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10 Things you can do to NOT be a Terrorist

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Dr. O blogs at Muslim Medicine, a site that strives to serve only the freshest grade-A certified abiah ḥalāl comedy. Contact your local ḥalāl butcher for more details.

 

Recently the British Telegraph, known for their excellence in journalism and intrepid reporting about Germans with pencils in their heads and Alien sightings in Britain, posted an article about “How to spot a terrorist living in your neighborhood.”

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The article itself is rather long and exhausting to read through, but it does feature a rather funny picture of a random white guy using binoculars to spy on what I can only assume must be Muslims that are up to no good. He does a fantastic job of wearing a black shirt in the middle of clear daylight and manages to use a few twigs, leaves, and a metal rod from a swinging patio chair to cloak himself. Clearly we can already tell from this image that this man is a master of stealth- a British Solid Snake, only more obsessed with gawking creepily at bearded men.

“What is the purpose of that half-filled jug of water next to their toilet seat? It must be something sinister.”

Anyways, the article goes on to list some fun facts about how to spot terrorists in your neighborhood, and what the warning signs are of radicalization, extremism, and fundamentalism. So I decided to take the advice of this fantastic article to heart, and emphasize its warning signs in order to assure that my readers never fall prey to the threat of extremism.

Dr. O proudly presents his reaction to this rather interesting article- “10 things you can do to not be a terrorist.”

 

1) “…the great majority of terrorists, unsurprisingly, have been Muslim males aged 16-34, a third to a half of whom were unemployed and a significant portion of the rest under-employed. Most were unmarried.

Do you hear that, you lazy bum? Underemployed single Muslim males aged 16 – 34! That about encompasses 99% of the desperate brothers on online Muslim matrimonial sites, as well as most lazy unemployed Muslim teens who spend as much time playing Call of Duty on XBOX Live as they do disappointing their parents.

This first fun fact is pretty much exactly what your mom and dad always keep telling you- stop bumming around, go to med school, and live a productive life where shallow families aggressively try to marry their daughters to you. You see, keeping busy with a full-time job and having girls’ families chase after you is an excellent means of averting islamophobia- if the FBI starts profiling you, just tell them “I can’t be extreme – my parents forced me to become a doctor instead.”

Oh, and the marriage bit? That’s easy. You see, Muslim men tend to do mischievous things when they’re single- like creepily hang around Islamic Conference lobbies and use Snapchat to send salacious pictures of their beards to unsuspecting sisters. But a married man is a prim, proper, restricted brother who is controlled- a man shackled to a life of no fun and no play, because if he does anything out of the ordinary, his wife will probably slap the wudu off of him.

 

2) “Essentially, there will be changes in behaviour

This is so important to follow. Whenever your mother or wife keeps reminding you to change your underwear and take a shower, you need to flat out refuse, because changing your behavior is a sign of extremism. In fact, you should take it a step further- don’t change ANYTHING. Not even your clothes; and when people ask you “how come you don’t brush your teeth?” you say it’s because only a terrorist would wage jihad against cavities and support the mass killing of millions of innocent oral bacteria.

Ironically, not brushing your teeth may also lead to some rather… “extreme” consequences.

 

3) “A sudden ostentatious insistence on religious ritual, especially in a secular context (demands for prayer rooms where no other religion has them)

This one’s for you MSA and Isoc-fans out there who love campus prayer rooms. Nothing shouts extremism more than a carpeted den of male testosterone, pungent sock stenches from wet feet, beard hairs intertwined with pocket lint on the floor, stale miswak sticks from 7 semesters ago, and frustrated sisters trying to pray in a section the size of a utility closet. You MSA and Isoc folks need to realize that praying on campus promotes student diversity in faith- so it’s extremism when you do it, but it’s usually fine when the university promotes that same faith diversity for their own marketing purposes.

Fun fact: campus prayer rooms also serve as secondary dorm rooms for ghetto brothers to eat, sleep, change clothes, and live in.

 

4) “A withdrawal from social interaction with women and disapproval of feminine dress.”

Oh boy… if there’s one thing that Muslim teenage guys can never figure out, it’s how to even engage in human communication with women. You poor awkward souls. Some brothers still have difficulty trying to determine if females are even human and not some sort of alien species that seek shoes and chocolate to sustain themselves.

The article is spot-on with this fact- that socially awkward Muslim guys are just prime material for becoming extremists. Because everyone knows that loser geeks who have no swag and no game are often the most extreme and fundamental at heart. That’s why big angry bearded brothers who harp on and on about sisters being fitnas are often the ones most desperate to just get to know one and marry her instantly.

Because touching a non-family member of the opposite gender is haram, some brothers grow up believing that sisters are barbies made out of plastic.

So my fellow brothers- you need to educate yourselves about women. Because if you don’t know how to communicate with them, then you’re a terrorist. That’s why I’m an expert on sisters, and I know for a fact that all girls are cootie-infected, gross, yucky, also icky, and they all love Justin Bieber and One Direction.

 

5) “There may be a sudden obsession with physical fitness.”

Well look at you, Mr. Fatty- are you trying to get rid of that Ramadan Belly and trim down so you can slip into that new thoube that you bought for Jummu’ah? Well guess what, every time you lift that dumbbell or do a pushup, you’re becoming a terrorist. Because everyone knows that terrorists are hot male models with ripped 6-pack abs and sculpted muscular physiques that make them the ultimate fitna when they take their shirts off.

Brothers, keep it up- your stubborn fat is the first defense against extremism.

So the next time your mom or your wife start complaining about how fat and lazy you’ve gotten, or how your belly makes pregnant women believe that you’re somehow carrying twins, tell them that you’re fattening up to fight terrorism. Every cheesy nacho chip or oozing triple-chocolate fudge brownie that you mindlessly shovel into your mouth is a defiant blow to extremism.

