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Six Stories Down: When It’s More Than Just The Baby Blues

The first apartment where my husband and I lived had six stories, and we lived on the sixth floor.  I remember this clearly because in the months after my first son was born, I spent way too much time hanging out laundry and hoping that somehow, just somehow, I would accidentally fall off our sixth floor balcony and die.

Astaghfirullah – there wasn’t anything really wrong with my life, and I had no reason to contemplate suicide even in such an indirect way.  My husband was loving and supportive and adored our new son.  I had very few responsibilities other than taking care of the baby, the house, and myself.  I had enough food, enough money, and comfortable shelter over my head, but unfortunately, I also had postpartum depression.

Our well-meaning, traditional matriarchs might ask what all this postpartum depression nonsense is all about.  After all when your baby is a newborn you’re SUPPOSED to be miserable – they call that the baby blues. You’re sleep-deprived, learning how to feed your baby for the first time, constantly worried about temperature, safety, illness, and of course, the routine running of the household. You can be expected to feel a little challenged – that’s what new motherhood is all about – but suicidal?

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There are differences between the baby blues and postpartum depression, and these differences are important.  Both postpartum depression and the baby blues can leave you feeling out of sorts in a variety of ways, but the baby blues usually get better on their own within two weeks.  Postpartum depression doesn’t.

Postpartum depression can last for months, and it can take away your ability to eat, sleep properly, interact with family and friends, or even bond with your baby.  This is all made worse by anxiety, feelings of guilt and inadequacy given the task at hand, as well as dangerous thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

In my case, PPD meant that I alternated between wishing I would die and then feeling terrified that something would happen to me, leaving my newborn son without a mother.  I was chronically sleep deprived, but when my son finally went to sleep, I lay in bed wide-eyed, jittery, and unable to sleep or stay asleep for very long.  I would hear him crying for me -even if he was dozing peacefully in his bouncer or out for a walk with his father- and the sound of his wailing haunted me.

Sometimes people tell you that there is no depression in Islam.  I’m not sure why they say this, because Allah would not tell us that our hearts would find rest in remembering Him if our hearts were not restless in the first place.  Allah would not give us a healing for our hearts if our hearts did not need healing -but from a cultural point of view, admitting to depression is taboo.  So, I told no one but my husband, and all I told him was that I was struggling a bit.

Alhamdulillah as the weeks passed slowly into months my son grew, I slowly regained control, got over the insomnia, and stopped wishing I would die. I told no one else though, until a year later when a friend of mine called and said, straight to the point, “I’m taking a survey on postpartum depression.  My mother in law says it doesn’t exist, but I can’t sleep, am mentally paralyzed and don’t eat for 36 hours at a time. How about you?”

When the baby cried, I did too. And baies cry alot.

When the baby cried, I did too. And babies cry alot.

How about me? Well, I had PPD after my daughter was born as well, and this time it was so severe that I would have sudden panic attacks, complete with chest pain, overwhelming hopelessness, and the feeling that life would never, ever be normal again.  When the baby cried, so did I.

I love my children -after Islam I consider my children to be the biggest blessings Allah has bestowed on me- but the combination of fluctuating post-pregnancy hormones, sleep deprivation, and newborn stress does something to my brain that is not normal.

How did I get out of PPD? Alhamdulillah, I never needed medication, but I did need my husband’s help and understanding.  And of course, I needed healing for my heart- I needed Qur’an.  When I felt like the walls were closing in on me and I could feel anxiety closing tightly around my throat- I would start reciting Qur’an, and I wouldn’t stop until I felt better.

Sometimes, I recited Qur’an for a VERY long time, but I knew that was the only thing that would let me breathe more freely, remember Allah’s blessings upon me, and calm my heart in a way that reason cannot ever begin to explain.  I began to memorize new surahs, and I began to fall in love with ayahs that spoke directly to my pain.

Two years after my daughter’s birth, I had a miscarriage.  Outwardly, I managed to keep things together, but I spent months crying alone and feeling guilty for wanting something that Allah had not decreed for me. I found myself needing more than Qur’an to pick up the broken pieces of my well-being.

