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Muslim Fathers Have to Man Up

As-Salamu Alaykum,
There is an old saying that goes “It takes a village to raise a child”. To me, that statement emphasizes the tremendous impact that a child’s environment and peers has on his or her development. In a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) mentioned that sheep shepherds are meek and humble, whereas the caretakers of camels are proud and arrogant, indicating that these human beings are influenced by the innate character of the animals that they take care of. In commenting on this hadeeth, the Ulama have long mentioned that if people are susceptible to being influenced by the character of animals, then how much more susceptible must they be to being influenced by other people and cultures? Now, please take time to think about this in relation to the situation with Muslim families today. Take a quick scan of mainstream culture; check out what is playing on TV or in the cinema, what are the popular stories on the internet, see what your average co-worker or potential classmate for your child is talking about. While there are positive nuggets to be found, the overwhelming majority of what is buzzing and rumbling in the cloud of mainstream culture is petty, selfish, and indulgent, and “Muslim” cultures are not exempt from this. This is our new, global village. Our children deserve better. And the only person that can provide them what they deserve is you, Allah willing.

“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked about his flock” – [Bukhari and Muslim], is what the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told us. Was there ever a time in history where this hadeeth has been more pertinent to a Muslim parent? Has there ever been a time where adultery, disrespect for parents, heedlessness of the Creator, rudeness, and intoxication, which are sins condemned by all the world’s major faiths, are not just accepted, but actually advertised to children? I dearly wish that I was exaggerating, that I was some turbaned version of Glenn Beck, but take one long, eye-searing look at the popular media that is targeted at youth, such as MTV and hip-hop, and you might get upset with me for understating the problem.  And as I often have to point out, the Muslim community is not mystically protected. Just because our children are named Aisha and Muhammad, or because someone’s great grandfather was a hafiz of the Qurʾān, does not bestow a quasi-magical barrier of protection from society’s ills. Through research and personal accounts, I can guarantee you that our children fall prey to the same immorality that the children of all other communities suffer from. Permit me to lift the veil for just one moment: amongst Muslim youth, I know stories of zina, alcohol and drug use (including kids in Hifz school), apostasy, and even incest.  We are not immune! These children needed a protector. They needed a true Muslim Father.

Let me address the inevitable question: Why am I talking about Muslim Fathers and not Muslim Mothers? The simple answer is that the level of involvement of Muslim Mothers in the upbringing of our Ummah’s children is relatively high; look at Muslim parenting websites, masjid activities geared towards children, etc., and you will find that the majority of participants are mothers. Or even better, speak with the youth of your local community and ask them about their relationship with their parents. When it comes to their mothers, many may even complain that their mothers are too involved, “nosy”, or “smothering”. Ask them about their fathers and you will often get blank expressions, and vague, shy answers that they don’t spend much time together. Our sisters were not meant to bear this tremendous responsibility alone. Children need the unique dynamics that a father and a mother bring to a family. Allah has created everything with an inherent nature and purpose, as indicated by the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) statement, “People are minerals like the minerals of gold and silver, the best of them before Islam are the best of them in Islam when they obtain knowledge and understanding.” – [Bukhari and Muslim].  There is a specific role that men are supposed to play in the family, modern gender politics be damned. Failing to live up to that role is failure to be a man. Our Creator said, “men are the caretakers (Qawwamoon) of women” [An-Nisaa’, 34]. I understand that this verse has often been used as a bludgeon to enforce female subservience to their husbands, but that is the result of a backwards and impotent culture, and has nothing to do with our Creator’s intent in revealing this verse. As always, our salvation comes from the Sunnah of the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). In dealing with his wives and children, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) demonstrated kindness, consideration, compassion, and patience that would put any modern relationship guru to shame. And he sealed the issue by saying, “The best of you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best amongst you to my family” – [At-Tirmidhi, declared Saheeh by Al-Albaani], emphasizing that his implementation of Qawwamah is the only authentic one, and it is not open to a new American, Arab, Pakistani, or other interpretation. To reiterate: failure to be strong, kind, and caring to your family is failure to be a true man and Believer.

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There has never been a time when families have been more in need of this strong, caring figure. We live in an age where we can take nothing for granted. Can you wholly entrust your child’s education to the public school system, especially in such an evolving and dynamic world? Thousands of  educators and experts have written about the inherent flaws of our school system and those flaws are present in any school that models itself after that system (i.e. Islamic schools). Is the food in our supermarkets safe? Again, the testimony of countless experts highlights significant dangers in the way our food is produced. What about your child’s physical development? Hours and hours of play every day were once typical for a child, but current cultural trends are more likely to steer your child towards hours in front of the TV or computer. And what about their spiritual life? Is it enough to send them to Qurʾān class on Saturday and Sunday? Would memorizing and reciting lines from Grey’s Anatomy be enough to make them competent physicians? What about the immorality promoted by modern media channels that I discussed earlier? The list goes on and on, the challenges are relentless, and Muslim families will be overwhelmed, unless they can come together, cooperate, and help each other in the path to their Creator. This endeavor, like all great endeavors, needs a leader. That leader is supposed to be the Muslim Father.

