for recurring umrah, hajj, and Islamic da’wah retreats, the young children stay back at home, going out on dates or to drinking parties with their romantic partners and other friends. Are you surprised? It is more common than we acknowledge.

The Quran should make us modern-day parents who think that religion is a personal matter and a “choice” that their little children should make on their own once they reach the age of maturity, wake up and smell the coffee: we should take our children along with ourselves on the journey towards Allah as soon as we can, since they are little (even babies), and try not to leave them with human or digital babysitters to “come towards religion on their own”, when they get older.

In answer to the question…

I have alhamdulillah come a long, long way since my perception of my children as noise-creators, troublemakers, clutter-generators and stress-inducers who need to be run after and coerced to behave properly.

Now I see them as my young “apprentices” in the path of Deen, albeit ones who need a stern eye and a reprimand here and there when they, acting upon their natural human instincts, act naughtily or behave mischievously.

I find myself enamored by their honesty (they are frank and upfront to the point of being totally blunt), intrigued by their relentless spontaneity, and in complete admiration of their positivity and lack of grudges and enmity for others.

I now love having these wonderful beings in my life 24/7, because contrary to what it appears to be like, I am learning immensely from them. For the first time in my life, I am spending days and nights in the company of human beings who have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, an incessant curiosity about the world around them; an insatiable ability to ask questions until they get satisfactory answers, and a refreshingly tireless interest in others, especially in their Lord, Allah, and in the reality about the life of this world.

As little hands help me pick up the crumbs from the carpet, fold the laundry, wipe the counter and even massage my forehead when I am tired, I sorely regret and seek forgiveness for ever considering these “apprentices” to be the cause of unwelcome interruptions and “disturbances” in my so-called hitherto peaceful and methodical life, and thank Allah with the bottom of my heart for giving me little helpers in the path of His Deen, who will hopefully always be my side as we tread along it to reach the final, coveted destination: Allah’s pleasure in the Hereafter.

Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan. 11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette. Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'. For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.



  1. Avatar

    Zari DSilvah

    May 4, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    Jazakallahu khayran Sr. Sadaf! As a mother-to-be insha’allah, I was pondering over similar doubts myself! May Allah reward you for your efforts ameen. 

  2. Avatar

    Abu Yusuf

    May 4, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Salaam Alaykum,

    Sadaf is the best female writer on MM. Keep it up. One correction if you allow – in the ayah 20:38, Sadaf translated the first word “Idh” as “When”. In fact that is a common mistake. “Idh” is not short for “idha” which is why people think it means “when”. Rather, “idh” is short for “udhkuroo” and so “idh” means “Remember” or “Recall”.

    • Avatar

      Abu Yusuf

      May 5, 2012 at 1:16 AM

      Salaam Alaykum,

      Some people were confused about the usage of ‘idh’ in the ayah I referenced. To further clarify my point – “Idh” when used as the word commencing an ayah is the object of the verb “udhkuroo” and thus means remember/recall. If “idh” is found in between the sentence but not commencing, then it becomes zarf zamaan and denotes action in the past i.e. “when”. So in the ayah Sadaf referenced, the correct translation is “remember”. In another ayah, for e.g. ayah 40 of soorah Tawbah where “idh” does not commence the ayah, “idh” translates as “when”. {……faqad nasarahullaahu idh akhrajahu….} = {….for Allah did indeed help him when the disbelievers drove him out…}. Here, the correct translation of “idh” is when, but if “idh” commences an ayah, then it means “remember”.

      So I hope the ayah translation in the article above gets corrected as precision in Qur’anic translation is of utmost importance and sensitivity.

    • Avatar


      May 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      وعليكم السلام
      I have made the amendment. Jazak Allah khair for the suggestion. 

  3. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    May 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Beautiful mashaAllah!!!!

  4. Avatar


    May 4, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    now that is a whole new perspective!!! jazakAllah khair for sharing sister sadaf!! may Allah take the best work of deen from u and ur apprentices, as well as from us! Amen!