Fighting terrorism has never felt so delicious.

 

6)Someone may adopt traditional Arab dress or abruptly abandon it (so as not to attract attention).

Nothing says terrorist quite a brother who has a flamboyant passion for fashion. This is especially true for brothers who have a keen interest in Arab-style fashion, because everyone knows that in the fast-paced creative world of fashion design, the biggest extremists are the ones who never change their clothing style- and by the looks of it, most Arab men are still following the hottest Summer trends from 640 AD. What a bunch of hipsters.

Does this thoube make my extremism look big?

According to the article, being discreet about your vaguely non-Western style of fashion is a suspicious warning sign. So fellow men, take a hint from our preppy sisters, and let your fashion speak for you- instead of picking out the same boring drab kufi and thoube, why not mix things up a bit and fight some terrorism by rocking something like this:

Protip- if a brother actually wears this to the masjid, DO NOT pray behind him. When he goes into sujud, you may risk going blind.

 

7) They might forbid or avoid music.

Next to moonsighting and zabiha halal meat, music is one of the top 3 most ridiculously trivial things that Muslims love to incessantly argue about. But one thing’s for sure- this article makes it explicitly clear that anyone who avoids music or forbids others from listening to it is an extremist.

And that’s a very scary thought, because by their logic anyone who listened to Rebecca Black’s Friday and didn’t have their ears bleed is a terrorist. And that goes double for the poor unfortunate souls who have been tortured by Nicki Minaj or the Jonas Brothers.

If you’ve ever wondered why Muslims don’t listen to music, this should help clear that up.

 

8)Withdraw from contact with non-Muslims or Muslims who are not extremist

Brothers who live their whole lives on the internets, this one’s for you. The article asserts that Muslims who withdraw from society are extremists in the making, but ignores the fact that pretty much every single Muslim youth spends about 80% of their life indoors either gaming or surfing the internets. Do you spend more time silently creeping on Facebook than you do physically meeting with friends? If so, then you might be a terrorist.

After weeks of non-interrupted gaming or web surfing, Muslim youths tend to quickly transform into nocturnal vampires who fear going outdoors, lest the bright natural sunlight burns their skin or blinds their eyes:

Once again, your parents know best. GET OFF the internet, shut off your console, and go outside for once. Explore new places, meet new people, appreciate nature’s beauty, and be sure to get religiously and racially profiled as you do all that.

One of the most difficult challenges of being a Muslim youth- having an actual social life.

 

9) “Collecting jihadi material”

As the article points out, Muslims treat “jihadi material” a lot like Pokemon- we try to collect all 150, but the more ambitious Muslims try to collect all 251 of the Johto Jihadi material.

I’ll trade you 3 holographic Muslim Man cards for your Charizard!

[Wanna see more Muslim Pokemon? Check out iambillal!]

Basically, anything remotely Islamic that you take an interest in might be considered “jihadi material.” So guys, stop collecting facial hair- because if you stock up on enough of those, you may grow something called a “beard” which is pretty jihadi.

 

10)Perhaps attempted travel to troubled regions or misleading vagueness as to where they’ve been.”

I don’t think this article realizes that the FBI’s investigations pale in comparison to the interrogative skills of Muslim wives and mothers. Any of my fellow brothers can sympathize whenever they return home late after an awesome evening of chilling- if you haven’t answered your phone or responded to any texts while you were out, then brace yourself for a painful and brutal interrogation.

To our brethren who return home to a fuming mother or wife… …our hearts go out to you.

If you answer your mom or wife with intentionally misleading vagueness as to where you’ve been or if you’ve been up to any trouble, I’m afraid you have a lot worse coming your way than being suspected as a terrorist. You might want to double-check your medical insurance coverage for emergency room visits.

So the best way to avoid terrorism, as well as ensure a long healthy life free from traumatic injury, is to always seek approval before venturing out of the house. Take a lesson from King Leonidas- NEVER do anything without tacit approval from your better half.

And there you have it. A thorough listing of all the things you need to avoid in order to not be a terrorist. So let’s recap, and put everything together to paint a picture of the most non-threatening Muslim caricature, given all of the article’s warning signs:

 

A fat, lazy, clean-shaven doctor who never bathes, brushes his teeth, or bothers to change his clothes, but is a big-time social party-animal and is a ladies’ man as well (despite already being married)- he also dresses as Sailor Moon on Fridays, collects Pokemon cards as a hobby, and is an avid Rebecca Black fan.

 

While that may sound like one of the most cringe-inducing Muslim Matrimonial profiles that you’ve ever read, it’s actually the article’s perfect definition of the most innocuous “non-terroristy” Muslim. Now if all Muslim men could just be exactly like that description, then there wouldn’t be any more terrorism EVER. And how can you possibly argue against brilliant logic like that?

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

Hailing from New York, Dr. O is a current medical student who blatantly misappropriates his study time by posting absurd articles lampooning the weird things he often notices within the Muslim community. His articles often contain unhealthy doses of odd wit and humor, sprinkled with overly-pretentious medical-jargon, but covered in a sweet milk-chocolate coating of small sincere life lessons. Despite not actually having a medical license and pretending to impersonate an actual physician online, Dr. O aims to heal patients with just a tiny bit of bitter advice contained within a sugary pill of light-hearted laughter. He hosts his own blog, Muslim Medicine, at http://www.muslimmedicine.net.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    MutantMuslim

    August 14, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    Cheerio, Dr.O! Death glares with coppers (not Cu but Pd) are the new thrill. Who’s the suspicious one, eh? It’s cool, makes me feel like an x-men now.

  2. Avatar

    Wael

    August 14, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    “his wife will probably slap the wuḍūʼ off of him.” – LOL! Article was a bit slow toward the end, but overall a laugh riot. Thanks bro.