And Allah knows best.

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I was an 18 year old beliigerent atheist when the Quran entered my life and rocked my world. Reading the Seerah later sealed the deal. I studied Arabic everywhere I could, from America to the Levant and somehow an invitation to study with Muhammad Ibn Salih Al Uthaymeen landed in my lap, may Allah have mercy on his soul. I went, I met, I sat, I studied, and words simply can't do justice to the privilege and the experience. I am still trying to figure out how to be thankful for it. I live in the States, I work in IT, and I have two boys who I am trying to help to grow into admirable men.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ramadan

    July 3, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    Jazakallahu khayr

  2. Umm Zakiyyah

    Umm Zakiyyah

    July 3, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    Thank you for writing this.

    I wrote a similar piece some time ago “Dire Need for Manhood Parenting” http://saudilife.net/parenting/29617-dire-need-for-manhood-parenting and I wished more *men* would write on the topic.

    JazaakAllaahukhairan.

  3. Avatar

    AnonyMouse Al-Majnoonah

    July 3, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    BarakAllahu feek, this is a great article and something that has bothered me for a very long time.

    Too many Muslim men think that their role is only as a financial caretaker, and forget that the seerah’s example of fatherhood is vastly different from the cultural standards most Muslim men have been raised with.

    Where are the Muslim male role models? Where are the Muslim fathers who spend weekends with their kids, who tell them bedtime stories of the seerah and the sahabah, who educate their sons on how to be good sons, brothers, future husbands and fathers?

    It’s sad that many Muslims have regulated parenthood to mothers alone, and forget the incredible role that fathers have to play in their childrens’ lives.

    • Avatar

      Yahya Whitmer

      July 4, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      I agree. I run a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MuslimFathers and have a hard time getting other fathers to contribute. Our sense of priorities are extremely distorted and unfortunately, most khutbahs and classes ignore this fundamental aspect of life.

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  5. Avatar

    Aishah M Nasarruddin

    July 4, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    Jazakallah khair for bringing this up. I always thought that our muslim community will very much excel if fathers play more roles in helping mothers to shape children’s potentials and personality. Children learn different things from both parents, their potentials won’t be maximised if the input is unbalanced.

  6. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    July 5, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    I really liked this article, brother. May Allah reward you for writing it.
    Barak Allahu feekum.

  7. Avatar

    ZuberiAA

    July 6, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    SubhanAllah

  8. Avatar

    Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    July 7, 2012 at 6:04 AM

    I was never “close” to my father and even today sometimes I prefer discussing issues with my mother as I just have a better connection with her. I always resolved to be different when it was my turn but as fathers, we often focus
    so much on being the bread-winner that we forget our number one priority is raising great
    children. Reminders every now and then of needing to get more involved in our children’s lives are much needed. Jazak’Allah Khairin Shaykh for this reminder.

  9. Avatar

    Babar

    July 8, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    JAK for writing this important piece. Nothing can replace the time, attention, love and knowledge that a father provides his children.

    A few years ago my wife and I decided to turn off the TV in our home (for good) and decided to spend that time to play with the kids and to studying Quran and Sunnah together. This simple change has made a huge difference in our family life.

  10. Avatar

    Faria

    July 9, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    Alhamdulillah, amazing. May Allah grant this ummah more responsible and sincere fathers, ameen. BarakAllaahu feek for this writing. I would expect more writings on effective fatherhood from you, as mashaAllah that is what you seem to achieve in the long-term, so please share your experience with the world as well.

  11. Avatar

    nlightme please

    July 18, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Fathers busy watching tv, accumulating material things, and keeping up with the Jonses that they forget about their role

  12. Avatar

    Azhar

    July 18, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    SubanAllah brother. This was very inspiring to me on a deep personal level.

  13. Avatar

    Maryam

    July 20, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    I commend you for writing this piece. A lot of Muslim fathers are oblivious of their responsibilities to their wife and children. Marriage is a complete package and it comes with children and taking care of them and if a man wants to evade his responsibilities as both a husband and father then he shouldn’t get married. Period.

  14. Avatar

    Atif

    July 25, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    Silly title- Kind of similar headlines targeting muslims in UK. Do you write for The Mail.

    • Avatar

      Husband that works 12hrs a day.

      November 10, 2016 at 1:45 PM

      Sounds like written by a woman who can’t take care of the household /kids n husband.

  15. Avatar

    Yusuf's Daddy

    July 26, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    Jazakullahkhaire Yahya. There is a nice khutbah about fatherhood here:
    http://fridaysmatter.com/khutba-on-fathers-and-fatherhood/. Wasalam.