    • Avatar


      May 7, 2012 at 5:21 AM


  5. Avatar


    May 5, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Jazaakillahu khairan ukhtee

  6. Avatar


    May 5, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    jazakillah khair sadaf! I always love your writings and musings and reflections especially the Quran based ones (well all that I’ve read are Quran based alhamdulillah mashaaallah!);)
    You just gave me proofs for what I’ve been advocating mashaAllah! It’s nice to see this perspective from the Quran subhanallah.
    Our world today segregates the adult from the children in what I see as artificial settings …and this has caused some problems in my opinion. Trying to look for a shadowing opportunity for my teens is challenging. I love the idea of apprenticeship. I was reading Roger Schank’s Teaching Minds, and well he has a radical idea about teaching (hey, you should read it :)) but I like what he says about training our children as young as high school rather than have them take standard subjects that they have to take because they could or might use them some day. I strongly believe in involving our youth, as young as 6/7 in our community projects, dawah work, from small to large scales. Even as young as 6, they can do simple stuff like help set the tables in community events etc. The only thing is, the adult volunteers need to let these kids help. Make them feel welcome and don’t make them feel like they’re a nuisance. Ask for their opinions and respect it. I see in our communities, unfortunately, some adults don’t even look at the younger ppl in the community, barely gives them the time of day. Where is the mercy towards the young? I believe that if we treat our children like children, they will act like chidlren. Give them responsibilities and inshaallah, through mistakes and training, they will be responsibile. Don’t underestimate their abilities. I learned this years ago :D Jazakillah khair for this Sadaf, again. One of those topics I feel so strongly about.


    • Avatar


      May 7, 2012 at 4:55 AM

      Jazakillah khair for your insightful input, Juli.

      Your homeschooling blog was actually a major inspiration for me to at least try to homeschool my own children; to give it one test shot to see how it goes. 

      I used to read it regularly since when my first born was just a toddler. :)

  7. Avatar


    May 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    SubhanAllah, your post reminded me of how my parents raised my brothers and I – from the very moment we could run from one room to another, we were involved in our local Islamic centre and expected to help in every way… whether it was summoning husbands for their wives, passing along plates and cups for events, or painstakingly acting as “cashier” during the Islamic book fairs!
    I only hope that I can provide the same kind of education and “apprenticeship” for my own daughter inshaAllah!

  8. Avatar


    May 6, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Allah has truly blessed you with deep Quranic insight sister Sadaf, I never even realized this. JazakAllah Khair for this beautiful reminder!!!

  9. Avatar


    May 9, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    wow…i am pretty similar to you ..blessed with 3 children and the also the one with no younger sibling …thanks for showing me things in a new light….it is so hard to be patient when all three are cranky the same time…May Allah(swt) make us and our progeny beloved to Him.

  10. Avatar


    May 13, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    I agree with Sadaf that these days there is a major difference in how much importance the parents and children give to religion. I feel that to make the children feel the importance of religion we should teach it to them through the means that they like. As in give them a little treat for every time they pray or they fast. Giving them little incentives actually works. And these days the game culture is taking over all of the free time children have. So we should make religion practising interesting and fascinating for them. For instance install a Tasbih App This is just for very young kids. Once they start finding peace in the remembrance of Allah, the process of giving incentives will end :)

  11. Avatar


    February 14, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    As salaamalykum sister,
    I read ur post, alhamdulillah I am pursuing taleem al Qur’an as a correspondence course, I started the course so as to gain knowledge of quran and teach my kids deen and also to answer their quiries , alhamdulillah now am in Juz 14, I now realize the person who needed improvement was I myself, alhamdulillah this is an investment for my own self improvement.
    I would like to keep in touch with you inshallah.

  12. Pingback: A Mother’s Single-Handed Upbringing | Verse By Verse Qur'an Study Circle

Leave a Reply

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


Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari



For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

Continue Reading


A Word On Muslim Attitudes Toward Abortion

Dr Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, Guest Contributor



The Qur’an describes Muslims committed to its mores as “a moderate nation,” and that sense of balance qualifies them to stand as “witnesses over humanity” (Q 2:143). Contemporary Muslims revel in this assertion, especially when it seems that “Islam” proposes a via media solution to a highly polarizing subject as abortion. What currently constitutes “Islam” on a given topic, however, often reflects the personal prerogative apparently offered to the average Muslim by a list of diverse legal perspectives. In other words, the mere fact that multiple legal opinions exist on one or more topics is now taken as license to appropriate any one of them, without any deep ethical reflection on the implications of the opinion, however anomalous it may be.