  3. Avatar

    Aisha Durvesh

    August 14, 2013 at 7:06 AM

    Read the telegram article out of curiosity and it really did get on my nerves! Luckily read your article right after: i guess taking such articles as a joke is the best way to deal with them!

  4. Avatar

    Andrew Purcell

    August 14, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I read the Telegraph article. From almost any other publisher I would have called it satire. Unfortunately this is how the War on Terror is being waged.

  5. Avatar

    mebsworth2013

    August 14, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Bloody Hell Mate!! You Are Truly Hilarious!!

  6. Avatar

    Catherine L. Jimenea (@catherineslja)

    August 14, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    read this during lunch time. would have loved to laugh out loud, but I’m in the office.

  7. Avatar

    Diana

    August 14, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    This is hilarious!

  8. Avatar

    Asif Balouch (@PhilAsify101)

    August 15, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Hilarious Dr. O. Love your writing style and humor. Truly a gem on the Muslim Blogosphere.

  9. Avatar

    Fatima Ariadne

    August 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    LOOOOOOOOL fitness and terrorism. So if you’re a six pack muslim dude doing weight lifting, watch out you’re a potential terrorist.

  10. Avatar

    Halima

    August 17, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    Entertaining article. It’s always good to have a sense of humor about idiotic things like the Telegraph’s original article. Nice work.

  11. Avatar

    Hafiz Sanaullah Kiani

    September 2, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Very Nice Article, Ma-Shaa-Allah Good job. I am reaalu happy to see this. JazakaAllah Khair

  12. Avatar

    Ateeb Ahmad

    May 1, 2015 at 11:23 AM

    hit the nail on its head. damn son, you are talented!!

  13. Avatar

    Deborah Aulefer

    May 12, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    I think the West is not well-educated enough on the makings of extremism. Actually, although this article is meant in jest, it is an actual reflection of what the Telegraph was saying. Ironic, huh?

  14. Avatar

    Quran Classes

    January 5, 2016 at 3:00 AM

    Very Nice Article, Ma-Shaa-Allah Good job. I am reaaly happy to read this article . JazakaAllah Khair

  15. Avatar

    Arian Baig

    March 3, 2016 at 4:12 PM

    “If a brother actually wears this to a masjid, don’t pray behind him, you may risk going blind” LOL that made my day that you so much Dr O for this article it really does put a smile on my face :)

  16. Avatar

    Learn Quran

    December 3, 2016 at 12:06 AM

    Nice Article, Ma-Shaa-Allah Good work. I am feeling happy to find and read this article . JazakaAllah Khairan

  17. Avatar

    Ammara Mukhtar

    February 26, 2019 at 3:16 AM

    Jazakallah khair, very very productive post for Muslim parents, though the pictures you used, cracks me up especially the second one for brushing teeth.

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#Culture

Mockery: Comedy’s Weapon Against Morality

Danish Qasim

Published

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.

-W.B. Yeats

Religion is a common target of mockery, and mockery is one of the quickest ways to destroy reverence. Laughing at the sacred and making seemingly benign comments whose harm is difficult to explicate is subversive to our sense of the sacred. Mockery may be aimed at the institution of religion, sacred texts, or holy figures. While Muslims remain distinctive in upholding the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad, it is common to find Muslims caricaturizing practicing Muslims as judgmental, hypocritical, backwards, and stupid.  Making fun of instances of hypocrisy and judgmental behavior would not be so bad as that would target vices and inconsistencies. The caricaturizing of all practicing Muslims as backwards, however, occurs when basic tenets and practices become linked to absurdities. We should not be surprised when Muslim entertainers do this given that they exist in a larger culture which detests the sacred and champions mockery of authority. Furthermore, it is myopic to support such figures as religious representatives when they do not care to uphold the sanctity of basic religious beliefs and actions.

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A comedian today is a cultural authority holding a role akin to the public intellectual. However, the comedian is not responsible for the views espoused and can always backtrack and say ‘it’s just a joke.’ He is not held to decorous standards or expected to hold any positions, nor is he expected to rationally defend the positions he does hold. He is an outsider as a critic, but an insider when on your side. A comedian enters discussions on his own terms, appropriates and disowns, has no committed position, and can always point the finger. The comedian is a transcendental figure not beholden to any moral standard or class of people. He does everything under the canopy of laughter. Mockery is such a comedian’s favorite tool. Mockery requires no critique, and it’s not an argument; however, it’s an effective way of devaluing and dragging something revered down to a level of flaws and the mundane. It’s a sneaky tactic that asserts superiority without making an argument or inviting rebuttals.

A comedian today is a cultural authority holding a role akin to the public intellectual. However, the comedian is not responsible for the views espoused and can always backtrack and say ‘it’s just a joke.’Click To Tweet

The comedian can justify anything by referencing his ability to incite laughter. Laughter – what we consider funny – is determined by the spirit of the age. What was funny 50 years ago is not funny today. There is a relationship between morality and humor. What is comedic is produced in relation to our moral sensibilities. When sacrilege is normalized it becomes a function of comedy. Jokes about God would not have been funny 100 years ago, but now they are commonplace.

Jokes about God would not have been funny 100 years ago, but now they are commonplace.Click To Tweet

Mockery is comedy’s weapon against morality. Mocking an aspect of Islam is not an attack on the truth of it, rather it attacks the moral weight. Mockery is not a challenge on epistemic grounds: it’s a challenge of reverence. It removes the weight of veneration. Everything you believe religiously has an external correlate to how you interact with the world. If you mock a concept enough you will recreate it as a parody of itself. This is extremely corrosive for our faith. Mockery provides a material way of making religious practices look stupid. A common target is prayer. We can never materially prove that a prayer has been answered. It’s easy to view unanswered duas with cynicism and chalk it up to a spiritual interpretation of nothing happening.