  16. Pingback: Muslim Fathers Have to Man Up | Words of love.. words for love…

  17. Avatar

    Abuyusuf

    January 20, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I think the sisters have a part to play in this as well. you find that the muslim women of today put such enormous pressure on the men to provide that the father ends up working like a mad man just trying to keep her happy and not complaining. I really think we need to look at both sides of the coin. These days it seems fashionable to bash on muslim men all the while fashion hijabis and so on get a free pass…

    • Avatar

      Husband that works 12hrs a day.

      November 10, 2016 at 1:47 PM

      Correct. Few women smiles when cash flows, else won’t even smile.

  18. Avatar

    hhamidaa

    October 18, 2016 at 5:37 AM

    It is not only that father’s are busy with work. There are fathers who are so religious that they become sacrilegious. My father, may Allah bless him is considered the saint of the society. Praying tahajjud, doing extra nafl acts, doing charity, extremely kind etc. But he doesn’t spend time with us or has ever stood for us. It’s always my mother who has done that. He never hugs us. The only time I hug him is during did and that too he will pay me on the back to end the hug. I don’t have a single memory where he played with us or held us in his arms as kids. He never takes us out on weekends. I am not asking for dinner in expensive restaurants. Any outing or any restaurant is fine. Me and my sister make plans with our friends. The only time we go out as a family is during winter for BBQ or eid. Once we went out for dinner and it was isha azan and he left us to pray. It was a mall and there is no formal jamaah. People go to the prayer room and do their own jamaah. The sunnah is to eat first and then pray. He could have eaten and then gone to pray and joined another jamaah. The situation is such that when he comes home me and my sister are in our rooms. We don’t come out to see him. If we come out for some work we say salaam to each other that’s it. I remember when a male cousin was harassing me I complained to my mother and she told my father and he said to ignore him. He couldn’t call up my cousin and tell him to stop calling me. It continued for weeks and then I told my mother to speak to my cousin. After that he stopped. My father won’t even see proposals for us. As we grew up we were taught having boyfriends is haram. So I did not have relationships. But after finishing my university it’s my father’s job to find me a husband. He never did. Now I m 29 and still single. It would have been better if I fell in love with someone in my early 20’s and got married. He got my elder sister married without meeting her husband before marriage. And now she’s suffering. Which father does not meet the guy before giving his daughter in marriage? Her husband is abusive and it is my mother who will be speaking to the son in law to help them solve problems. My father would be just lying on the bed and let her do the talking. Once our house was robbed and I had to speak to 15 police officers and CID. I went to the police station with my father as he could not talk and had frozen. I went for the follow ups. He cannot judge people. He trusts people blindly. God bless my mother who always guides him to make decisions. If it was any other woman she would have taken all his money and he wouldn’t even have known. My mother has always saved his money. If I compare to other fathers who had hit their children. I am grateful my father never did that. But sometimes I really need someone to stand behind me. I am a manly woman and very independent and I always defend myself because I know my father will not defend my honor. As a child of 2 years I was molested by his colleague and he did not do anything. He just told him to stop coming to our house. Now his incapability is affecting my relationship with my mother. She’s saying that all my friends are married with kids, my life will go like this. I understand that she’s worried but I was tired of her constant taunts. So I told her if my father was responsible I would also have been married like my friends. My father never encouraged us. It was always my mother who encouraged us to do masters, get a license etc. I got my skydiving license and everyone was proud of me except my father. He didn’t even acknowledge it. When my aunt says you don’t understand your father and he does so many things. I tell her I don’t care what my father did for others all I care is what he was to me.

    • Avatar

      Yahya

      October 18, 2016 at 12:34 PM

      Assalam alaikum sister,
      I am the article’s author and I simply could not agree more. From my own experience as a student of knowledge at one of the world’s preeminent learning institutions, I believe the root cause of this is that the great social teachings of Islam have been sidelined from the core curriculum of what religious Muslims are taught. We are taught to cherish aqeedah, to delve into fiqh, to appreciate worship, to honor the ulama and their incredible works, but the social teachings are given superficial attention. There is no book on racial equality that is memorized and taught, no book on raising sons and daughters that is memorized and taught, no book on attending to the poor and disabled that is memorized and taught. This is all due to the institutionalization of religious knowledge and how the religious class began to focus on their needs and station rather than the needs of the community or even the religion itself. I have opened a thread discussing this topic on the muslimfathers Facebook page and we would love to hear your voice. You will find there a letter, written from an Imam to his own daughter, where he apologizes for 30 years of negligence similar to what you have described. Perhaps your father will find guidance in this other man’s regret.

    • Avatar

      Respect elders.

