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How University Made Me a Better Muslim

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It was 2010 and I had just returned from my studies in Cairo. I was in a “Muslim bubble,” having just come from a place where I heard the adhān every day and I was just another covered woman walking in the streets. Coming back home was not appealing at the time, especially with the welcome we received at the airport. I was bitter about being around non-Muslims again and wasn’t looking forward to going back to school in a month.

I was in a new place with new people and was working on finishing my social work degree. I looked around the room during the first day of classes and groaned, “Oh great, I’m the only Muslim here.” I braved myself for the worst and prepared for comments about Muslims, immigrants and minorities. To make matters worse, I was surrounded by people whose lifestyles I did not agree with and I was worried my faith would suffer tremendously.

Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had a different plan. As I got to know my classmates and my professors, and as my knowledge of social justice and social work grew, I realized how great of an opportunity this was for me. I had just come from a year-long adventure where I had to adapt and be open-minded to a different language, customs and culture, so why not be open to learning in this new environment? I remembered the statement of a scholar I would always repeat to myself in Cairo: find a benefit in every situation you find yourself.

One of the biggest complaints of Muslims is that non-Muslims do not understand us, especially as Muslim women – we are bombarded with weird and inappropriate questions/comments from non-Muslims on a regular basis. Yes, we can blame the media for this, but another huge problem is that Muslims are not actively engaging with non-Muslims. There I was, the only Muslim in 4 out of 5 of my classes, and I had an incredible opportunity to present Islam the way we want it to be presented to my classmates and professors. I quickly got over my annoyance at the questions and started many dialogues which led to me gaining the respect of my peers and professors. All of those ignorant questions are not asked to simply annoy us — people really do not have a clue!

We expect non-Muslims to accommodate to our needs and lifestyle, but when it comes to their needs and lifestyle, we brush it off because they are “kuffār”. University taught me a Prophetic principle:  hate the sin and not the sinner. In our modern Islamic culture, we call out people for their sins and focus a lot of our attention on those with whom we don’t agree. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the Messengers before him did not act this way. In an example from the Qur’ān, Lūt 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) teaches us this principle. His people said of him and his family: “Expel the family of Lūt from your city, they are people who keep themselves pure!” (27:56) When Lūt tried to plead with them to not harm his guests, they said to him: “If you do not desist, O Lūt, you will surely be of those evicted!” (26:167) As they continued to berate him and threaten him with eviction, Lūt 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – a Prophet of God – responded, “Surely I am towards your deed, of those who detest (it).” (26:168) Do you see the principle? Despite their abuse, he did not direct his disgust towards them but towards their actions. Even though I disagreed with the lifestyle of many of my classmates, we all shared a common struggle: being accepted and respected by society.

In these times of illicit behavior, rampant alcoholism and other vices, Islam gives us the tools we need to not only be the best Muslim around non-Muslims, but also to learn from them. Once my “Muslim bubble” popped, I was able to look at the situation in a positive light:  I learned lessons in character from people we normally scoff at. I learned how to respect different opinions and respond cordially. I learned the importance of a good work ethic. I learned how to be a better Muslim from people who do not even accept the religion.

We may not know it but because we call ourselves Muslims, we will – like it or not – be spokespersons for Islam. I’ve heard too many stories of Muslims who cheat on exams, take religion classes just to debate (thinking this is “da’wah”) or get into heated arguments with their professors. Of course non-Muslim students do these things all the time, but when it’s a Muslim, we are all affected.

I end this article with a situation that took me completely by surprise. Really, when we act like Muslims, people will notice. I received an email from my professor for a summer class I am taking in which I am, again, the only Muslim in the class. He thanked me for my courtesy and good ethics. He told me “you are in social work for the right reasons” and that students have told him they appreciate my kindness and helpful nature.

SubhānAllāh. Receiving his email made me smile. Before I thought of what on earth I had done to deserve such a nice gesture, I prayed to Allāh to accept it from me.

Yes, the university environment is difficult. Yes, we will be faced with a ton of harām things. But, Allāh does not burden us more than we can bear. All people, despite their background or religion, have something to offer us. Look at this experience as a chance to grow as a Muslim – polish your character by dealing with difficult people, use it as a time to fast if you are being affected by the environment, show your professors and classmates what it really means to be a Muslim, look through the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) history and read about how he treated open sinners and non-Muslims, truly thank Allāh for blessing you with Islam and learn how to benefit from people you do not agree with.

May Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) help us, guide us, protect us and increase us in wisdom.