If you mock a concept enough you will recreate it as a parody of itself. This is extremely corrosive for our faith.Click To Tweet

Recently, Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj made a mockery of dua. Much like voting enthusiasts criticized Colin Kaepernick for ‘only kneeling’ or bureaucrats paint protesters as ‘noisemakers’ who don’t do anything ‘real,’ many Muslims have come to mock the idea of supplication bringing about change in the world. We should not accept any Muslim celebrity partaking in such mockery as it transgresses orthodox Muslim sensibilities and negatively portrays us for taking our rituals and worship seriously.  This is especially true when such figures are bound by the protocols of Hollywood “activism,” in which missteps of a different kind result in ‘listening, learning, and privilege checking’ rituals to prevent excommunication.

In his monologue We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd, Hasan addresses Keith Ellison, asking, “how many Muslim fundraisers have you and I gone to where we   ‘pray for the community…you gotta make dua…'[closing his eyes, raising his hands, as if imitating someone making dua].”  Hasan then says “we cannot just make dua.” His portrayal of dua here is that of being an empty ritual and a way of not dealing with problems.

Minhaj juxtaposes two activities: human activity and prayer, and suggests that all Muslims do is the latter and it’s coming at the expense of the former. This juxtaposition suggests that the only way to take the former is to sacrifice the latter, which is untrue. We only act on our volition by the will of God. Seeking permission from The Creator who determined what we can do in the name of practical activity in a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Seeking permission from The Creator who determined what we can do in the name of practical activity is a perfectly sensible thing to do.Click To Tweet

Given that he cited such duas as occurring at specific fundraisers, we could have excused this statement as bad taste and getting carried away if it had been his only negative portrayal of dua. If Minhaj’s point was to poke fun at people using dua as an excuse to not act, the inconsistency of dua not substituting going to work or school for worldly success could have been pointed out.

In Minhaj’s follow up, Hasan And Keith Ellison On Justice For George Floyd, he portrays dua as inherently useless. In the episode, Minhaj shares the criticism he received from his last monologue, with Muslims asking “why did you have to go after making dua?” Minhaj then states that he wants to start the interview with Ellison with a dua, and he begins with a Quranic dua making it seem like he is going to make things right. He then pretends to pray with utter seriousness for what he means the audience to understand as frivolous. He nonchalantly tells his “white friends” backstage that they can “just participate” and before officially ending, asks Ellison if he wants him to make anymore “shout outs.”

Minhaj’s dua scene has several implications. It mocks the importance of dua and portrays religious Muslims as useless, frivolous, and unintelligent.Click To Tweet

Minhaj’s dua scene has several implications. It mocks the importance of dua and portrays religious Muslims as useless, frivolous, and unintelligent. It also suggests that dua has no capacity to change things, and because it won’t change things, we can make dua any way we want.  One message is that the ultimate point is to change things with your hands because dua has no real power to transform the world. This is used as way of criticizing Muslims for making dua and allegedly not taking action as if the two actions are at odds. Minhaj is also making the point in his mock dua that it makes no difference what we pray for because the act itself is inconsequential.  This portrayal removes the cosmic dimension of prayer and states ‘God won’t intervene in this situation, only you can do it!’ We should not accept tropes which divide prayer and action and presuppose an inherent divide which demands we limit prayer to intensify our commitment to action.

Furthermore, this scene suggests that when Muslims make dua, they are seeking refuge from ‘white women in yoga pants’ and other silly matters, which preoccupies them from doing any important work or having a positive impact on others.

His dua also seemed to be a response to his religious critics by mocking them, as if to say ‘religious people criticized me, so I’ll just show you how silly these religious people are and why they care about prayer, and then I’ll get on to the important matters.’

Dua further becomes an object of mockery when the name of Allah and an address to Allah become a comical address to the audience. In many places in the Quran, Allah glorifies the name of Allah. For example, Allah says

“Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High” (87:1).

The name of Allah is itself sacred. Belittling the name of Allah or calling upon Allah, invoking His name in jest is a major sin. It is not absurd to ask Allah for trivial matters with seriousness, as the Prophet  told us “Let one of you ask his Lord for all of his needs, even if his sandal strap breaks.”

The name of Allah is itself sacred. Belittling the name of Allah or calling upon Allah, invoking His name in jest is a major sin.Click To Tweet

Prayer was foundational for both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in their respective civil rights movements.  They did not belittle prayer and deem their struggles ‘too serious’ for prayer. For oppressed people all over the world, all they have is prayer. Prayer is the barrier between oppression and despair. When Talut’s (Saul) army was to meet Goliath most of his soldiers despaired, saying “There is no power for us today against Goliath and his soldiers.”

But the believers from among them, “those who were certain that they would meet Allah said, ‘How many a small group has overcome a large group by Allah’s permission. And Allah is with the patient’” (2:249). The Muslims were guaranteed victory for the Battle of Badr, and the Prophet  was making dua with his hands raised before the battle to the point of his shawl shaking off his shoulders. The Prophet  also made dua while walking to the masjid and when waking up in the morning.  Dua is not just the refuge of the desperate, it is a manifestation of one’s connection to Allah and the realization of one’s utter dependence. It’s a dependence we affirm regardless of circumstance. It is wrong to view dua as something to do only when we are in a bad situation.

We would not tolerate jokes by non-Muslims which paint Muslims as buffoons and idiots. The fear would be that the negative portrayal would affect all Muslims.  When ‘religious Muslims’ are mocked by Muslims themselves however, it’s easy to stand outside of it as one of the enlightened ‘good ones.’ This leaves those who are hanging on to beliefs which are already mocked open to further mockery.