“Islam is the golden mean between all ethical extremes” is what certain Muslims would assert. So if one extreme bars abortion under all circumstances and the other seeks to allow it throughout the duration of the pregnancy, one would assume that Islam must land somewhere in the middle, both forbidding and allowing abortion in certain circumstances. This moral assumption isn’t far from the truth. However, the mere existence of multiple opinions on a topic does not mean that each opinion has equal validity, nor does it mean that every opinion is valid for one to adopt. Similarly, “Islam” or “Islamic law” cannot be summed up into a simple formula like “majority rules” or “when in doubt about prohibition or allowance, the action is, therefore, merely disliked.”

Legal positivism plagues both religious and secular-minded people. Just as an act does not acquire its moral strength simply because it is legal, morally appropriate opinions are not always codified into law. If it is true that any unjust law is no law at all, where is the injustice and to whom is it being perpetrated against in the debate between pro-lifers and pro-choicers? Is it deemed unjust to prevent a pregnant woman from disposing of an “insignificant lifeless part of her body” that no one other than herself should be able to decide what to do with? Or is one “depriving a helpless growing person” of the opportunity and right to exist after its Creator initiated its journey into the world? Does a law that prevents a woman impregnated by a family member or rapist from an abortion oppress her? Or does such a law protect the life of a vulnerable fetus, who, like other weak members of society, is expected to be protected by the strong? Does it do both or neither? And if one is taking the “life” of this fetus, what proof is there that it is a living creature?

While these are all extremely important questions, this missive is neither intended necessarily to answer them nor to resolve today’s raging political debate. The main goal here is to offer ideas that should be on the minds of Muslims when deciding to join such debates or promoting the idea that their “religion” provides the best solution to social polarization, when by “religion” we mean the opinion of a small minority of scholars in some place and time in Muslim history.

Islamic law is very sophisticated; the legislative process is not facile, nor is it a place where any Muslim is entitled to pragmatically select the opinions that he/she finds attractive and accommodating. It demands knowledge of particular aims, the ability to properly realize those aims in the lives of people, and understanding the epistemic and metaphysical foundations that ensure that judgments conform to coherent rationale. In other words, the laws of Islam and the opinions of jurists cannot be divorced from their philosophical and evidentiary underpinnings. Otherwise, the thread holding the moral tapestry of Islam together falls apart completely at its seams.

Is Abortion Lawful in Islam?

Many past and present have written about the Islamic view of abortion. The ancient scholars prohibited it at all stages of the pregnancy and made practically no exception. Some would later allow for it only if the mother’s life was in danger. That notwithstanding, six popular legal opinions exist regarding abortion:

  • Unlawful (haram), in all stages of the pregnancy.
  • Permitted (ja’iz), during the first 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
  • Disliked (makruh), before the passage of 40 days but unlawful (haram) afterwards.
  • Permitted (ja’iz), if it is from illicit intercourse (zina).
  • Permitted (ja’iz) without conditions, before 120 days.
  • Permitted only for a legitimate excuse.

The late mufti of Fez, Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil (d. 2015) said,

The first opinion forbidding that during the [first] 40 [days] and beyond, regardless of whether or not it is due to an excuse, even if from illicit intercourse, is the view of the supermajority [of jurists].[1]

The Qur’an is a Book of Ethical Teaching

The reasons for the cavalier attitude among contemporary Muslims about abortion are multiple. The most significant reason may be that at times Islam is seen as a synonym for shariah. The truth, however, is that the shariah is only part of Islam. Islam covers law (fiqh), creed (aqidah), and ethics (akhlaq). Even though the Qur’an consists of laws, it is not a book of law. It is a book of ethical teachings. Merely 10%–12% of the Qur’an relates to legal injunctions. It is not characteristic of the Qur’an to enjoin upon Muslims to command what is “compulsory” or “recommended” and to forbid what is “unlawful” and “disliked.” What is common though is for it to command us to do what is “ma’ruf” and to avoid what is “munkar.”

“Ma’ruf” and “munkar” can be translated respectively as “what is socially commendable” and “what is socially condemnatory.” This is in spite of the fact that social acceptability and unacceptability are often subjective. This does not mean that the Qur’an is morally relativistic. It is quite the contrary. What this means, however, is that the Qur’an’s aim is not merely to teach Muslims what one can and cannot do. It means, rather, that the Qur’an has a greater concern with what Muslims “should” and “should not” do. For this very reason, the companions of the Prophet seldom differentiated between his encouragement and discouragement of acts by the juristic values of disliked, unlawful, recommended, and compulsory. Rather, if the Prophet encouraged something beneficial, they complied. And, if he discouraged from something potentially harmful, they refrained.