      November 10, 2016 at 1:58 PM

      Alhamdulillah you have a father. Some men are like this accept the way he is n show ur patience. Respect the waybhe is as he is not an angry man or harsh.
      Pls don’t write ur personal matters like molestation n stuff here.
      Keep it between u n Allah n don’t let the 3rd person know ur secrets, this is also from sunnath.
      When it’s time for ur marriage mr. Nice will come to ur way.

      Respect ur father n elders n husbands.
      Peace.

    • Avatar

      Trained to hate

      November 10, 2016 at 2:43 PM

      Can anyone remember what happened when they were 2 yrs old… I think u r definitely being trained to hate ur father. Whoever it may be telling you these stories are either good for you and ur father.
      May be this person is the cause of ur fathers so called inability to react.

  19. Avatar

    Yvonne wakaka

    October 24, 2016 at 12:25 AM

    If islam is a religion of peace,acceptance and holliness how can a muslim man make you pregnant then he starts to talk bad and act badly if those are islamic MEN i free myself and deny islam the teaching and everything its so hurting i used to look up to muslims they conduct themselves so nice But a certain islamic man has taken it away… may Allah forgive us

    • Avatar

      Yahya

      October 24, 2016 at 9:01 AM

      Yvonne, I am so sorry to hear about your situation. A Muslim man may only be intimate with a woman within the bounds of marriage and it is his sacred duty to provide for her emotionally, spiritually, and financially. But the reality is that many Muslims (in my opinion, the majority) are ignorant of the teachings of their own faith, and cannot be looked to as a representative of the beauty of Islam. For that, we have the Prophet Muhammad, who was very gentle and caring of his spouses, and commanded us to follow his example. May Allah grant you ease after hardship, ameen.

  20. Avatar

    Asheeqah

    May 25, 2018 at 8:03 AM

    Assalam alaikum,

    I have been married for 22 years and 6 months ago found out my husband was having an affair with a married colleague.
    She is a 27 Year old Muslim woman who has been married twice before and has 3 kids from 3 different fathers.
    We are married both islamically and by our law of the country.
    I am from South Africa and we are now taalaq but still married by the law of the country. He married her and left me too attend to ALL financial affairs, rent, school fees, food, electricity etc.
    He doesn’t even call to find out If the kids are eating or anything “just moved on with his life and never looked back”
    I need to ask, in the eyes of our Almighty and of our Prophet PBUH what is the punishment for this in the Quran.
    His 18 years older than this woman and he broke all promises in life and in all our married life. “WILL NEVER BE UNFAITHFUL”
    I know in life, no marriage is perfect and as a revert “I embraced Islam 23 years ago” I don’t even get support from his born muslim brothers. of which I may add is a Shaikh.
    I have been so down and kept my faith strong in my Almighty and believe he will leave no stone unturned.
    My ex has lied, manipulated me for 9 months with his adulteress wife and he supports her and her children(that is not even his)
    I pray that the Almighty help me through my circumstances.
    I am so worn and tired both mentally and physically, having a full time 10hr job and having to console my children.
    My kids are 21 years, 19 years and 8 years old.
    I have moments where I feel Islam has failed me, please help me, direct me I am loosing myself slowly.
    My ex has belittle me, and disrespected me after by doing what his done and is still doing, 22 years of so much sacrifice surely this will be justified… I pray that Almighty has mercy on him.

    Shukr and looking forward to a positive response

    ASHEEQAH

    • Avatar

      Yahya Whitmer

      May 25, 2018 at 10:26 AM

      Assalam alaikum sister Asheeqah,

      I am the article’s author and am very sad to hear your story. Unfortunately men of this type are common in all cultures and all religions and no major faith would condone his actions, least of all Islam. Islam demands that we attend to our responsibilities, even in the case of divorce, and act truthfully and openly. The simply fact is, assuming that all the details of this scenario are true, that this person is not much of a man and a poor excuse for a Muslim. If I may, I would recommend the following steps.
      1. Reach out to family and friends and the local community for support. Often the instinct in such difficult times is to withdraw into depression, and while feelings of sadness are certainly appropriate, it’s important to bolster oneself with the support of caring people.
      2. Pursue a legal divorce so that the local laws will force this person to provide for you what his conscience is unable to.
      3. Seek strength through patience, prayer, and the Quran. The greatest test to a believer’s faith often comes from the hypocrites, the ones that espouse Islam and duty, but whose hearts only understand selfish desires. This life is a test and you are undoubtedly being tested. Read and ponder the verses that describe the betrayals that the Prophets suffered and you will find in them an example of faith and fortitude and hopefully be inspired to fight for your own faith and happiness.
      4. Make dua and remember that your Creator is heedful of the complaints of the oppressed.

      I pray that this moment of loss be transformed into a period of strength and renewal for you and that Allah replace what was untrue and unworthy with something faithful and beautiful.

