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What’s In Your Ear? | Imam Safi Khan

In this WIYE, our Editor-in-Chief, Hena Zuberi interviews Imam Safi Khan: founder and director of the Dar-us-Salaam Community in College Park, MD.

Brother Safi, as he likes to be called, holds a degree in Economics from the University of Maryland, and is well-versed in Islamic law, tafsir, and sirah. He has been a prominent Imam, lecturer, and family and youth counselor in the Washington DC metropolitan area for the past twenty-five years.

The Dar-us-Salaam community is the parent organization of many projects, including Al-Huda School, Tooba University, DUS Medical Practice, Aqabah Karate, and The Muslim Link. The community is currently working to raise $10 million for a new comprehensive Islamic campus – find out more about the campaign at www.homeoftheheart.org.

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Click here to download the WIYE mp3.

A  transcription of the interview.

1. What are you listening to?

[SK] When it comes to listening, obviously I listen to the news often, what’s going on, whether it’s CNN or other news agency. On the Islamic side, I normally don’t get a chance to listen to lectures but once in a while I do listen to the speakers on the national speakers’ circuit as well as scholars from abroad.

2. Do you have a favorite Qari?

[SK] I have a lot of them…I love their recitation. Some of them had actually come here, such as Abdul Rahman As-Sudais. I had the chance to meet Husary in Egypt, he is one of the great reciters of the Qurʾān.  I like Minshawi a lot, as well as Mishary Rashid.

3. What are you reading?

[SK] I obviously love reading. Before the smartphones came out, I [was known] for taking suitcases of books while traveling. After the Quran, I enjoy anything to do with tafseer, books of hadith, learning from Bukhari or Muslim or other Sunnan, other books of hadith that Shaykh Albani has authenticated, so to speak. I love to read books on sīrah, the biographies of our pious predecessors – men and women, Usool al-Fiqh, Tafseer of the Quran or on Purification of the Soul.

I could spend the whole day with a book and not even know that the day had passed. Favorite specific books include the Tafseer of the Quran by As-Sa’adi, Bukhāri and Muslim, Saheeh At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb, Purification of the Soul in English by Jamaluddin Zarabozo. When people ask me [about Purification of the Soul], I tell people that’s not a book that you can read like a novel; read a few pages at a time, put it down, think about, and then move on.

On books on education, I wouldn’t point to any specific book, only because I have seen so many books, both by non-Muslims, and now Muslims, especially in the last 10-15 years. In general, I like to read books on education that deal with the core of the Islamic education curriculum, which I feel is Tazkiyyat al-Nafs. I have learned this from the books and the scholars when they speak about education. Often times, we have an Islamic school, and call it an Islamic school, but it really is just a veneer for whatever is Western, and as a result, people often don’t see the difference between a Muslim and non-Muslim school. As far as education, I like to concentrate on this issue. Purification of the soul should be the core and all subjects should be developed based on this.

4. What are you watching?

[SK] I think the extent of what I would be watching would be news. Outside of that, I don’t really get a chance to watch anything. In the world that we live in here at Dar-us-Salaam, most of our time goes into trying to build this community.

5. What was the last thing that you did for fun or to relax that you really enjoyed?

[SK] To me Islam is fun; anything to do with Islam is relaxing. Of course, it does get tense and stressful, but that usually happens when you are dealing with people, which you have to when you are dealing with an Islamic Project. Personally speaking, if I am with a book and learning, then I totally lose myself. I’m learning about the world, learning about Allāh, and my own inadequacies and shortcoming. When I have an issue in the community, then I feel that it must be inadequacies in me, if I was different then perhaps things would be different…

Often times when I study the lives of scholars, men and women, it gives me a chance to reflect. Those moments of īmān are what I really relish. They are fleeting moments, that you feel a certain way, knowing that they will soon go away. Moments at tahajjud are invaluable, as well as going out and establishing the way of Allāh . Sharing Islam with Muslims and non Muslims is very enjoyable to me.

 

6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or is there any advice you have for MM’s readers?