Alhamdulillah, my husband pushed me to start attending Islamic classes, and the light of new knowledge pushed the darkness away, even if the darkness had more to do with loss than a crisis of faith.  Here I was struggling with my own depression as well as raising two young children- I was in pain that had nothing to do with ‘Ilm, but the more ‘Ilm I sought, the smaller my pain became.  Eventually, it was replaced with joy and lightness in my heart that I have only ever felt when my Iman is on a high, and to this day, I know that if I start to feel darkness creeping in on me, I need to look for light.  Whether I find it in the Qur’an or in ‘Ilm, I need to find it and hold on to it until the darkness goes away.

That’s my experience with postpartum depression, and every mother who struggles with it will probably have a different story to tell.  The blessing of being a Muslim though, is that every one of us can benefit from the healing that Allah has placed in the Qur’an.

“Verily in remembering Allah do hearts find rest.” The Holy Qur’an, surah 13 Ar-Ra’ad, ayah 38

The blessing of being a Muslim alive in this day and age though- is that we live in a time of unparalleled medical and psychological research. There should be no shame in admitting the need for emotional and psychological help, and there should be no shame in seeking medical help either.

If you are a new mother, you’re probably over-worked, exhausted, and damp with baby body fluids of one kind or another at any given moment- but you should not feel hopeless, depressed, afraid or resentful of your baby, or worse -suicidal.  You shouldn’t be afraid of reaching out for help, whether to your husband or to a close friend.  You would be surprised how many people have gone through postpartum depression, and the support that an experienced friend can offer you is priceless.  Most importantly, you should not underestimate the power of dua and Qur’an on a bruised and broken heart.

If you’re a new father, please be aware that postpartum depression is real, and so is the social stigma and shame that might prevent your wife from telling you that she needs help.  Please take a moment to learn more about it, because the healthier your wife is, the happier and healthier your entire family will be.

May Allah strengthen us all and give us the patience to see our hardships through to the ease He has promised, and help us to remember Allah’s promise that no soul will be burdened than more than it can bear.

Editor’s Note: If you are experiencing anything similar please do consult a medical doctor, psychiatrist, counselor.

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Zeba Khan is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org and the producer of the newly launched Muslimmatters Podcast, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate. In addition to having a child with autism, she herself lives with Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome, Dysautonomia, Mast-Cell Activation Disorder, and a random assortment of acronyms that collectively translate to chronic illness and progressive disability.

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Siraaj

    May 31, 2013 at 6:04 AM

    Jzk for sharing this deeply personal story with us, these are among many issues within our community affecting our sisters that we have to begin acknowledging not as some type of vudu science, but as problems requiring solutions, some of which you’ve provided, alhamdulillah.

  2. Avatar

    Man from the Dark Side "The Undertaker"

    May 31, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    If depression can affect people with such religiosity, then shouldn’t I stay sinful? Need an honest reply. Thanks.

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      June 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Depression can affect both religious and non-religious, that’s not why people decide to take the religious path. Sure, there are perks, but the primary reason for avoiding sin and doing what is obligatory is understanding that we are all slaves of Allah and He can punish and reward. Being religious because it prevents depression is not sincere religiosity. However, being patient and reliant upon Allah in the face of difficulty increases one’s rank with Him. That’s the only real way of making something out of difficulty – people who don’t have reliance on Allah simply have a bad time but those who are reliant have something to show for it in the next world and often in this one too.

      I’d also like to point out that any excuse to not be religious and remain sinful is a ploy of the Shaitan. There is no excuse, we should do our best. It’s the Shaitan who seeks to give one false excuses for not pursuing the straight path.

  3. Abez

    Abez

    May 31, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Hello Undertaker- I believe that if you don’t have religion to strengthen your resolve to not drop yourself off of a balcony, then you could become one of the mothers who ends up stepping off- or worse- throwing your child over it. A small but very real percentage of women with PPD develop proper psychological problems that result in suicide, child abuse, or worse- infanticide.

    That’s my honest answer. :)

    • Avatar

      Man from the Dark Side "The Undertaker"

      June 1, 2013 at 1:31 AM

      then you could become one of the mothers..

      I a man, so can’t be a mother. :D I’m not religious, but the thing that stops me from committing suicide is that a person goes straight to hell if they kill themselves. Thanks for your reply. :)

      Regards.

      • Abez

        Abez

        June 2, 2013 at 5:38 AM

        “the thing that stops me from committing suicide is that a person goes straight to hell if they kill themselves”

        Well, you may not consider yourself to be “very” religious, but you have enough religion to prevent you from committing suicide,

        InshaAllah. Imagine how many more things religion can protect you from if you get a little bit more of it. ;)

  4. Avatar

    Zainab bint Younus

    May 31, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Jazaakillaahi khairan for sharing this with us.