The Poets 

And the poets, only those in error follow them. Do you not see how in every valley they wander? And that they say what they do not do? Except those who believe and do righteous deeds and remember Allah much. And they avenge [the Muslims] after they have been oppressed.  And the oppressors will soon know to which place they shall be returned (26:224-227).

In this verse, Allah faults the poets as having no grounding in principles or beliefs. They go to and fro without commitment and say whatever they feel like or whatever helps achieve their personal aims. After a general rule, Allah mentions the exception of righteous and believing Muslim poets. The Prophet Muhammad told some of his poets to respond to poems of the polytheists which denigrated them by making poems denigrating the polytheists.  He told his poets that such poetry is harder on them than being hit by an arrow.  The Prophet  made dua for his poet Hassan ibn Thabit that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) assist him with Jibrael 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in his poetry against the polytheists. Poetry was used as a tool to elevate and defend Islam and denigrate the polytheists.

Poetry was used as a tool to elevate and defend Islam and denigrate the polytheists.Click To Tweet

Comedy is potentially a positive tool, but we cannot be naive about its nature and the hurdles one has to overcome to make positive use of it. Excessive joking and exaggerated speech are faults of the tongue, and excessive laughter kills the heart. Joking occasionally or being cheerful is not analogous to making a career out of comedy. It is naive to think we can ‘Islamicize’ a medium by changing the content. Mediums which are intrinsically problematic like entertainment will win out and shape the content. This is especially problematic in the mainstream where industry standards push one to speak in a way that is not grounded in beliefs, conviction, or reverence. When a comedic standard is mockery and religion is often targeted, we cannot expect Islamic sanctity to be respected.  Jokes which depend on mockery are only funny if you buy into hidden premises, which are often predicated upon deliberate misunderstandings of their object. If you don’t buy into the premises, the jokes are revealed to be mean, insulting, and condescending

We must move beyond ‘halal and haram’ discussions on comedy and educate ourselves as to how comedy is used. Poetry is halal, but we are warned about it because it can pull us along to places we shouldn’t go emotionally and tug on certain heart strings. Likewise, in comedy, someone might make fun of an ideal in the religion, or a fiqh ruling by making it sound absurd, such as “why do Muslims have an aversion to just one bite of pork but eat plates full of fried food?” The false equivalency of “permit this, but prohibit that” is a common comedic schema for mocking religion. Such jokes are harmful because by coming in the form of a joke, they can get you to implicitly agree without realizing it, and once you laugh along you are entertaining the premise. This is how meaningful acts turn into heartless rituals.

The entertainment industry is very aware of its influence and will use its entertainers to propagate messages in support of its aims and ideals. This is an age-old tactic and we should not be surprised when we see Muslim entertainers used to propagate what we know is explicitly haram as being open to interpretation to begin a major change in the Muslim mind.  For example, five years ago, Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj wrote us an open letter in which they state their disagreement of homosexuality being haram.  This letter is intended for Muslims who seem to view Islam as a cultural identity primarily.

Unfortunately, many Muslims will overlook the anti-Islamic messaging in what they perceive as pro-Muslim messaging.  The desire for representation, safety, and acceptance overpower their desire to protect our religion. We should be happier to not have Muslim representation in the field than having Muslims who fall victim to vile industry norms and then want the same for us. However, we can promote comedians who do not engage in the mainstream. We should also expect Muslim organizations to not support or promote those who do mock our faith. Representation, normalization, and acceptance cannot become idols we create to rival God.

The desire for representation, safety, and acceptance overpower their desire to protect our religion. Click To Tweet

When it comes to Muslim celebrities in general, whether activists, politicians, entertainers, or even religious figures, gaining acceptance in the mainstream is often bartered for key Islamic principles.  This is seen as negotiable to liberal secular Muslims who do not believe in the inviolability and honor of the sharia as an eternally sacred institution. They may root their path to success in being Muslim and self-tokenize as Muslims, and while they are okay with weaponizing the oppression capital of Islam and using that as a stairway to fame, will mock institutional ideas of Islam to appease liberal secular sensibilities. They will challenge centuries old views of Islam in order to refashion Islam into the image of secularity. ‘Extreme’ and ‘balance’ are then defined by their own golden mean which is their own comfort level. The Prophethimself, who remains revered, will be reimagined in a way which suits their own sensibilities and parts from his life which do not suit these sensibilities will be ignored. They do not view the Prophet as the ideal person whom we need to adjust our frames to understand, rather they center their own sensibilities as the perfect criterion.

In this reshaping, Islam is only good when it fits a secularism where we may mock religion and key ideas- just as American Christians mock Christian prayer. The tradition of Islam (opposed to very key tenets and values) become burdensome, and the fluid terms of ‘extreme’ and ‘balance’ will be alternated at will to justify this new approach to Islam.

In this reshaping, Islam is only good when it fits a secularism where we may mock religion and key ideas- just as American Christians mock Christian prayer. The tradition of Islam becomes burdensome.Click To Tweet

Knowing all this, we should not be surprised when Muslims in the mainstream make fun of Islam.  When someone else mocks us, it’s easy to view it as a clash and a challenge to what we believe, which evokes a defense. When we mock ourselves, it makes us indifferent and numb to its consequences.

Ghayra

إن أصل الدين الغَيْرة ومن لا غيرة له لا دين له فالغَيْرة تحمي القلب فتحمي له الجوارح فتدفع السوء والفواحش، وعدم الغَيْرة 

تميت القلب

The root of religion is ghayra. The one without ghayra has no religion. Ghayra protects the heart and protects the limbs and repels evil and lewdness. And a lack of ghayra kills the heart
Ibn Qayyim

Ghayra, which may be described as a sense of protection, honor, and love for something as sacred and inviolable will often better protect one’s religion than a rational understanding. Someone with ghayra for Islam will not laugh at sacrilege.