The Qur’an permits many actions. However, to permit an act is not equivalent to encouraging it. It permits polygyny (Q 4:3), the enslavement of non-Muslim war captives (Q 8:70), and marrying the sister of one’s ex-wife (Q 4:23). Similarly, some Muslim jurists validate marriage agreements wherein the man secretly intends to divorce the woman after a certain period of time known only to him.[2] This is the case, even though the average Muslim man is monogamous; practically no Muslim today believes it is moral to enslave a person; the vast majority of Muslims find the marriage of one’s sister-in-law upon the death of one’s wife to be taboo; and they chide men who marry with a temporary intention of marriage. If the mere existence of permission or legal opinion permitting a socially condemnable act is a legitimate reason to adopt it, why would Muslims be uneasy about these cases but inclined to take a different stance when it comes to abortion?

The proper Islamic position on any given issue of public or private concern should not only consider what the law or jurists have to say about the topic. Rather, one should also consider how theology and ethics connect with those laws or opinions. That is to say, one should ask, “What wisdom does God seek to realize from this injunction or opinion?” assuming that such a wisdom can be identified. Secondly, one need ask,

“Who and how many will be helped or harmed if this action is undertaken?”

The Qur’an is the primary source of Islam’s ethics. And, one often observes a major difference between its morality and the morality validated by certain jurists, often lacking a clear connection to Qur’anic and prophetic precepts. That notwithstanding, a juristic opinion can sometimes masquerade as one that is authentically Islamic, especially when it aims to appease or assuage a social or political concern. Consequently, one finds some contemporary scholars championing opinions simply­ because they exist, like that of mainstream Shafi’is who traditionally argued that the reason for jihad was to rid the world of unIslamic doctrines (kufr); or certain contemporaries who validated taking of the lives of innocent women, children, and other non-combatants in suicide bombings; those who endorsed the execution of Jews for converting to Christianity and vice versa;[3] or others who classified slaves as animals rather than human beings?[4] For, surely, there are Muslim jurists who validate each one of these opinions, despite their evidentiary weakness. Hence, simply because there is an opinion allowing for abortions does not necessarily mean that it is something Islam allows, even in cases of rape and incest.

When Does Life Begin?

Medieval Muslim scholars, naturally, lacked the scientific tools that we have today to determine whether or not the fetus growing in its mother’s womb was actually a viable creation and a living creature from conception. Other than when the fetus first showed signs of movement in its mother’s belly, scholars took their cues from the Qur’an and prophetic tradition on when the fetus possessed a soul or if it did so at all. For this reason, very few scholars have offered clear answers to the question of when human life begins, while they agreed that upon 120 days, the child is definitely a living person.

According to the Andalusian scholar of Seville, Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1148),

The child has three states: 1) one state prior to coming into [material] existence …, 2) a state after the womb takes hold of the sperm …, and 3) a state after its formation and before the soul is breathed into it …, and when the soul is breathed into it, it is the taking of a life. [5]

Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) said,

Coitus interruptus (‘azl) is not like abortion and infanticide (wa’d) because it [abortion] is a crime against an actualized existence (mawjud hasil). And, it has stages, the first being the stage of the sperm entering into the womb, then mixing with the woman’s fluid, and then preparing for the acceptance of life. To disturb that is a crime. Then, if it becomes a clot (‘alaqah) or a lump (mudghah), the crime is more severe. Then, if the soul is breathed into it and the physical form is established, the crime increases in gravity. [6]

These are some of the most explicit statements from Medieval Muslim scholars; they deemed that life begins at inception. The Qur’an states, “Does man think that he will be left for naught (sudan)? Was he not a sperm-drop ejected from sexual fluid?” (75:36-37). In other words, the “sperm-drop” phase is the start of human existence, and existence is the basis for human dignity, as with other living creatures. The human being was a “sperm-drop.” If that is so, this strongly suggests that meddling with this fluid, even before the fetus begins to grow and develop limbs and organs, would be to violate the sanctity of a protected creature. The Qur’an further says, “Did We not create you from a despicable fluid? And then, We placed you in a firm resting place, until a defined scope” (Q 77:20-22). The use of the second person plural pronoun (you) in these verses strongly suggests that the start of human life begins at inception. This is not to mention the multiple verses forbidding one from killing one’s children due to poverty, fear of poverty, or out of shame or folly.

