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The Apprentice

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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.

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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.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  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

      Sadaf

      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

    Madeehatariq

    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

      Sadaf

      May 7, 2012 at 5:21 AM

      Ameen!

  5. Avatar

    Amal

    May 5, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Jazaakillahu khairan ukhtee

  6. Avatar

    Juliherman

    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

      Sadaf

      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

    AnonyMouse

    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

    Aziza

    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

    huda

    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

    ML

    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

    http://itunes.apple.com/pk/app/tasbeeh/id480785283?mt=8. 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

    Saba

    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

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#Society

The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions

The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.

There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.

If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.

Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.

Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.

Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.

These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.

For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.

What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?

What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.

What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?

What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?

Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?

What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?

Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?

Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.

For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.

These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.

These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.

Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.

Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?

I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.

How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?

It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them).Click To Tweet

We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.

Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.

We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.

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I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator
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It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.

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