We exist in a broader culture, which when coupled with lack of knowledge may lead to a default assumption that Islam agrees with what we know of other religions or from our own cultural values. What is ‘good’ as defined by the broader context whether religious or cultural becomes what is ‘Islamic.’ Furthermore, for many, notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vary between what religious authorities say about Islam and what their internal sense of right and wrong is, which is also negotiated within the broader context and mitigated by their own sense of what is or is not a serious issue.

‘Seeing both sides’ to sacrilege relates to its normalization. In a culture where comedy is meant to scoff at everything, a person sounds like a hardliner for affirming a unique status to religion. A point of mockery is to establish that nothing is exceptional and above mockery. Even as Muslims who understand making fun of religion is wrong, while existing in a broader culture where religion is the target of comedy, we understand that making fun of religion is a ‘different norm.’ One way to combat this, in addition to not watching such comedy, is to say astaghfirullah every time we hear such jokes, so the hate in our heart for sin remains and we don’t grow numb to sacrilege.

The tendency to uphold the honor of something comes with the tendency to feel disturbed when something is mocked. If you want a sense of ghayra for the sacred you also have to feel disturbance for its disrespect. The fact that we feel disturbed is a good sign.

All over the Muslim world- as well as inner-cities in America- the drunkard, the criminal, and the reprobate who has submitted to his own desires will have enough ghayra to draw a line at mocking Allah and His Messenger. He himself would not tolerate that disrespect, let alone engage in it.

A common complaint by liberals is the unacceptability of mocking the Prophet Muhammad . They are bothered by the honor and reverence Muslims maintain for their Prophet and want us to be able to see such mocking as benign. Although their aims will persist, we have to remain uncompromising regarding the sanctity of our Prophet  and not let any Muslims be the gateway for this.

They are bothered by the honor and reverence Muslims maintain for their Prophet ﷺ and want us to be able to see such mocking as benign. Although their aims will persist, we have to remain uncompromising regarding the sanctity of our Prophet ﷺ and not let any Muslims be the gateway for this.Click To Tweet

Comedic license

The Prophet Muhammad  joked with his companions. His humor involved word play and making matters light while always speaking the truth. In Arabic, such joking is called mu’da’ba, which has a connotation of lighthearted humor that is not offensive. It was not undignified or an exaggerated joking like ‘mizaah.’ As some say, the Arabic word mizah for exaggerated jokes is named such because it expunges truth (إنَّمَا سُمِّيَ الْمِزَاحُ مِزَاحًا لِأَنَّهُ يُزِيحُ عَنْ الْحَقِّ).

Moderate humor is praised in books of tasawwuf.  It is often compared to salt in food, where too much or too little can be harmful. Buffoonery is blameworthy, as Aristotle mentions “The buffoon, on the other hand, is the slave of his sense of humour, and spares neither himself nor others if he can raise a laugh, and says things none of which a man of refinement would say, and to some of which he would not even listen” (104, Nicomachean Ethics).

Popular comedy is often viewed as an expression of truth unbound to convention. It’s a free time to delve into taboo and transgressions. Propriety takes a backseat to unfiltered expression. We do not believe the rules are suspended during comedy hour. Comedic license is not a license to mock, blaspheme, or indulge our caprice.  The Prophet  gave severe warning against using comedy as an avenue to falsehood.  Here are two hadith on the topic:

Verily a man will speak a word to make those in his company laugh and will plunge by it further in the fire than Pleiades

and

“Woe unto the one who speaks then lies to make the people laugh. Woe unto him. Woe unto him.”

Comedy does not give one license to commit sacrilege.

Many times in the Quran, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us the perils of taking His signs in jest, for example “That is because you took the verses of Allah in ridicule, and worldly life deluded you” (45:35).

Comfortable as strangers

“Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers” (Muslim).

We need to get comfortable as non ‘normalized’ religious people. As a religious group, we will have many things which set us apart from larger society, and that is okay. A numbness to blasphemy and sacrilege, mockery of Prophet , or disparaging comments about Allah will spiritually kill your heart. We are better off in this world and the next for upholding the sacred. Being labeled boring and prudish is a small price for what awaits us in reward- God willing.


You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination Quran 3:181

Allah tells us that we will hear much abuse from disbelievers. Not a casual snide remark, nor a microaggression. Much abuse. In the face of that abuse, we are told that being patient and having taqwa are from the great matters of this religion. The earliest known example of such patience and taqwa in America is that of African slaves who fasted Ramadan while being forced to work on plantations.  They performed their salat, even if they had to hide behind trees. As Sylviane A. Diouf explains “The slaves were, as a rule underfed and overworked. Yet these extremely brutal conditions notwithstanding, Muslims fasted.” She goes on to share the description of a slave Salih Bilali by his owner James Hamilton Couper as “a strict Mahometan; [he] abstains from spirituous liquors, and keeps the various fasts, particularly that of Ramadan” (66). This description indicates that Salih fasted non-obligatory fasts despite his horrific conditions.

These Muslims did all they could to uphold their religion and worship their Creator. They were oppressed and even in bondage displayed a nobility many Muslims throw in the garbage for the sake of being ‘normalized.’Click To Tweet

These Muslims did all they could to uphold their religion and worship their Creator. They were oppressed and even in bondage displayed a nobility many Muslims throw in the garbage for the sake of being ‘normalized.’ As we combat Islamophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be a normalized faith group at the expense of our actual faith? Are we going to dishonor the legacy and struggles of our predecessors who in the most oppressive circumstances imaginable clung on to their religion and venerated their Lord?

As we combat Islamophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be a normalized faith group at the expense of our actual faith? Are we going to dishonor the legacy and struggles of our predecessors who in the most oppressive circumstances imaginable clung on to their religion and venerated their Lord?Click To Tweet

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Trump And The Holy Gobble: A Tongue In Cheek Short Story

When Donald Trump tries to impress a secretary and is exposed to aloo gobi and black pepper, what follows could mean the end of the world.