The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) similarly offers sufficient indication that even though the fetus is not fully formed, it is still an actualized existence and living creature. The Prophet reportedly said, “The miscarried fetus will remain humbly lying with its face down at the gates of heaven saying, ‘I will only enter when my parents do.’”[7] Similarly, it is reported that when the second caliph ‘Umar b. al-Khattab ordered that an adulteress discovered to be pregnant be stoned to death, the companion, Mu’adh b. Jabal, said to him, “Even if you have a right to punish her, you do not have a right to punish what is in her belly.”[8] The Prophet and his followers after him never executed a pregnant woman guilty of a capital crime until she gave birth and someone had taken on the care of the child. In addition, they imposed a hefty fine on those who were directly responsible for a woman’s miscarriage.[9] All of this indicates that the fetus is to be respected from the time the male’s sperm reaches the ovum of the woman.

Imam Al-Razi’s Ethical Reflection on the Qur’anic Verse, 6:140

God says in the Qur’an, “Ruined are those who murder their children foolishly without knowledge and forbid what God has provided them with while inventing falsehoods against God. They have strayed and are not guided aright” (6:140).

About this verse, Imam Fakr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210) comments,

Many issues relate to the verse: the first issue is that God mentioned, in the preceding verse, their murder of their children while depriving themselves of the sustenance that God provided them with. Then, God brings these two matters together in this verse while clarifying to them all that is a logical consequence of this judgment, such as ruin, folly, lack of knowledge, the deprivation of what God has provided them, false statements against God, straying, and the privation of guidance. So these are seven characteristics, each of which is an independent cause for censure. The first is ruin (khusran), and that is because a child is an immense blessing from God upon a person, so when one strives to terminate its existence, he/she suffers great ruin and especially deserves great censure in life and a severe punishment in the hereafter due to terminating its existence. Censure in life is warranted because people say one has murdered one’s child out of fear of it eating one’s food. And there is no censure in life greater than such. Punishment in the hereafter is warranted because the closeness resulting from childbirth is one of the greatest sources of love. Then, upon achieving it, one sets out to deliver the greatest of harms to it [the child], thereby committing one of the gravest sins. As a consequence, one of the greatest punishments is warranted. The second is folly (safahah), which is an expression of condemnable frivolousness. That is because the murder of the child is only committed in light of the fear of poverty. And, even though poverty is itself a harm, murder is a much graver harm. Additionally, this murder is actualized, while the poverty [feared] is merely potential (mawhum). So enforcing the maximum harm in anticipation of a potential minimal harm is, without doubt, folly. The third regards God’s saying, “without knowledge.” The intent is that this folly was only born of the absence of knowledge. And there is no doubt that ignorance is one of the most objectionable and despicable of things. The fourth regards depriving one’s self of what God has made lawful. It is also one of the worst kinds of stupidity, because one denies one’s self those benefits and good things, becoming entitled by reason of that deprivation of the severest torment and chastisement. The fifth is blaspheming God. And it is known that boldness against God and blaspheming Him is one of the cardinal sins. The sixth is straying from prudence (rushd) with relation to the interests of the faith (din) and the benefits found in the world. The seventh is that they are not guided aright. The benefit of it is that a person might stray from the truth but may return to proper guidance. So God clarifies that they have strayed without ever obtaining proper direction. So it is established that God has censured those described as having murdered children and denied what God has made lawful for them, with these seven characteristics necessitating the worse types of censure. And that is the ultimate hyperbole.[10]

The Ethical Contentions of a Moroccan Mufti

We have already quoted Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ta’wil of Morocco. Like the medieval scholars, he maintained a very conservative opinion on abortion, allowing it only if the mother’s life was at risk. The following is a list of his nine ethical contentions against abortion and those scholarly opinions allowing it. The bulk of what follows is a literal translation of his views. Regarding why abortion is immoral, he says:

  • Firstly, it is a transgression against a vulnerable creature who has committed neither sin nor crime, a denial of it from its right to existence and life that God has given it and Islam has guaranteed as well as the taking of a life in some situations.
  • Secondly, it is a clear challenge to God’s will and a demonstratively defiant act meant to stubbornly contend with God’s action, creative will, and judgment. And that manifests itself in the murder of what God has created, the voiding of its existence, and a commission of what He deems unlawful.
  • Thirdly, it a decisively demonstrative proof of hard-heartedness, the absence of mercy, and the loss of motherly and fatherly affection or rather the loss of humanity from the hearts of those who daringly undertake the act of abortion with dead hearts and wicked dark souls.
  • Fourthly, it is the epitome of self-centeredness, selfishness, narcissism, and sacrifice of what is most precious¾one’s own flesh and blood, sons and daughters¾to gratify the self and enjoy life and its attractions far away from the screams of infants, the troubles of children, and the fatigue resulting from them.
  • Fifthly, it is a practical expression of one’s bad opinion of God, the lack of trust in His promise to which He decisively bounded Himself to guarantee the sustenance of His creation and servants. It also shows ignorance of His saying, “And, there is not a single creature on earth except that God is responsible for its sustenance, just as He knows its resting place and place from which it departs. Every thing is in a manifest record (Q 11:6); as well as His saying, “And do not kill your children due to poverty. We will provide for you as well as for them” (Q 6:151); in addition to His saying, “And, do not kill your children out of fear of poverty. We will provide for them and for you” (Q 17:31). This is in addition to other verses and prophetic traditions that indicate that all provisions are in God’s control and that no soul will die until it exacts its sustenance in full as the Prophet said.
  • Sixthly, it is a bloody war against the Islamic goal, introduced by the Prophet and to which he called and strongly encouraged, of population growth and increase in posterity.
  • Seventhly, it undermines the aims of the Islamic moral code that considers the preservation of offspring to be one of the five essentials upon which the sanctified revealed moral code is built.
  • Eighthly, it goes against the nature to which God has disposed both animals and human beings to of love of children, childbearing, and the survival of progeny….
  • Ninthly, it is the grossest display of bad manners towards God and the epitome of ingratitude towards a blessing and the rejection of it. And that is because both pregnancy and children are among God’s favors upon His servants and among His gifts to the expectant mother and her husband.

These are some important matters of consideration. Every Muslim, woman, and man, will ultimately need to decide what burdens he/she is prepared to meet God with. While abortion is an emotionally charged matter, especially in Western politics, emotions play no role in the right or wrong of legislation. Although our laws currently may not consider a fetus aborted before its survival outside of the womb to be viable, the Muslim who understands that legal positivism does not trump objective or moral truths should be more conscientious and less cavalier in his/her attitude about the taking of life and removing the viability of life.

[1] Al-Ta’wil, Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Qasim. Shadharat al-Dhahab fi ma jadda fi Qadaya al-Nikah wa al-Talaq wa al-Nasab. Hollad: Sunni Pubs, 2010, p. 148.

[2] Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi Al-Zurqani quotes Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr as saying,

They unanimously agreed that anyone who marries without mention of a particular condition while having the intention to remain with her for a period that he has in mind is permitted (ja’iz), and it is not a temporary marriage. However, Malik said this is not an attractive thing to do (laysi hadha min al-jamil). Nor is it part the conduct of moral people (la min akhlaq al-nas). Al-‘Awza’i took a solitary view saying that it is a temporary marriage. And, there is no good in it (la khayra fihi). ‘Ayyad stated it.

Al-Zurqani, Muhammad b. ‘Abd Al-Baqi b. Yusuf. Sharh al-Zurqani ‘ala Muwatta’ al-Imam Malik. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, (no date), 3/201.

[3] Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said about the prophetic tradition, “Kill whoever changes his lifepath”, “Some Shafi’i jurists clung to it concerning the killing of anyone who changes from one non-Islamic faith to another non-Islamic faith (din kufr)…”

Al-‘Asqalani, Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Hajar. Fath Al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari. Muhammad Fu’ad ‘Abd Al-Baqi Edition. Riyadh: Al-Maktabah Al-Salafiyyah, (no date), 12/272.

[4] Al-Ra’ini, Muhammad al-Hattab. Qurrah al-‘Ayn bi Sharh Waraqat al-Imam al-Haramayn. Beirut: Mu’assassah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, 2013, p. 78.

[5] Al-Wazzani, Abu ‘Isa Sidi al-Mahdi. Al-Nawazil Al-Jadidah Al-Kubra fi ma li Ahl Fas wa ghayrihim min al-Badw wa al-Qura al-Musammah bi Al-Mi’yar Al-Jadid Al-Jami’ Al-Mu’rib ‘an Fatawa al-Muta’akhkhirin min ‘Ulama al-Maghrib. Rabat: Wizarah al-Awqaf wa al-Shu’un al-Islamiyyah, 1997, 3/376.

