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Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

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Ramadan 2013 Posts

The usual scene at taraweeh is children running around in the prayer area, tweens in the hallways, and teens in the parking lot. At the masjid I’m attending, the imam said some very wise things: Taraweeh is sunnah, while looking after and protecting your children is fard. He urged the fathers to watch the children while the mothers prayed and then switch so that fathers could pray while the moms watched their kids, emphasizing that both genders’ ibadah is just as important. The issue wasn’t to not bring the kids to the masjid but to make it a positive experience for them.

“Why did you bring your children here?” he asked rhetorically, his voice shaking with emotion, “To give them an Islamic foundation and experience this blessed environment. Help us give that to them.”

Well, they weren’t getting much of that wrestling outside the facility or stuffing toilet paper into the bathroom stalls, or hooking up in the parking lot. I love seeing kids in the masjid – I really think for the future of the deen, our masajid need to be extremely family friendly.

All of this was happening even though the community put together two separate, free, age-appropriate child care stations with activities (wo)manned by the young women of the community and not just the usual ‘a ton of children running around babysitting,’ which leads me to say this: we often complain that the masjid doesn’t do enough for the community, but sometimes the community doesn’t do enough for the masjid.

All it takes is for one child to get hurt or injured and the whole place could be shut down. (Although I have to say there is a special rahmah during Ramadan when so many kids are doing the most crazy stuff I have ever witnessed and none of them get hurt – it must be the angels!)

Some parents make it work – they have the well-behaved kids in the masjid who make you smile and say MashaAllah. Here are some things that they do which may help. Most of the following suggestions aren’t for babies – babies cry, it’s normal, and we need to learn to deal with it.

  • Most importantly, Ramadan and taraweeh should be planned for ahead of time so we actively participate in Ramadan instead of Ramadan falling upon us. It should be the culmination of our year as a family.
  • Plan your stays at the iftars and tareweehs. Talk to your kids ahead of time about what will happen and what the timeline will be. Give them a “social hour” to meet and greet their friends before salah starts. Make a rule that after salah they need to be in the musallah. Bring some quiet activities like coloring books and books for older kids.
  • If you are going to take your children, make sure that they are fed. You are fasting, but your younger kids are not fasting. Kids start becoming very anxious/cranky if they haven’t been fed properly. Make sure that they are satiated so they are not bugging you while you are opening your iftar or praying. Take small, non-messy snacks with you.
  • Let your children know what you expect from them. Sometimes they don’t know what is expected and follow the crowd. Also, if the kids haven’t been inside a masjid all year long they may have forgotten what happens during taraweeh. It is even harder for kids whose parents have never been to the masjid. My husband says just because you went on Hajj last year and now you have starting coming to taraweeh doesn’t mean that your 9 year old who has never been to a masjid knows how to behave at a masjid. You will have to be patient and teach them. Going to the masjid is important for their identity, but don’t expect them to learn immediately proper behavior there.
  • Ask your friends to kid-pool during taraweeh:  you watch their kids while they pray and they watch yours. If there are enough of you, everyone can get a good chunk of taraweeh during the month.
  • Your tweens/teens need you to step up. Make their Eid presents dependent on their behavior during taraweeh. Have them leave their gadgets at home or in the car. Use all your best parenting tricks that you use for good grades in school NOW.
  • Get them excited about worship. Talk about the themes/meanings that will be read at taraweeh before heading out. Tell them about the reward of taraweeh. Make up a game for the younger ones. We talk about how many “zombies” we “kicked” by praying – it’s a bit unconventional but boys like games.
  • Show some respect. If you know that your children will need to use the bathroom multiple times or will roll around in front of the musallis, pray in the back or sides. The elders who have already raised their children deserve some quality time. It’s easy to take children to the bathroom from the back rows and to check on the older ones.
  • Be a role model. Don’t be chit-chatting during the salah, in the halls, in the bathrooms and then expect the kids not to follow suit.
  • Turn to them after each set and give them a smile, a pat on the back, a look of love, telling them immediately that you appreciate their patience and stillness. Tell them that they are surrounded by angels and that you love them for the sake of Allah. Other adults should do this too. In my opinion, this goes further than anything else.
  • Stay home if you cannot control them or if the experience is so bad that it would make them run away from the religion (yes some masjid experiences can do that), especially if it smells really bad, is extremely hot and crammed.
  • Take their sleeping bags or a favorite blanket with you so if they are sleepy they can lie down next to you.
  • Reward them with a small treat if they behaved or read (stayed by your side) salah. Positive reinforcement makes for positive memories.
  • There are so many huffadh in our communities that maybe you can host taraweeh in your own homes with smaller gatherings.  This can complete your ibadah and also give your small children the convenience of being in their own homes.
  • Don’t give up! If you are in charge or know someone in charge, try to announce the names of the kids who were really well behaved after each taraweeh. There is nothing like good ‘ol competition and recognition. It gets people’s attention more than the “parents please control your kids” announcements.