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Aloo Gobi

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories. This story is satire, i.e. humor. You’ve been warned!

That’s Why They Love Me

The EEOB

The EEOB

With Secret Service agents guarding his flanks, Donald Trump exited the White House and headed across the street to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which housed the majority of the White House staff offices.

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“Mr. President,” the Special Agent In Charge protested. “I wish you would eat in your private dining room, or at least in the Navy Mess. It’s safer than the EEOB break room, of all places.”

Trump gave the man a condescending smirk. “You don’t understand what it takes to be a great president. I have to let my workers know that I care about them, bigly. I’m the best at that. No one has ever been better than me at being good to their workers. That’s why they love me.”

The SAIC rolled his eyes. He knew the real reason for the president’s desire to hang out in the EEOB break room. One of the new EEOB secretaries, a petite Russian immigrant blonde named Natasha Petrova, was a former “actress” known to her fans as Natasha Lipps. It wouldn’t be long, the SAIC expected, before Ms. Lipps – err, Petrova – would be made a presidential advisor, which would naturally require personal briefings with the president.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, strode beside him. Trump was fed up with the man, who kept trying to talk to him about the need to cover up his affair with Stormy Daniels.

“Can’t we just get the Russians to eliminate her?” Trump demanded.

The Nuclear Football

“Well, heh heh,” Cohen stammered. “That’s not really-”

Trump waved him off. Maybe it was time to fire the dopey dummy, if he couldn’t get things done. As they entered the EEOB, Trump turned to his aide-de-camp, a tall and muscular man wearing a medal-festooned military uniform and a beret. The man carried the nuclear football, and was always at the president’s side.

“Give me the football.”

The nuclear football

The nuclear football

The aide hesitated. The football, a Halliburton Zero aircraft-aluminum briefcase with a protruding antennae, the whole thing further housed within a thick leather satchel, contained a device that the president could use to launch nuclear missiles from any location. It was quite heavy. Besides, the aide knew that Trump only wanted to show it off to Natasha Lipps – err, Ms. Petrova.

Trump snapped his fingers. “Give it, loser.”

The aide handed it over, watching with satisfaction as the president listed to one side, nearly falling over.

In the break room, Trump, out of breath from the exertion of carrying the football, beamed with satisfaction. He’d timed it perfectly. Lipps was making herself a coffee. He admired her figure, resisting the impulse to grab part of her anatomy.

A few other employees sat at the cafeteria-style tables, eating sandwiches and chatting. A brown-skinned young man stood beside a humming microwave oven. They were losers, all of them. They weren’t the president. He was! They didn’t have people all over the world reading their Tweets. He did! Something smelled good, though. He looked around, trying to identify the source of the delicious smell, when the staffers noticed his presence. They all jumped to their feet, and one man saluted. Mental note: promote that guy to presidential advisor.

Natasha Lipps gave him a wide smile. Trump leaned forward even more than he normally did, all his attention focused on the Russian woman.

“Look what I have,” he boasted, grunting as he hefted the case. “The nuclear football.”

“You are such a poverful man,” Lipps purred in her Russian accent.

Cherokee People

“Something smells good in here.” He gave her a wink. “Is that you?”

“I vish it vas, Mr. President. Is Ahmad over there.” She nodded to the brown-skinned man. “He alvays bring delicious food.”

Trump frowned at the man, who had just taken a meal out of the microwave. Ahmad? Wasn’t that a Muslim name? He turned to Cohen. “Do we still have any Muslims on staff? I thought we fired them all.”

“I don’t know, sir. The White House has thousands of staffers.”

“Arrest him. But bring me his lunch. It smells really good.”

“I don’t know if that’s strictly legal, sir, there are laws-”

Trump silenced him with a chopping motion. “Hey, you. Ahmad.”

The brown-skinned man froze. “Yes, Mr. President?”

“You’re not Muslim, are you?”

Ahmad’s eyes shifted left and right. “I’m from California.” Which was technically true.

Trump made a face. “Just as bad.”

“I believe he is Indian,” Petrova whispered.

Oh, that was fine then. Trump had been dealing with Indian-owned casinos in Atlantic City for decades. “Cherokee people,” he sang out loud, “Cherokee trii-iibe. Hey chief, what are you eating?”

Aloo Gobi

Aloo Gobi

“Aloo gobi, sir.”

Holy gobble? What the heck kind of a dumb name? Getting back to more important matters, he set the football on one of the tables, touched his thumb to the biometric scanner, and popped the case open.

Inside, a special laptop computer was custom-fit into the case. The upper panel came on automatically, displaying a map of the world, with all the major cities marked with glowing dots. The lower panel contained a keyboard and a large red button, along with two smaller buttons, one labelled YES and one NO.

Allergic to Pepper

Trump grinned at Natasha Lipps. “Guess what this does? I could destroy the planet from right here if I wanted to. Pretty hot, huh?”

“Is vonderful.”

“Mr. President, sir!” the aide-de-camp protested. “This is highly irregu-”

Trump sneezed into Natasha’s face. It was a wet, jet-propelled sneeze. Her smile flickered for an instant, then returned as bright as ever as she wiped his spittle away. Trump scanned the room. The dark-skinned Indian guy had a hand-held pepper mill and was grinding pepper onto the holy gobble.

“Stop that, you moron!” Trump snapped. “I’m allergic to pepper.”

The man gazed at him pleadingly, and gave the crank a slow-motion turn. “But I like a lot of pepper on my food, sir.”