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Coronavirus

Alternative Eid Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

“Eid-al-Quarantine” is what my sister has so fondly dubbed our upcoming Eid al Fitr this year. I find myself asking, “How are we going to make Eid a fun and special celebration this year in the midst of a dangerous pandemic?” With a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, this Eid can be fun–no matter the current circumstances. This post will provide you with some inspiration to get your alternative Eid preparations underway! 

Special note: Shelter-in-place restrictions are lessening in many places in the United States, but this does not give us the green light to go back to life as normal and celebrate Eid in the ways we usually would have in the past. I am no health expert, but my sincerest wish for all Muslims throughout the world is that we all err on the side of caution and maintain rigorous precautions.

In-person gatherings are going to be much riskier in light of public health safety concerns. I do not recommend that people get together this Eid. Keep in mind, as well, that this is a big weekend for all Americans, as it is Memorial Day Weekend and crowds may be expected in places like parks and beaches. 

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Eid Day Must’s

Just because you are staying in, doesn’t mean that all of the Eid traditions have to go. Some may be exactly the same, some may be slightly adjusted this year. 

  • Get dressed up, even if it’s just for an hour or two. This might be a good chance to do hair and make up for sisters who normally don’t on Eid because of hijab or other modesty concerns. 
  • Take your family pictures, as usual. 
  • Decorate your house, even if it’s just with some fresh flowers in a vase or hanging up some string lights. (This time, I think sharing pictures of your setup may  have some more wiggle room.)
  • Find a way to pray Eid salah at home, if your local imam mentions a way to adapt for the current situation or check out this MM article
  • Eat some good food, and make sure to feast. 
  • Take that infamous Eid nap. 
  • Greet loved ones (phone calls, video calls, text messages, voice/video messages, make and send Eid cards).
  • Give and receive gifts. (Electronic ways to transfer money/checks in the mail, dropping off gifts to homes/sending gifts in the mail/having an online order pick-up in-store. You may also choose to do a gift exchange, if not this weekend, next). 

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Virtual Parties

Virtual celebrations are a great, safe, option. The best thing about virtual hangouts is that people from all over the world can “come together” to celebrate Eid. This can be as simple as talking and catching up, or can be as orchestrated as a full-out party including games. Keep in mind, the games and virtual parties aren’t only for the kids–everyone should have fun this Eid! We recently threw a virtual birthday party for our one-year-old and it was quite the experience. 

  • Split guests into different calls (kids’ call, adults’ call; men’s call, women’s call)
  • Party agenda for a rigorously planned party so everyone knows what to expect
  • Party games, either with certain items that everyone has (or can easily and quickly purchase) or games that do not require much else besides an internet connection 
    • Games requiring physical items (think of items that everyone is likely to have and think of carnival-type games):
      • Soccer ball juggling or basketball shooting competition
      • Water balloon toss
      • Timed races (three-legged, holding an egg in a spoon, etc.)
    • Games with little to no special equipment
      • Online Pictionary https://skribbl.io/
      • Online Scrabble
      • Video games
      • Charades
      • Taboo (we do this for our cousin game nights with pictures of cards that one person sends to people from the opposite team)
      • Scattergories
      • Bingo
      • Mad libs
      • Speaking games that take turns going around a circle (going through the alphabet saying names of animals or colors or foods, rhyming words [we played the last two lines of “Down by the Bay” for our son’s birthday party])
      • Movement game (Simon says, dancing if you’re into that [“Cha Cha Slide,” dance-off, passing along dance moves as was a TikTok trend I heard of, simply dancing…])
      • Games like in Whose Line is it Anyway? or like the “Olympics” (specifically the “middle games”) that I wrote about way back
  • Performances
    • Skits prepared by one family or even across households
    • Reciting a poem or surah or singing
    • Other showcases of talent, by individuals or not
  • Gift Exchanges (I’ve been doing this virtually since 2013 with friends/distant family members.)

Alternative Virtual/Group Celebrations

Being “together” isn’t always gathering for a party, and that’s what I think most people miss during the forced isolation caused by the pandemic. There are many things you can do to get ready for or celebrate Eid with loved ones even if you’re not together. 

  • Share special recipes with each other or plan to serve the same meals.
  • Coordinate Eid outfits or attempt to do matching henna designs.
  • Send Eid pictures to family and friends.
  • Prepare and cook meals or clean or decorate while on a video call (you don’t have to be talking the entire time).
  • Watch the same movie or show (whether that’s something everyone does as separate households or you do concurrently/even with a video or phone call running. This might be a good time to watch Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King” and do the 10 things it invites us to do.)
  • Go through family pictures or old videos together. Maybe even create a short slideshow/video of your favorites. 
  • Story time full of family legends and epic moments (the best Eid, a difficult time of sickness, immigration or moving story, new baby in the family, etc.). Someone build the fire and get the s’mores going.