    Oddly, I had what I call pre-partum depression – severe depression (complete with thoughts of suicide etc) during my pregnancy. I believe that this an equally severe and ‘taboo’ topic (after all, you’re supposed to be happy and excited during your pregnancy, not want to die), and both need to have much awareness raised about them.

    • Abez

      Abez

      June 2, 2013 at 5:39 AM

      SubhanAllah, that must have been a different experience altogether and I can only imagine. I was blessed in that my pregnancies were relatively easy and I was looking forward to meeting my babies, it just went a little downhill shortly after they were born :p

  5. Muhammad Wajid Akhter

    Muhammad Wajid Akhter

    May 31, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Asalaam Alaikum,

    JazakAllah khairun for sharing your experience. I would just like to add something on top of the excellent advice you have already given and that is – if you have post-partum/ pre-partum or just plain old depression of any sort, please see your doctor.

    The Prophet (SAW) himself encouraged us to seek medical advice when ill so there is nothing wrong with doing this along with the advice given in this article inshaAllah. But there is so much more that medicine has to offer beyond just drugs for depression. Even a simple understanding of the nature and course of the illness can be liberating to many people.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      May 31, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      Walaikum Assalam Brother- thank you for including that very sensible advice, if I had been less shy I would have sought help too, and hopefully bringing this topic to the Muslim table can give other sisters the courage they need to ask for help from a friend or a doctor, InshaAllah. :)

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      June 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      That’s true to an extent, but I’d just like to warn people of taking drugs for depression. Anti-depressants have a lot of crazy side-effects, including those that last much longer than the depression. I personally know people who have are still suffering from the effects of taking anti-depressants 10 years after the fact.

      Of course, if it comes down to being afraid of taking one’s life, anti-depressants are probably a better option. I’m just warning against taking them outside of dire need. And like you said, there’s other benefits of seeking medical advice also.

  6. Avatar

    Yasmin

    May 31, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Jazakallah khair for sharing this very touching personal story with all of us! Inshallah your experiences will benefit all of us who’ve read this post!

  7. Avatar

    HelplessSlave

    May 31, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Subhana’Allah I did not know something like this existed.

    How truthful and full of mercy were the words of Allah when he said

    “And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.”
    Luqman [31:14]

    All these days I thought that weakness upon weakness mean just the physical pain, but Subhana’Allah now I know about the emotional component in it.

    The Qur’an just literally picks the brain. How Merciful is our creator ?

    • Avatar

      Abez

      May 31, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      “Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.”
      Luqman [31:14]

      JazakAllahuKheiran for sharing this insight and Ayah.

      I never understood the importance of this until I had children myself, and I am willing to bet it’ll resonate even more strongly once they’ve grown up and gotten even more complicated than before. Everything I thought I “knew” about what my parents did for me was insignificant when compared to what I learned when I became a parent myself.

      So go hug your parents while you still can. :)

  8. Avatar

    still learning

    May 31, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    Sister, thank you for addressing this issue, I had this with my seventh child only and thought it would never happen to me. My cure was also listening to the Quran and going to the Masjid every night.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      May 31, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      SubhanAllah that you should get PPD with your 7th! That just goes to show it has nothing to do with lack of experience or mothering know-how! Alhamdulillah, glad to hear you were able to find solace. >>hugs<<

      • Avatar

        still learning

        June 1, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        ((hug back)) sister, I think some of this is caused by hormonal imbalance, I was 40 yrs old at the time and also I had some issues i had been repressing for a long time. I started spending time listening to Quran every evening, esp Surat Qaf because it makes me cry, it was very cathartic for me.

  9. Avatar

    Ummhamzamuslimah

    May 31, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Sister without really knowing it consciously perhaps you basically sought ruqya : quran and islamic teachings to get u out. My advice to sisters who feel down for days without a particular cause , pls recite surah baqarah in one day each day and you will FEEL the difference. At the very least, play it in your home.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      May 31, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      AssalamuAlaikum sister- I think you may be right about that. Although I hadn’t thought about it consciously in terms of seeking ruqiya, that’s exactly what ruqiya is- healing from the Qur’an. It definitely works, though for me simply listening to Qur’an or playing it in the background didn’t really feel like much. I had to recite it.