 

Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    serenity

    August 27, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    AsSalaamu Alaykum ukhty

    Had I read this a little 3 years early, i would’ve been advised on how should i act in university. I came from an Islamic school where high school rooms for boys and girls are separated. When I entered college, I was a little intimidated by the environment. I was displeased and got anxious because in the whole university, I was the only Hijaabi Muslim. Every time I pass by the hallways or road, I’d get stared at. I understand that though, it’s more of I got used to it. And because of my personality not far from being introvert, I didn’t make an effort to approach anyone in the class. yes, that made me even more aloof. But now, I can say that I’ve already gained friendship with my classmates. They were nice so it was really easy to mingle with them. I must admit it took time before I got used to the way they behave.

    Great article by the way, how I wish I had read this before I’d come to college.

  2. Pingback: How University Made Me a Better Muslim « Days of Our Lives 2

  3. Avatar

    Richard Prior

    August 27, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Does anybody know where I can get good Tagalog translations of the Quran? please advise me…..

  4. Avatar

    Hajj packages

    August 28, 2012 at 6:56 AM

    Mash Allah very nice article. Thanks for sharing good informative post in your blog. I like it.
    http://www.hajjpackages.org.uk

  5. Avatar

    CL

    August 28, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    I noticed a slight “Muslims superiority” mentality in this post, particularly at the beginning, but it got better as you learned to be more accepting of other people.

    When you said ”
    Of course non-Muslim students do these things all the time”, that’s implying you believe non-Muslim students to naturally behave worse than Muslims. I can tell you that’s not true, non-Muslims do not do these things all the time.
    Other than that, good post!

    • Avatar

      Neemrahs

      August 29, 2012 at 4:34 PM

      I think she just meant non Muslim behavior, not all deeds in general. Unfortunately like all humans we too can take on an attitude superiority however these are not the teachings of Islam, and i think the author does a good job of explaining her own struggle.

  6. Avatar

    Meena Malik

    August 28, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    awesome post! i am a little nervous about going back into the University scene after spending a year in my Muslim bubble as well.

    jzk!

  7. Avatar

    Neemrahs

    August 29, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    MashAllah very nice article. I too wish I had read this a few years earlier. However i just wanted to note on some of the remarks the author has given about her own growth. You gave great examples of how to change and be a better person, not just saying do it. I have to admit, I fell to some un-Islamic behavior in my college days because of my environment, I am not blaming it on that, I take full responsibility. But it is hard and sometimes if you don;t have the right guidance, which can even be a few words like this article you can mis-handle a situation, for lack of better words. I went to a uni with a lot of “hijabi’s” but unfortunately I couldn’t mesh with them b/c they too indulged in a lot of un-Islamic behavior (like backbiting, gossiping, etc.) and it hurt me b/c they judged me b/c I didn’t wear a hijab. So I felt more comfortable with people who didn’t judge me as much (of course they are human and judged a little). But like the author said, just because we are Muslim everything is looked at through a microscope. But I just want to say that I pray more of us can have the wisdom of this sister and be able to make ourselves better people and walk in the prophets as well, Ameen.

  8. Avatar

    Aziza

    August 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now, Alhamdullilah. :)

  9. Avatar

    canadianmuslim

    September 2, 2012 at 2:59 AM

    Subhanallah what an inspiring article!
    Here are 3 reminders for the hijab-wearing muslims who are nervous about studying in university in USA of Canada: Have Courage!
    1) If people stare at you for wearing hijab, remember that tall white/black people in China receive the same kinds of stares; don’t assume that it is all negative, for it is often out of simple curiosity, or even admiration. And if they stare, you can smile back, it’s charity :)
    2) Remember that there are many believers that you cannot know by their dress, muslims included. Being a Christian-dominant country, there will be others who share belief in one God, and they are our brothers and sisters in monotheism. And the rest are our brothers and sisters in humanity. Instead of relying on whether they wear hijab or not to judge their beliefs, go find out for yourself by interacting with them. You may find that you actually are not alone.
    3) Your simple acknowledgement and respect for others, muslims and non muslims alike, could have a huge effect on the minds and hearts of others, by the grace of Allah. what an excellent opportunity!

  10. Pingback: Sept 3, 2012, NEWS « Muslim News Digest

  11. Avatar

    JNisha

    October 19, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    This is wonderfully written. I want to be a muslim but I feel that I cannot. Ever since my Nana passed away, there is no one to show me the right of way. I miss him, his teachings, his prayers, his kindness and his good heart. Now I just feel like a lost American with no muslim roots. It’s sad and it does’t help that everyone around me partakes in haaram behavior. I hope one day I can be as strong as this author or any faithful muslim. Thanks for sharing.

    • Avatar

      A.j

      November 12, 2012 at 8:19 PM

      try nouman ali khan’s lectures on youtube, they are pretty good, plus he’s American too!

