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Muslim Fathers Have to Man Up

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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.

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.

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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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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