[6] Al-Ghazali, Muhammad Abu Hamid. Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din. Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, p. 491.

[7] This is how Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi relates the report as related by Al-Wazzani in his Nawazil 3/376. In the Musnad of Abu Hanifah, however, the Prophet reportedly said, “You will see the miscarried fetus filled with rage.” When it is asked, “Enter Paradise”, it will respond, “Not until my parents come in [too].” Al-Hanafi, Mulla ‘Ali Al-Qari. Sharh Musnad Abi Hanifah. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1985, p. 252.

[8] Ibn ‘Asakir, Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali b. al-Hasan. Tarikh Madinah Dimashq wa Dhikr Fadliha wa Tasmiyah man hallaha min al-Amathil aw ijtaza bi Nawahiha min Waridiha wa Ahliha. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1997, p. 342.

[9] Among the fines due for causing the miscarriage of a fetus are: 1) prison or flogging; 2) the penance for murder (kaffarah), which is the freeing of a slave, fasting two consecutive months which is compulsory for Shafi’is and recommended for Malikis; and 3) the gifting of a slave to the woman who lost her child.

[10] Al-Razi, Fakr al-Dina. Tafsir al-Fakr al-Razi al-Mushtahir bi Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir wa Mafatih al-Ghayb. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1981, pp. 220-221

Continue Reading


Blessed Are The Volunteers | Imam Omar Suleiman

Our communities would not be able to survive Ramadan without these precious souls

Imam Omar Suleiman



As the rows line up for prayer and the mosques are bursting at the seams, there is a small group of people that watch our backs, arrange our possessions, and prepare to nourish us after our prayers. They’re none other than the volunteers.

It’s not easy being one of them.

You hear the soothing recitation of the Quran in a prayer you’re not able to join because you’re on volunteer duty. And you also hear the painful nonstop complaints about how you’re not doing a good enough job. In those moments it’s easy to throw your arms up and say, “I’m not getting paid for this!” But there are so many better ways to be paid than money.

Allah’s rate is higher and more everlasting.

That doesn’t excuse the people from paying you basic necessary courtesy. Nor does it give you license to be unnecessarily harsh with those you’ve been blessed to serve. Know dear brother and sister that the reward of every prayer performed, every good word spoken, every stomach fed, every tear shed in humility, and every interaction held in tranquility is potentially on your scale of good deeds when you serve Allah through serving His people.

We may not always appreciate you, but Allah never loses sight of you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the reward of the one who serves the fasting person is the reward of that persons fast without decreasing from the reward of the doer in any way. What then of the prayer you facilitate that nourishes the soul? Charity is vast, and the heart of a charitable spirit must be vaster.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم “كُلُّ سُلَامَى مِنْ النَّاسِ عَلَيْهِ صَدَقَةٌ، كُلَّ يَوْمٍ تَطْلُعُ فِيهِ الشَّمْسُ تَعْدِلُ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُعِينُ الرَّجُلَ فِي دَابَّتِهِ فَتَحْمِلُهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْ تَرْفَعُ لَهُ عَلَيْهَا مَتَاعَهُ صَدَقَةٌ، وَالْكَلِمَةُ الطَّيِّبَةُ صَدَقَةٌ، وَبِكُلِّ خُطْوَةٍ تَمْشِيهَا إلَى الصَّلَاةِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُمِيطُ الْأَذَى عَنْ الطَّرِيقِ صَدَقَةٌ”.
[رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ]
، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. And the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari) (Muslim)

All of this is at your disposal as you welcome people into the houses of Allah with a smile, which is also a charity, seeking no smile but the smile of the Divine on the day of judgment. You may be exhausted in these days of service, but you also are running away with the rewards of everyone’s worship. When someone fails to appreciate you, look forward to the appreciation of Allah as compensation. When someone advises you, smile at them again and consider their counsel.

Blessed is your station, and blessed is your service.

May we not abuse you or fail to appreciate you. May we be patient with you, and you with us. May the prayers we perform elevate us, and you. May our hearts be purified and brought together. May we all make the sacrifices needed to gain Allah’s pleasure, and relieve each other’s pressure. May we all be volunteers freed from our egos, and freely smiling at all in our paths.

May Allah accept you and us on that blessed night of Laylatul Qadr, and allow us to observe with worship, service, and sincerity. Ameen

Continue Reading