  12. Avatar

    Umm Bilal

    December 5, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    Assalam o Alaikum,

    Subhan Allah Ukhti… this is such an eye opener. May Allah keep us steadfast in presenting the real Islam to the world that we encounter every day. ameen

  13. Avatar

    student of knowledge

    December 13, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    As salaam alaikum wa rahmatullahi,

    Going to university, with whole new atmosphere is very interesting, challenging as well. Infacct an opportunity as sister mentioned to build & portray the positive power of a muslim lifestyle.
    Now one confusion that has come up in my deicision making is travelling for studies.

    1] i know we women have rights to education, alhamdulilah
    2] what is the case of travelling abroad to complete education, that means travelling alone,staying in hostel alone, away from our mahrams[legal guardians]

    keeping in mind factors of self-discipline, what exactly is the ruling about travelling alone away from home for education ?

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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#Life

Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that single young Muslims, despite not being in possession of any fortune, are always in search of a spouse.

However little prepared these people may be to undertake this ordeal is given little thought, and they are thrust out into the world of modern Muslim matchmaking. The generational divide in the community has meant that young people have received little training at home to navigate the process of finding a spouse. These individuals are seeking high-quality relationships, but few have the skills and emotional intelligence needed to find one. They are left to learn on their own through trial-and-error, and often a lot of pain.

With hopes of making this journey a little easier, we’ve compiled a few principles to keep in mind as you tread these cold uncharted waters.

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?Click To Tweet

1. Work on yourself

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?

Aspire to be self-fulfilled and complete on your own, rather than hoping for someone else to do that for you. Operationally, this entails refining both your inner and outer self. On the outside this could include basic things like being well-groomed (especially for men), knowing how to cook a healthy diet, exercising regularly and supporting yourself financially. You should also ensure you have good relationships with loved ones – do the people you care about love you back? Admit any wrongs you may have done to them and make amends to improve ties if they are strained. The state of your current relationships can be a good indicator of future ones.

On the inside, you should make a moral inventory and work to address your shortcomings in character. You must work on your selfishness, your anger, your dishonesty, your lust, your pride, your stinginess, your harshness, your resentments, your stubbornness, your fears, your jealousy, your self-righteousness, your vanity. This list is never ending and it’s a lifelong process; the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be.

You must also get help for any serious problems that you fear might affect a relationship – instead of hoping these problems will go away with the ‘right partner’. If you have a pornography problem, seek out help and don’t be deluded into thinking marriage will solve that for you. If you have no control over your desires before marriage, you won’t magically gain control afterward. If you have a substance abuse problem, join a 12-step program. If you feel you are emotionally unhealthy, get help from a professional. Bottom line is, have your house in order before you decide to build a new one.

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

Be purposeful in your search but don’t make it the purpose of your life. The process of finding a spouse can become emotionally draining and overwhelming if you don’t do it in a healthy fashion. Understand that this process entails too many factors that are completely out of your control; things won’t always go your way, so don’t be too attached to the outcome.  The only things you control are your responses and actions, so just focus on putting your best foot forward.

A common mistake people make is they give themselves a timeline e.g. ‘I want to be married by X age, or by X year’. This only results in unnecessary pressure that can lead to anxiety and poor mental health; it can also force one to make imprudent choices. Everyone has a different timeline; have trust in God’s plan for you.

Anytime mental health is disturbed, stop and revaluate. Some signs of poor mental health include: obsessive thinking, inability to focus on your everyday affairs, compulsive attachment and clinginess, disturbed sleep, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, inability to multitask, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, and a loss of inner serenity. It is best to get help from counselors, such as those at Naseeha, if you feel stuck in this situation.

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

The measure you give is the measure you get back. Instead of worrying so much about what you want, focus on what you have to offer.

While you should certainly express your interest in someone you like, don’t taint it with desperation and neediness. If you’ve implemented the first point mentioned, you are already a confident and self-sufficient person. You will be fine no matter what. Focus on giving without expectation and building a healthy companionship. Be a giver and you’ll be surprised how easily you will attract the right people towards you. The ‘mindset of want’ is a self-defeating mindset: you might not find all the things you want in someone, and even if you did, there is no guarantee they’ll want you back!

4. Don’t overthink it

Living in a capitalist society, we’ve developed the bad habit of picking out people the same way we go shopping for a new product. We like to explore the market, do a cost-benefit analysis of various options, try to make sure the product isn’t damaged and hope to pick out the best possible item. We are careful about how we ‘invest our time’ and we try to ensure we can get an appropriate return on our investment. If we could, we’d ask for a money-back guarantee on people too!