Alternative “Outings”

In the same breath, it’s so refreshing to go out and do something fun, not just stay cooped up in your house, right? Seriously. 

  • Check out a virtual museum tour
  • Go on a nice drive to some place you love or miss going to, like drive by the masjid or school or a beautiful area (but stay in your car if there are other people around)
  • Watch an Eid Khutbah (or a regular one) on Eid day (make it special by listening outside in your yard or as a family where you pray).
  • Create a movie theater experience inside the home (that might just mean some popcorn and homemade slushies).
  • Get carry out from a favorite restaurant (if it’s open), and finally have the motivation to take a longer drive if needed
  • Make fruit or gift baskets for friends and family and drop them off at their homes
  • A “paint night,” or some other craft, that everyone in the family participates in
  • Decorate your car and drive around to show it off to friends (I’ve heard there’s an actual Eid car parade at various masaajid in Chicago

Interesting Alternative Community Celebrations I’ve Heard About

Some communities are getting super creative. As I mentioned above, a handful of masaajid in Chicago (Orland Park Prayer Center, Mosque Foundation, and Islamic Center of Wheaton as well as Dar Al Taqwa in Maryland) are putting together Eid drive-thru car parades. I’ve heard of different communities, whether officially sponsored by the masjid or just put together by groups of individuals, having a drive-in Eid salah, in which families pray in their cars in a rented drive-in theater or parking lot (Champaign, Illinois and a community in Maryland). I’m  definitely impressed with that last option, and I’m waiting to hear about more creative ways to get together and worship and celebrate.

So, what am I doing for Eid (weekend) this year? All the must’s, inshaAllah, including getting extra dolled up and making donuts from biscuit dough. A “game night” (virtual party) with alumni from my MSA. A gift exchange party with my cousins as well as another gift exchange party with classmates from my Arabic program (we’ll send unboxing videos out instead of meeting at the same time.) Check out a local college campus we’ve been dying to drive around. Binge a few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender newly released on Netflix and do some online Memorial Day sale shopping. Le’s put a tentative on all of those, haha.

At the end of the day, Eid al Fitr is about acknowledging the month of worship we engaged in during Ramadan and spending quality time with loved ones. It doesn’t really matter what that quality time looks like–as long as it is intentional, this Eid will be special no matter what, inshaAllah. Who knows, this might be one of the best, most memorable holidays ever!

Eid Mubarak!

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#Society

COVID-19: A Muslim Perspective on Incarceration and Emancipation During A Public Health Crisis

prison

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has brought new challenges to society that demand solutions.  One such dilemma that has emerged is the spread of the novel coronavirus amongst prison populations and staff.

In Maryland, for example, there are over 200 coronavirus cases reported in the Maryland Prison system.  In New York, according to the Wall Street Journal, more than 800 city correction employees have tested positive for Covid-19, and eight have died.  Also, 1,200 inmates have tested positive and there have been at least 10 deaths from COVID-19.

Alarming reports such as these across the nation have sparked a response by the government to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the prison population and among correctional employees.

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In Washington, for example, the governor has commuted approximately 300 sentences, and over 40 prisoners have received work release furloughs.  Around the country, many low-level and non-violent offenders have been released.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, around 300 prisoners have been released in Orange County, Florida. Over 100 inmates have been released from prisons in Nevada and Alabama; 531 people have been released in Philadelphia, PA, and 1,000 prisoners are slated to be released from New Jersey prisons. Similar efforts underway in most states across the country.

In Maryland, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been at the forefront of the effort to reduce the prison population at-risk for coronavirus, and on Sunday, April 19th, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order granting early release to hundreds of inmates to reduce the spread of the disease.

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The ripple effect of such efforts are having an impact globally. According to reports, Poland has announced plans to release up to 12,000 convicts, and Iran has already released close to 80,000 prisoners.

UN experts have urged action, including Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who stated,

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so.  The consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic.”

What should inform the Muslim community’s position?

This Ramadan, as we seek to uphold these principles in our daily activities, Muslims cannot neglect prisoners’ rights.Click To Tweet

Following in the example of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the noble qualities of justice, mercy and compassion must be factored into the equation.

He said: “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” (Tirmidhi 1924).

According to a different hadith, or recorded narration of Prophetic sayings, he said: “Allah does not show mercy to those who do not show mercy to people.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

As Imam Omar Suleiman, founder of Yaqeen Institute, stated in part on the Poor People’s Campaign Appeal on Twitter on April 20, 2020:

“Ramadan is a time of fasting and sacrifice to clarify what is necessary and just. It is right and just that protections are enacted for people in mental health facilities, prisons and juvenile detention centers, especially supplies, personnel, testing and treatment. This includes the release of all at risk populations and non-violent offenders and detainees. There are 2.3 million incarcerated people and over 52,000 people in detention centers.”