[SK] When I went abroad to learn Arabic and about Islam, I remember the issue was to just get active for the cause of the Muslims and to really fight the oppression that the Muslims have been suffering for so long. I remember when I was in high school, I saw how the Palestinians used to be slaughtered and it seemed as if no one cared. That really concerned me, as if our blood is not worth the blood of a mosquito, as if it is worthless.

To this day, I feel the best piece of advice I received in this context, was when I remember talking to the scholars about this issue, and they told me that they understood that there were all of these issues, but that you cannot be emotional, and that you have to concentrate on knowledge. You have to learn what is Islam, establish it within yourself first, and then establish it outside. Only when people are knowledgeable about Islam will things change in this world. Get to know Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), who is Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Take a look at the different between us and the generations before us; they would make du‘a and boom, their duas would be accepted.  Today billions raise their hands in du‘ā’ yet… there is obviously some problem with the connection with Allāh. That was the best piece of advice I have received. I am a witness to this due to many things that have happened to me personally and especially in our community.

 

Allah knows best. My advice to MuslimMatters readers would be really learn about Islam,as  the scholars in the past have told me also. Specifically for our situation in the West, apply what we learn, and as we learn to put it in practice, we shouldn’t just be negative and criticize. We should not just bash people, we should present the solution.  Practice what you are learning. Yes, learn but don’t just stack up knowledge. We learn that dealing with interest is haram, let’s all strive to produce an Islamic bank. In the nation we live in, health insurance is always an issue, let’s come up with a Islamic way to do health insurance – these are all in the books of fiqh. In our schools let’s not just criticize Islamic schools or public schools, let’s try to create a curriculum that addresses these needs. Let’s offer a solution.

Learn but as you are learning, put it in practice. Get involved in an Islamic project, because everything you will learn will not be in the books. We have lectures and seminars on how we should be united and work together, yet we hear so many Muslims saying ‘the Muslims are always disorganized and are fighting with each other’. It seems like we haven’t really tackled these issues in the field. When we have people who are Islamically knowledgeable but then there are egos involved or issues such as, ‘I was offended by this and I was offended by that, I don’t tolerate this or that.’, these are all issues of purification of the soul. If we the knowledgeable people cannot get together, then how do we expect the Ummah to come together? I don’t think that there is a single Muslim that doesn’t know something as so simple as our Rasul ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “la taghdab” but people get so angry and upset so quickly. Because of the insecurities of the modern day world, we bring those insecurities even into the Islamic realm, into our Islamic organizations. People don’t trust one another and are suspicious, they don’t think the good of each other. These are basic values that we don’t implement.

RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said ‘Who ever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment, let him say something good or keep quiet.’ But we often see people say ‘Don’t come near me I am having a bad day, I don’t care and I am going to tell you to your face’, without any manners. RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ‘I was sent with code of ethics, with manners.’ Manners really reflect your tauhid, they reflect your aqeedah, your belief.

One of the names of Allah  is As-Sabur. At a practical level, people are very impatient.

In the practical manner, people don’t let people finish their thoughts and ideas. They are judgmental because they cannot be patient. People don’t wait for others, people don’t keep secrets. These are things that fracture relationships, not just between husband and wives, but also between brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters and communities and nations.

Whatever little you learn, put it into practice. Perhaps you learn 1/10 of the knowledge from a book, and 9/10 when you put into practice.

 

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    I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

    Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

    I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

    And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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    A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

    Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

    Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

    We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

    All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

    Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

    So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

    Make this the Ramadan of good enough

    How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

    Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

    Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

    Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

    Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

    He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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    #Current Affairs

    Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

    Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

    Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

    In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

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    To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

    O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

    This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

    Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

    To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

    Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

    With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

    Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

    It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

    To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

    “It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

    In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

    Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

    Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

    Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

    The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

    Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

    Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

    Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

    It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

    One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

    Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

    The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

    Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

    One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

    “The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

    There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

    Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

    A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

    For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

    Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

    To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

    In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

    I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

    • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
    • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
    • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
    • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
    • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
    • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
    • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
    • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

    I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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    #Society

    Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

    #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

    Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

    By Fatima Asad

    Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

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    “Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

    But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

    Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

    Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

    It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

    Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

    It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

    Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

    Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

    There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

    There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

    Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

    We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

    Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

    Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

    Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

    Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

    Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

    Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

    And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

    Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

    More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

    Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

    It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

    #justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

     

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

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