    • Avatar

      samreen

      August 26, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      Surah baqarah is quite lengthy… can we recite only 1 ruku a day. Will it also help ??

  10. Avatar

    Sister

    June 1, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    I used to think depression was just something people made up until it hit me.It doesn’t matter whether your practicing or not.I had the best Ramadan in 2012.I made so much dua prayed long hours in Qiyaam plus in the last ten nights of Ramadan.i was on a spiritual high.One month after Ramadan it hit me.I was depressed for over eight months.I felt like committing suicide and most people I talked to and articles I read talked about lack of eeman and me being an ungrateful person.Like you said Quran really helps.I would recommend reading a very good translation,reciting or listening when you don’t feel like reciting.Plus get professional help and make lots of dua.One of the best things I learnt from the experience is making so much dua outside of Salaah.My prayers were not of the best of quality during this period.But when I sit in my bed crying I always asked Allah for help.
    I wish most Muslims will recognize the fact that depression is real and stop giving silly advice and making comments about you not being a true mumin.

    • Abez

      Abez

      June 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      I wish I could give this comment more than one thumbs up. It deserves at least ten.

  11. Avatar

    Umm

    June 1, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Assalamu’alaikum Sister Abez,

    So are you now fully recovered? May Allah grant you the best level of reward for your patience, ameen :)

    • Abez

      Abez

      June 2, 2013 at 5:42 AM

      Walaikum Assalam Sister- Yes, Alhamdulillah. My third child is now two years old, and while I still occasionally struggle with anxiety, and stress, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of what you can expect with three young children. Alhamdulillah :)

  12. Avatar

    anoone

    June 1, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Assalamualikaum..
    Very inspiring..!!
    Jazak Allah khair

  13. Avatar

    Umm Esa

    June 2, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    JazakAllahu khayran sister for writing this article. I have been looking for information regarding pregnancy, child-birth, post-birth and parenting recently. Unfortunately, I feel that a detailed literature in this area (from Muslim-perspective) still needs to be compiled and be accessible. I am grateful that you brought this topic up. The Realization that a certain disorder/ problem may not be unique to ourselves alone can us help seek assistance, and not be embarrassed about it.

    • Abez

      Abez

      June 4, 2013 at 3:13 AM

      “The Realization that a certain disorder/ problem may not be unique to ourselves alone can us help seek assistance, and not be embarrassed about it.”

      InshaAllah, Ameen!

      Sis, if you are currently researching stuff, maybe you can put together a Muslim-flavored writeup on what you find?

  14. Avatar

    Umm A

    June 2, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    Assalamu-alaikum, JazaakAllaahu khayr and hugs x hugs for sharing this sister. Alhamdulillah, I only probably had ‘baby blues’ or mild PPD but Lord did I feel miserable..all compounded by other social/health issues at the time. More than anything, lack of understanding on the part of spouses and family makes it worse. Social isolation, whether obvious or not plays a big part as well. If it is affordable or feasible, sometimes a change in scenery, a short holiday can help ‘reset’ yourself methinks; of course in conjunction with asking Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’Ala profusely. May Allah Ta’Ala make ease for all mommies….

    • Abez

      Abez

      June 4, 2013 at 3:17 AM

      “May Allah Ta’Ala make ease for all mommies….”

      Ameen! And since and certain amount of mommyness cannot be made any easier, thank Allah for giving mothers a special status and InshaAllah, forgiveness through sabr. :)

  15. Avatar

    Khalidah

    June 3, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum sister Abez, Jazaakillaah khairan kathiraa for sharing your story with us. Your article is full of gems, maa shaa ALLAH. I believe the Qur’an and the methods you sought in overcoming your struggle can work for anyone going through any type of depression; I’ve personally seen the solutions you gave as the only means of surviving during states of depression. May ALLAH swt ease our affairs for us, protect us, and guide us. Ameen.

    • Abez

      Abez

      June 4, 2013 at 3:20 AM

      “I believe the Qur’an and the methods you sought in overcoming your struggle can work for anyone going through any type of depression; ”

      Walaikum Assalam Sis Khadija- I agree with you 1000%- I had to rely on the same coping methods when my son was diagnosed with autism- Qur’an, and LOTS of dua. :)

  16. Avatar

    Berserk Hijabi

    June 4, 2013 at 2:44 AM

    Reading Muslim Matters articles make me want To fast forward to Ramadan.I love u Muslim Matters!