Human hearts, unfortunately, cannot be picked out the way we choose commercial products. Each has its flaws and its strengths, you have to accept both the good and the bad; the pro-con list approach won’t work here. When we start taking this reductionist approach to relationships, we naturally get into overthinking, feel anxious and overwhelmed. With the widespread use of online dating, the choices seem limitless and it can seem impossible to try to figure out how to find the right person.

Marriage is a decision that’s to be taken with the heart; you have to rely on your guts and your instincts to steer you towards the person most suitable for you. This doesn’t mean throwing rational thought out the door, it means looking to your inner-self as the source of motivation for your decision making. It takes emotional intelligence and self-awareness to be able to determine what kind of a person you’ll be able to build a future with; it’s not always someone that looks best on paper. There are very few people with whom you’ll find compatibility and reciprocity, so don’t obsess over exploring as many possible ‘options’ with hopes of marking off all the items on your checklist.

We ultimately find the most fulfillment in caring for and taking responsibility for someone we sincerely love. So, look instead for the ingredients that will act as the foundations of love in your marriage. These could include the fact that you: enjoy someone’s company, find them beautiful, admire their character and kindness, respect them, find reciprocity in your interactions, have shared values and compatible temperaments. You are looking for that certitude, that good feeling in your heart; focusing on these factors will hopefully give you that and will get you out of the common mistake of overthinking and worrying.

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Click To Tweet

5. Work to bridge religious differences

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Personal levels of observance can vary vastly, even within members of the same family, so it can be challenging to find the right fit.

You will always find differences in religious observance and views between spouses. It is impossible, and foolish, to try to seek out someone at the exact same level. Some people might be more conservative than you, some might be more liberal. Do you really have to turn someone down because they don’t agree with your views on conventional mortgages? What if you like dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating, and they’re opposed to it? What if they don’t eat zabiha halal like you do? What if they don’t pray all the five prayers on time like you were raised to do so?

Given the unique circumstances we live in, we must be flexible and open-minded about resolving such differences. We ought to be careful when making a judgment about someone’s beliefs; we don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. Some of us were taught to honour God through worship and observing His law, some of us were raised with an emphasis on serving His creation with good character. People have their strengths and their weaknesses in faith; sometimes these are apparent, sometimes hidden. Your relationship with God is not perfect and neither will be your partner’s; we are all a work in progress.

If approached with kindness, mutual respect and a willingness to compromise, these differing religious views could be resolved in many cases. While sometimes people really are on extreme ends, most of us fall somewhere in between and can find a comfortable middle ground. It is often our stubbornness, self-righteousness and a parochial understanding of religion that gets in the way. Good people are hard to find, so don’t let suitable matches go because they don’t follow your exact flavor of religious observance. This is certainly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with tact and wisdom; it is advisable to seek counsel of more experienced people.

6. Don’t expose your past and don’t pry about someone else’s

If you have a past you are not proud of and it doesn’t concern your future relationships, you should not feel obliged to expose yourself. In fact, if this relates to sins of the past, it is actually prohibited to reveal your sins to someone else – even in the context of marriage. Shaykh Nuh Keller summarizes this pitfall well, “In Islam, to mention a sin is itself a sin. How many a person has been unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their previous life, and Allah punished them with disgust and contempt in the other’s heart that could never quite be forgotten! There is no barakah in the haram”.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be prying about someone else’s past and trying to dig up details on their misadventures. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us to have a good opinion of people; he warned against the destructive nature of suspicion and spying. He told us, “Beware of suspicion for it is the most deceitful of thought. Do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; Rather, be servants of God as brothers”

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

The prayer of seeking guidance, or Istikhara, is oft cited by those considering marriage. The mistake many make, however, is that we are really wishing for someone else to make the decision for us. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we find it difficult to make any. We hope for a divine sign or a miracle to happen that tells us that the other person is right for us and that we will live happily ever after with them.

Making big life decisions, emotionally prudent ones, is an important life skill that must be learned. These decisions come with inherent risks, uncertainties, and unknowns; there are no guarantees. If you habitually find yourself having a hard time deciding, it is likely due to external factors. It might have something to do with you, it might have something to do with the person you are considering. It is advisable to seek counsel if you are in this situation.

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Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #6: Is it Taboo to Talk About Sex?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Is talking about sex a taboo in Islam? Religiously, not at all. Culturally though, that's a different story.Click To Tweet
On one hand we are completely stone-walling sex or anything related to sex any issues that people can have with sex, and on the other hand we still live in this country, we still have TV, we still have books, we still have the internet, I don’t understand how these two, almost diametrically opposed philosophies on sex can co-exist in one person’s mind. Click To Tweet
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