Trump let out a tremendous sneeze, one that shook him all the way down to his spinal cord. This time he felt himself losing balance, and reached out a hand, which landed right on the nuclear football’s red button. A loud beeping noise sounded, and lights flashed on the screen, along with the glowing words:

CONFIRM MISSILE LAUNCH = YES
ABORT = NO

Trump prided himself on being a positive person. No one had ever been more positive than him in all the history of the world. He didn’t believe in the word NO. He pressed the button for YES.

Arrest That Man

Everyone stared in horror, except for Ahmad, who used the distraction to give the pepper grinder three fast turns. Then he sat, said a quick dua’ and rapidly began to eat his aloo gobi.

“Dear Heaven,” the aide-de-camp breathed. “The Russians will retaliate. We’ll all be destroyed.”

Trump smirked. “You think I would point missiles at Russia? They’re pointed at Mexico and China. Immigration problem solved, plus we win the trade war! Am I the smartest or what?”

The aide-de-camp studied the laptop screen. “One of the missiles is off target. It’s headed for California.”

Trump nodded smugly. “I always keep one aimed at San Francisco.” Grinning widely, he crooned, “Goodbye, Pelosi!”

The SAIC tapped his earpiece. “We’re getting word. The Chinese have launched a retaliatory strike. We’ll be hit in fifteen minutes. We need to get you to the bunker!”

Ahmad took out a portable prayer rug, set it down and began to pray. “Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen,” he intoned. One last salat before the end of the world. He would meet his end with dignity.

“I knew it!” Trump pointed. “Arrest that man. For being Muslim, and for eating holy gobble.”

Cohen sighed, and Natasha Lipps – err, Petrova – began to cry.

THE END

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

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Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

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5 Reasons The Muslim World Needs a Jon Stewart

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

Published

There will be many who read the title of this article and think – of all the many, many things that the Muslim world does need – they’re pretty sure that a middle aged liberal Jewish comedian isn’t one of them.

And they would be wrong.

Dead wrong.

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excuse-me-what

Yes, the Muslim world needs another Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Tariq ibn Ziyad. We would be blessed to have an Uthman Dan Fodio or Muhammad Ali Jauhar.

EmelBarbie

Who am I kidding? Even Hijabi Barbie is front page news for us

But I’m here to make the case that we could also do with our own version of Jon Stewart.

jon-stewart_beard

No. This doesn’t count…

Why?

Well, here are just 5 reasons:

1. Someone who tells it like it is

Politicians and leaders often like to hide behind semantics and carefully scripted soundbites. They speak like they’re afraid of what might happen if the masses understood what was actually going on.

Probably with good reason.

Then here comes Jon every weekday evening cutting through the garbage and explaining things in simple, direct (albeit American) English.

js quotes

A dose of raw, passionate, straight-talking truth? Suddenly, college students are interested in the debt crisis or police brutality.

The Muslim world could do with a few articulate souls who manage to move beyond preaching to the converted and instead, try and reach out to the disaffected, the uninterested and the disenfranchised.

Someone who could dumb it down without the dumb part.

2. Someone who is fair

It is well known that Stewart is towards the more liberal end of the spectrum. [Understatement alert]

You would expect him to constantly and mercilessly pick on Fox News and Dick Cheney.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-05-at-9.38.22-AM-1280x701

He does.

But this doesn’t stop him from pointing out the hypocrisy and ineptitude of those he supports. Watching the Jewish American Liberal Stewart rip apart Israel during the last Gaza war showed he was a man of some principle.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w62Q-_upPQc[/youtube]

The Muslim world could do with leaders who are willing to tell hard truths to their home crowds just as much as they were willing to rail against their natural enemies.

3. Someone who nurtures talent

Over the years, the Daily Show has attracted young and unknown aspiring comedians and turned them into confident stars. From Steve Carrel to Steven Colbert – Stewart hasn’t just surrounded himself with sycophants but with talent that pushed him to do better.

Again, the Muslim world could do with leadership that produced more leaders rather than ever more dependent followers. How amazing would it be if the Muslim world served as an incubator for good leaders, where people were valued and flourished and…

926604

Sorry…

4. Someone who pushes the intellectual boundaries

If the Daily Show was to pander to its demographic, they would have movie and rock stars on every evening to plug their latest asinine movie or album. Instead, you were as likely to see an interview with Taylor Swift as with the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

not taylor swift

Stewart often nailed the balancing act of being entertaining to his audience whilst also encouraging them to broaden their intellectual horizons.

The Muslim world could do with leaders who focused not just on individual spiritual inspiration, but also on societal temporal aspiration as well.

NASA_Muslim_large_7_12_10_xlarge

Translation: Where’s the Muslim equivalent of NASA?

5. Someone who tells it with a smile

Lets face it, for someone who has been on TV 4 nights a week for more than 15 years – Jon Stewart has surprisingly few gaffes to highlight. There were only a handful of anger-related meltdowns. There were definitely no unguarded moments where he “heroically” rails against an elected government, but stays silent about a coup and the mass murder of innocent people whose political viewpoint he disagrees with.

bassem-youssef-11-3-2013_4_0

No caption would do justice…

Whatever Jon did, he did with grace. He skewered you like a kebab and cut you up like a … kebab. However, he did so with a politeness that made it hard to dislike him.

The Muslim world could do with leaders that managed the art of making a point without making an enemy.

Conclusion 

Now some will read the above and wonder why someone who holds as many  opinions at odds with Islamic orthodoxy as Stewart should be cast in a favourable light by us. To them I say that I am not advocating taking our religion from him. In fact, the qualities described above are Islamic qualities that are rooted in our deepest traditions, yet somehow are best exemplified these days by non-Muslims like him.

js racism

You don’t have to accept his views or his politics to be a fan of the way the man simply excelled at what he did.

And what he did, was shine a searing light on the state of his nation so that maybe, somehow, some way, they might just realise that they could be so much better than they are now.

If that isn’t something that the Muslim world needs right now…then I don’t know what is.

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