Conditions in most prisons today clearly create an unsafe environment with regards to the elevated risk of infection with the novel coronavirus.  Releasing low-level, non-violent offenders who are most at risk is an act of Prophetic mercy.

As stated in the Holy Quran: if anyone saves one life, it’s as if they had saved all of mankind. (Surah Ma’idah 5:32).  Saving one non-violent offender from the contagion of Covid-19 in prison may not seem significant in the grand scheme of things, but that act of mercy and compassion reverberates and impacts on greater society.   

In Islamic law, or shariah, maqasid (aims or purposes) and maslaha (welfare or public interest) are two doctrines that inform rulings by jurists.

Maslahah “consist of the five essential values (al-daruriyyat al-khamsah) namely religion, life, intellect, lineage and property.  In this case, it serves the public interest to attempt to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus, thereby furthering preservation of life.

Our country’s broken criminal justice system is in desperate need of restorative measures. Prison is not a place where a civilized society can stow away prisoners, discard the key, and forget about them. Click To Tweet

Prisoners are entitled to basic human rights. To this effect, it is documented that as Caliph, the beloved cousin of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Ali ibn Abi Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), used to inspect the prisons, meet the prisoners in them and inquire about their circumstances.

The urgency of the principles of mercy and preservation of life need to be a priority for those entrusted with the authority to make a difference in the lives of the many low-level, non-violent offenders that find themselves caught in the sinuous vice grip of the penal system.

This Ramadan, as we seek to uphold these principles in our daily activities, Muslims cannot neglect prisoners’ rights.

We must make a difference where we can.

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#Islam

Cultivating Spirituality in a COVID-19 Ramadan

“One of the seven given shade on the Day of Judgment is the man who remembered Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in private and so his eyes shed tears” [Sahih Bukhari]

Ramadan has arrived, and this year, along with a lot of uncertainty for many of us. The Family & Youth Institute (FYI) conducted a survey to better understand the spiritual and community needs of Muslim Americans during this Ramadan. Based on these findings, the primary concerns of American Muslims were found to center around the spiritual growth and connection we associate so much with the community/masjid.

Many of us will miss the social gatherings at iftar time. Men and women who regularly pray at the masjid in congregation will now pray in their homes, alone, or with their families. Youth who find their spiritual high at youth iftars and qiyams with their mentors must find another way to meet this need. Revert Muslims who may not have Muslim families to celebrate with, and as a result rely on the greater Muslim community to experience Ramadan, will need another way to fulfill the feeling of togetherness and seeking knowledge.

We need to recognize that we can take steps to reduce our anxiety and take control of this new Ramadan so that we can enjoy and benefit from it! The tips we’ve outlined below can be found in much greater detail in The Family and Youth Institute’s (The FYI) Covid-19 Ramadan Toolkit!

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The central place of spiritual connection and growth has shifted from the masjid back to the home. So how can we motivate ourselves to feel the spiritual high of Ramadan from our homes? Here are some ways to make the best of our Ramadan that we can benefit from:

 

Know that the masjid misses us as much as we miss it.

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It is missing Quranic recitation, people giving sadaqah, the barakah of people worshipping Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and more. For more on this topic, check out this webinar by The FYI’s Community Educator, Duaa Haggag, about how to keep the masjid alive in our hearts during this month.

Bring the Ramadan feel to your home. 

Now, more than ever, is a time to create a Ramadan home environment that appeals to all of our senses. Many of us do this already if we have children, but now is the time to also do this for ourselves, as adults. This can be done by putting up Islamic visuals (books, decorations), light traditional fragrances you associate with Ramadan, playing your favorite nasheeds, eating traditional foods for Iftar, and so on. These smells, sounds, tastes, and sights will reactivate the feeling you associate with Ramadan, even when you can’t be connected with your community.

Create a spiritual or masjid atmosphere within your home by trying some of the following: 

  • Make a space in your home for yourself where you will pray, read Quran, make du’a, and/or reflect. Have a Quran, dhikr beads, du’a journal/book, and prayer rug easily available for use. Take pictures of your spaces and share them with your friends to encourage each other
  • Mimic the masjid feel by ensuring that the adhan can be heard aloud in the house at all five times of the day
  • If you typically go to the masjid to pray the obligatory prayers, continue to pray at the time of congregation according to your local masjid’s congregation schedule. Lead your family in prayer at these specific times. This encourages you and your family to pray on time while feeling connected to your masjid. If you long to hear the Quran being recited, set that up in your space
  • If you have children, family togetherness will be even more important during this time. Check out the Family Bonding section of The FYI’s Covid-19 Ramadan Toolkit for many more practical tips and strategies

Create a special routine for Jumu’ah within the home.