I would love to hear from tweens and teens on how taraweeh can become a more positive experience for them as well. Please feel free to add your suggestions in comments!

 

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hyde

    July 19, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    Hooking up in the parking lot…what sort of “hooking up” are we talking about, if I may be so blunt to ask ?

  2. Avatar

    Fathima

    July 19, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Helpful tips really a good article !

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 21, 2013 at 11:38 PM

      Jazakillah khayra for reading – please do share with friends and fellow masjid goers.

      • Avatar

        mar

        May 27, 2019 at 4:14 PM

        Salam aleikum. Our masjid ICGC has invested in an amazing way by having a program specifically designed for children ages 4 to 12 during the first 8 rakat of taraweh. The Institute of Youth Development and Excellence delivers this program all but one night a week. Children are registered and when they arrived they participate in fun lessons that focus on Ramadan and on implementing these lessons. This year’s theme is “building your garden in janah’ the lessons include the imams lead Isha prayer and special projecta for the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Children are safe, learning and positively engaged with their Masjid and with this blessed month while parents are able to take and extend the benefit of the 8 rakat of taraweh.

  3. Avatar

    iMuslim

    July 19, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Perhaps combine with “taraweeh tips” that have been offered in other MM articles: e.g., read the translation of the Quran to be recited that night together as a family. For young children who won’t understand as well, tell stories of the prophets, Jannah, Jahannum, manners, etiquette, etc., that will be mentioned. Then after the completion of the prayer unit, remind them of what you discussed earlier, “Did you hear the imam recite the story of Musa?”. Reinforcement through positive attention insha’Allah. :)

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 21, 2013 at 11:40 PM

      Great point Zee, esp if you are reading the tafseer and meaning anyways why not share a condensed version with the children.

  4. Avatar

    Jessi Frenzel

    July 19, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    This is really great, mashaAllah. Thanks.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 21, 2013 at 11:44 PM

      Jazakiilah Khayra for reading Jessi. May Allah help us raise righteous Muslimeen. The day this posted was the day my own daughter started chit chating. She had asked for a break so I said sure, as it was really late; so we can never be too relaxed :) It is easier when my husband has the boys and I have the girls but if he is ever at work during a Taraweeh it gets hard taking care of all four.

  5. Avatar

    ahmed

    July 19, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Idk that any of these work for teens. Im a youth grp person and I think kids don’t respect the masjid.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 21, 2013 at 11:48 PM

      Teens are a category on their own- so much can be said about it. How were they raised? What are their parents expectation of them. For some parents its just enough that their kids are at the masjid and not at the mall. While others have inculcated the practice of taraweeh since they were young. How do you think teens who haven’t been taught about the hurma of the masjid can learn to respect the masjid?

  6. Avatar

    maliurjmalikha

    July 19, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Don’t ever blame the kids…they emulate the behavior of their parents. If you raise your children by educating them about proper adab(behavior) there is no way on this earth they are going to behave unruly when they are out. Let’s be real…Telling them to behave when they go to masjid and at home they act like renegades and rebels…just ain’t gonna get the outcome we all seek. So parents fulfill your obligation as parents…control your kids everyday …365 days a year so when Ramadan comes it’s like ,,,everything is normal. the children know their roles!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 21, 2013 at 11:50 PM

      I agree that we cannot blame the young children. we have to be be proactive parents. Sometimes the best of parents may have children who are having an off day. I think empathy goes a long way.