  17. Avatar

    PPD recovery

    June 5, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    I too suffered from PPD with my first child, or so I thought. Then Allah destined a miscarriage. The miscarriage took care of the PPD like magic. In fact after the miscarriage I looked back at the moments I had not treasured with the first newborn. The miscarriage brought upon thoughts of guilt about how I had self diagnosed the PPD by Googleing things up.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      June 6, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      May Allah forgive your sins and compensate your loss with blessings sister. Why did you feel guilty for self-diagnosing PPD?

  18. Avatar

    Mammie

    June 11, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Assalaamualaikum my sister

    Jazakillah Khayran for your touching article. I am almost due with my second baby Alhamdulilah and travelling to my home country to delivery this time inshaAllah. I see myself reflected in your article after my first baby was born, except that instead of thoughts of suicide, I became obsessed with going to the gym daily for months after the delivery & feel could have bonded more with my baby instead if I was in the right frame of mind. I felt I needed my normal body back, also spurred by my insecurity that my loving husband would be ‘turned off’ me if I still carried all this baby flab around for long! Depression was no stranger incidentally having creeped into my student days from time to time, when I was away from my home country & family. This time I was intent on beating PPD, and turned to running (on the treadmill)!

    But running alone turned me into a kind of ‘maniac escapee mum’ after shedding a crazy 30kilos in 5 months. I was still unhappy generally & would only let my tears fall & let down my guard while I ran sometimes for 30minutes non-stop at high speed. My worldview post-baby was still tainted with anger and frustration even though I hid it from others; I viewed the silence and distance of my friends post-delivery as betrayal, everything and everyone else was to be blamed subhanallah. Until just like you, I started reading the Quran with my baby listening near me, attending online Ilm classes, my heart then found peace. I understood that the most important thing is to nurture & thank Allah for my new family unit and strive my best as a new mother no matter how steep the climb. The physical highs I felt after each gym session and spiritual highs after each ilm class (albeit interrupted by the needs of my baby), healed my hurt Alhamdulilah & made me a stronger woman. As you also point out, I now know exactly who to turn to and where to turn to inshaAllah.

    Final word, if I may do so, I would also like to advise my dear sisters out there to maintain a flexible fitness routine after delivery alongside a spiritual regimen, seek good company of our dear husbands, families & sincere sisters and make lots of duas to Allah SWT to beat those whisperings of Shaytaan and from our own nafs & hormones! May Allah make us mums the means to become the true Jannah for our offsprings, Ameen :)

    • Avatar

      Abez

      June 13, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      AssalamuAlaikum Sister, may Allah make your upcoming delivery easy and your new baby healthy. :) InshaAllah, may your post-partum recovery be easier and more full of love than your previous experience, especially now that you know:

      “The physical highs I felt after each gym session and spiritual highs after each ilm class (albeit interrupted by the needs of my baby), healed my hurt Alhamdulilah & made me a stronger woman. As you also point out, I now know exactly who to turn to and where to turn to inshaAllah.”

      You summed it up beautifully. :)

