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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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#Life

Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim

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trust

Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outright uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor

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Habib Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) explains how we are affected by the spiritual state of those around us.

Every person has rays which emanate from their soul. You receive these rays when you come close to them or sit in their presence. Each person’s rays differ in strength according to the state of their soul. This explains how you become affected by sitting in the presence of great people. They are people who follow the way of the Prophets in their religious and worldly affairs. When they speak, they counsel people. Their actions guide people. When they are silent they are like signposts which guide people along the path, or like lighthouses whose rays guide ships. Many of them speak very little, but when you see them or visit them you are affected by them. You leave their gatherings having been enveloped in their tranquillity. Their silence has more effect than the eloquent speech of others. This is because the rays of their souls enter you.

The Organizational Light

As a Muslim organizational psychologist, I know that organizations and institutions are a collective of these souls too. Like a glass container, they are filled colored by whatever is within them. So often Muslim organizations have presumed clarity in their organizational light and looked on with wonder as children, families, and the community wandered. The lighthouse keepers standing in front of the beacon wondering, “Where have the ships gone?”have

Our Muslim led institutions will reflect our state, actions, and decisions. I do believe that most of our institutional origins are rooted in goodness, but those moments remain small and fade. Our challenge as a community is to have this light of origin be fixed so that it can pulsate and extend itself beyond itself.

Reference is not being made regarding any specific type of institution and this is not a pointed critique, but rather a theory on perhaps why the effect our variety of institutional work wanes and dissipates. Any type of organization or institution — whether for profit or nonprofit, whether capital focused or socially conscious — that is occupied by the heart of a Muslim(s), must reflect light.

Our organizational light is known by an ego-less assessment of intentions, actions, and results. We must move our ‘self’ or ‘selves’ out of the way and then measure our lumens. If the light increases when we move out of the way, then it is possible that we — our ego, personality, objectives, intentions, degree of sacrifice, level of commitment, and possibly even our sincerity — may be the obstructions to our organizational lights.

The Personal Imperative

What will become of our institutions and their role for posterity if we neglect to evaluate where we stand in relation to the noble courses they mean to take? We may currently be seeing the beginning what this may look and feel like.

When was the last time you walked into a Muslim led institution and felt a living space that drew you in because of the custodians, leadership, individuals, and community that made up its parts? It was probably the last time you and I looked deeply inward at our lives — our intellect, our relationships, our purpose, our spiritual state, our work, our decisions, and our intentions. If we cleanse our hearts so infrequently the dust which settles can become thick making them opaque. And perhaps this individual and collective state is what limits the reach and impact of our communal work thus, resulting in the opacity of Muslim led institutions. Note: Lighthouse keepers clean the lens of the beacon every day.

We must consistently assess the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual loci of our individual and organizational states. They are not fixed givens. Rather, they are capricious states that necessitate vigilance and wara’. Being aware of this will help in our organizational design and work.

The Collective Affect

When we are prepared to evaluate the efficacy of Muslim led institutions with the inclusion of some form of spiritual assessment, we will give ourselves a better opportunity to determine where, how, and why we may be missing the mark. The inefficiencies and inattentiveness we have on an individual level can permeate our relationships, our work, and our organizations. As organizational leaders, we must critically assess the amount of light our work emanates to illuminate the lives of the people we serve.

These inward evaluations should be in the form of active and ongoing discussions we have internally with our teams and colleagues, and ourselves. If done with prudence and sincerity it will not only strengthen our organizations but our teams and us God-willing. This collective effort can lead to a collective effect for those we serve that inspires and guides. We — and our institutions — can then return to the Prophetic example of being beacons of light that help ourselves and others arrive to a place of sanctuary.

And Allah always knows best.

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