Take the time to research the sunnah practices of Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and find creative ways to do them. Here are some other things to try:

  • Use this as an opportunity to learn the etiquettes of and practice giving khutbahs
  • Have a post-Jumu’ah halaqa or listen to one of the many online lectures being shared to maintain the connection
  • While you may not be able to physically go to the masjid for Jumu’ah, you CAN complete the other sunnahs that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) practiced
  • After Jumu’ah is a time when many of us would meet up and catch up with our family and friends. Host a post-Jumu’ah virtual session and share with your family and friends so you can still catch up and meet with them after Jumu’ah
  • Remind yourselves of the blessings and rewards Jumu’ah brings, even if it can’t be done as a community

Revive the Sunnah of praying Taraweeh in the home.

Learn about how praying taraweeh at home was how our beloved Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and Sahabis prayed it. Remind yourself that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is still waiting to reward you and listen to your supplications; that hasn’t changed. Set up virtual connections with friends or family during taraweeh time. You may not be able to pray together but this will help you connect to the same feeling you had in past Ramadans. Re-frame how we feel about a taraweeh at home. Consider our situation as an invitation to spend alone time (khalwa) with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Structure your Day

Now that we are in quarantine, it’s the perfect opportunity to slow down and focus on making the best of the month of Ramadan. Making a schedule allows you to keep a consistent routine while ensuring that your spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social needs are all being met each day. There will be days when it is hard to follow the schedule, so be gentle with yourself and allow those days to happen.

  • Start your day with a morning virtual group that recites morning du’a and surahs
  • Designate times to recite your favorite dhikr, du’a, and recitation of the Quran
  • Start a gratitude journal writing at least 3 things you are grateful for each day.  Then when supplicating to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), thank Him for these blessings
  • Plan to listen to a weekly lecture/talk that is live, either with organizations or with your local mosque. Set it up on your TV for the whole family to watch together
  • Celebrate iftar preparation; make it a family affair! Challenge the children to set the table based on different themes and take pictures of it
  • Pick the days you will call a family member, neighbor, or elderly person during the week.
  • Make sure to set time for physical activity: Take a walk outside with the family or let your kids pick a sport to play with you after work hours are over
  • If you have children, refer to the Family Bonding section of The FYI’s Covid-19 Ramadan Toolkit to create a schedule with them

Minimize technology

Disengage with technology in order to engage with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

  • Be intentional with how you are using technology and how much you are using it; use it to connect with others, not just to scroll through feeds
  • Set and enforce a Ramadan Family Media contract
  • Monitoring how much we use technology is just as important as monitoring our children’s usage. Refer to The FYI’s Digital Parenting Toolkit for much more resources on properly engaging with media

Quran

We know the month of Ramadan is the month of Quran; though how can we live this during the times we are facing now? Prophethood began when the first revelation came to our beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was in a state of khalwa, or isolation. While we will miss listening to the Quran being recited by the qari every night in taraweeh, we can still keep the Quran wet on our tongues and ears. Try these strategies:

  • Make time for reading and reflecting on the meaning of the Quran– set SMART goals
  • If you have young children and find it challenging to find the time to sit and read the Quran, consider playing it while preparing iftar or taking care of the kids
  • Have a Quran competition within your family or with friends to see who can read the most pages by the end of the month
  • Engage children with the Quran by teaching them stories of the Prophets, reading Surat ul-Qadr, or Al-Alaq
  • Join or start a Quran recitation group where the Quran is being recited
  • Gather some friends that keep you accountable for your Quran goal.  Do a daily check in on a group text when you meet your goal

Du’a

During this unpredictable time, the power of du’a can bring hope by supplicating to our Creator.  It is also a chance for healing and developing good habits. This Ramadan, be intentional about the du’a you choose to recite considering your current circumstances.

  • Make a du’a journal with a list of important du’as to recite during Ramadan. Choose from the common du’as recited by the previous prophets, including Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and your personalized du’a
  • Choose specific times of the day that you will read these du’a such as during tahajjud, right before iftar, or after a salah
  • Involve your children by asking them to make a list of the important people in their lives they want to pray for and share the list with each other. This not only encourages you to be reflective of your physical and emotional needs, but also reminds us of the One who can meet those needs.
  • Start a text group where each person types in one du’a per day on the group and everyone makes the same du’a for each other

It is an understatement that this Ramadan will be an entirely new experience for the Ummah.  While we will miss the spiritual traditions we enjoy every Ramadan, this year is an opportunity to cultivate new traditions.  The opportunities to catch the blessings of Ramadan are not lost; it just looks different this year. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is so Merciful that he will accept our worship for Him wherever we are.  Ask yourself what spiritual acts draw you closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and structure it in your day whether you are working inside or outside of the home.

For much more information on other ways to take advantage of a Covid-19 Ramadan, be sure to explore The FYI’s COVID-19 Ramadan Toolkit

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