  7. Avatar

    muslimah24

    July 20, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Asalamu Alaikum, Let me start off by saying I’m not against kids in the masjid (unless your child is wild). However, one thing I never hear Muslims mention is babysitting! (the kind that’s done at home) Why is our community so allergic to that word. Taraweeh is very late this year, a 5 year old should be at home, in bed, sleeping. Period. All the babysitter has to do is make sure things are okay in case he/she wakes up. Kids need routine and structure and muslim families are just not providing that.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 22, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      wa ‘alay kummassalam wa rahmatulah,
      You are right. Many in our community are allergic to this word. Some can’t afford it or think that they cant afford it. Others like myself do not feel comfortable leaving the kids with a babysitter. Let me re-frame that; the only people I felt comfortable leaving my children with ever were my very close (after years of friendship) friends, close family, and young sisters from my community who I knew since they were kids themselves.

      That is why I suggested kidpooling, which can be done at home.

      I am not an intense routine oriented person; I couldn’t be as a stay at home mom with the schedule my husband has ( he doesn’t have a 9-5 job and keeping a strict schedule would mean kids not seeing Baba for days) and now when I am working as a reporter, my timings are also not set in stone.

      Personally I think children should be raised to be adjustable to circumstances and surroundings. However, I recognize that there are parents whose parenting styles may differ from mine and who are comfortable with hired babysitters so your recommendation is a great one for them. Jazakillah khayra for reading and leaving a comment.

  8. Pingback: Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work « Islam in Australia .com

  9. Avatar

    Yasmin

    July 20, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Jazakallah khiar for these much needed post!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 21, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      Wa alaykummassalam Sr. Yasmin
      Thanks for reading and leaving encouragement :)

  10. Avatar

    aeelq

    July 20, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    trawee is a spiritual and an astonishing event that we all should participate

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 22, 2013 at 12:05 AM

      I agree. I didn’t grow up going to Taraweeh but alhamdulillah my kids are growing up with this ni’mah. My own father now recognizes what a blessing they are and realizes that it should be shared with the whole family. He arranges for a hafidh to come to the house and my parents, brother’s family and several neighbors all get to pray together.

  11. Avatar

    Azleena

    July 21, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Assalamualaikum, I always bring special books or toys that I keep specially for going to the masjid, so that if your masjid doesn’t have a babysitting option, when your child gets bored, instead of starting to sing or run around, you can take out the ‘ammunition’. At least it should keep them engaged for another 15-0 minutes, which is really all you need if you’re doing 8 raka’ah. I like the idea of announcing the names of well-behaved children. One point I think is important: When all else fails, LEAVE! Don’t ruin terawih for everyone else!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      July 22, 2013 at 12:07 AM

      Wa alaykumasalam wa rahmatulah, May Allah keep your children on the path that brings them closest to Allah.
      Excellent point. Even a few minutes outside in fresh air can calm a child down.

  12. Avatar

    Azleena

    July 21, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    I meant “…when your child gets bored, so (s)he doesn’t start singing/whining/running around, you can take out the ‘ammunition’.” :-)

  13. Pingback: 80-20 Principle: 3 Ways Masjids Cater to a Small Minority At The Expense of the Congregation » MuslimMatters.org

  14. Avatar

    Afreen

    June 5, 2015 at 5:04 PM

    Thats really a wonderful and important article.
    We really need this kind of information time to time.

    Jaza kallah Khair

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#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.
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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

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

1. My bubble burst

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

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

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

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

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

3. Made me thankful

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

dardir

4. People want to do Good

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

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

5. Smiles

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

6. It’s ok to cry

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

7. Learning to say no

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

8. It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Dawah through action

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

10. Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

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

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

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

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#Life

Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

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

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

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

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

1. Work on yourself

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

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

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

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

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

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

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

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

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

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

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

4. Don’t overthink it

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

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

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

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

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

5. Work to bridge religious differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

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

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

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