  19. Avatar

    Ssamo

    July 15, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    Salam! I started reading the ramadan post and was so inspired as this year I was really struggling and then at the bottom, this post caught my eye so I linked over.
    The two posts were exactly what I needed in this moment. This Ramadan snuck up on me. Every year I get super excited just waiting for the reconnection to God and the community that I know I will have in this month. When I think of Ramadan, I remember the days of being a kid begging my parents to go to taraweeh so we could see our friends and play. Although it took a few years until i developed the wisdom to join the actual prayers, those were the days that developed my love for Ramadan and the masjid.
    Last year I was pregnant while working almost 80 hrs/wk so was not able to fast. This year I am nursing but decided this would not stop me from fasting. But this year, instead of my usual excitement I felt something new… i felt fear as Ramadan approached. I now had two kids, was starting a new job on the first day of Ramadan and had never really fasted such long days (since I missed last year). In fact, my faith had been seriously struggling and I am ashamed to admit, since my baby was born, I could count the number of times I had prayed. I had been so depressed after the baby was born, but unlike others, instead of using my faith to pull me out of it, my faith continued to dwindle. By the time Ramadan arrived, I was still struggling with maybe PPD and thought fasting would be the cure. Day one, I went to the masjid- the same masjid that I once so loved and begged to go to- and I felt sadder. The women’s area was a small crowded boxed off section and after two rakah, the imam reprimanded the mom with the crying baby in the back as I worked to keep my baby quiet so I could feel part of the community in prayer. I struggled to focus on the quran recitation while trying to keep my baby from crawling away. I felt empty. I truly felt like there was no place in the masjid for young moms. The masjid definitely did not feel welcoming.
    Today, I was accepting that maybe the next time I could pray taraweeh in jamaat will be when my kids are older. Reading your posts about PPD and gaining the most from Ramadan without fasting reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. My faith is in my hands. My faith and my connection to God is not limited to fasting or praying scheduled prayers. My faith is what I make it. There are many ways for me to find my iman again. But in the end it’s up to me. I can’t just hang my hat on fasting, thinking that feeling hungry all day will magically be all I need to cleanse my heart. It’s going to take more than that and I’m going to have to put in the time. My kids and work are not keeping me from God, I am.
    Also, I tried to ignore my ‘depression’ as I was always torn about the idea that if you were a true Muslim you couldn’t be depressed. Especially being in the medical field, I had a hard time reconciling the idea that I could feel so depressed despite logically knowing how blessed I truly was. But subhanallah, you stated it well Abez, why would Allah offer a treatment for an ailment that didn’t exist. I can do this, I just need the right ammunition.
    This post and comments brought tears. I must say abez, I think of you and your family often as you were not only unique ;) but always an inspiration to me growing up. Thank you for sharing.
    May Allah bless you and your family.

  20. Abez

    Abez

    July 16, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    AssalamuAlaikum Samo. :) You know what’s funny, you and your sisters inspired me growing up, so I guess it’s a fair trade?

    I have come to accept that I will probably not be able to pray Tarawih in a masjid for quite a while longer, but it turns out that I actually enjoy praying Tarawih more at home. Moreso than the rosy “community” idea, I prefer the one-on-one focus on concentration on my connection to Allah during salah. The ROI is much higher, because guess what- I don’t have to worry about my two year old crawling away or my five year old saying she’s bored of my seven year old having an accident on the carpet because the prayers are too long!

    And- here’s the best part- we get more sawaab for praying at home than we do at the masjid. :) What a mercy that is, Alhamdulillah- because Allah knows that no matter how “welcoming” of young mothers a masjid is, you can’t concentrate on prayers if the baby is crying, the toddler is escaping, and the big kid is running around and playing with friends- just like we used to when we were younger. :) None of what our kids do has anything to do with the masjid being welcome, because it would probably distract us whether other people were bothered or not.

    And in regard to the depression- I’ve been there, trust me. Not just PPD, but also a miscarriage and the stress of having a son diagnosed with autism. It’s real, and the Qur’an is the answer. Even the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- had an entire YEAR of sadness following the death of Khadija- may Allah be pleased with her. It was the same year his uncle died, and so Allah brought him to Jannah for Isra & Miraaj.

    You can choose how close you want to be Allah, even if your route of choice is not open. Because there’s more than one road to Jannah, InshaAllah. :)

    Hugs,
    Abez

  21. Avatar

    sara

    July 26, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    I don’t know if what I went through was this, and noone would believe me if I told them so. Like you said I kept it completely hidden from everyone except my husband, and him just tried to explain my strange crying outbursts. People really need to learn about this, if it didn’t exist before, it certainly does now, and if men and some women don’t believe it, the least they can do is offer some support. It’s shameful, but some women actually fall into harm when they are surrounded by unbelieving, criticizing, unhelpful folk.

  22. Avatar

    andrea

    August 4, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I don’t usually comment on things but I just want to give a heartfelt thank you for writing this. Jazakallahu khair.

  23. Pingback: Look who’s coming out, but it isn’t what you think: Part I | altM

  24. Pingback: What's The Matter? | Postpartum or More? - MuslimMatters.org

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    -A

    July 26, 2016 at 4:30 AM

    And there are those of us women who are middle aged or older (a minority of us) who have never married and therefore had no children (of those of us who wanted marriage and children) who suffer grief from that. The grief, depression, isolation and social stigma of childlessness is often overlooked in the Muslim as well as other communities. Add to that clinical depression and it can take on a new level.

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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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