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Losing Her Heart in Egypt: Amr Kassem 1987-2013

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By Asma Hussein

Teaching myself how not to lose hope

 

“Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty and rejoice for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice in a Grace and a Bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers.” (Ale Imran; 169-171)

My husband, Amr Mohamed Kassem who was 26 years old, returned to his Lord on Friday after Asr. He was shot through his chin and the bullet exited the back of his neck. He was at a protest in Alexandria, calling for justice for all those who had been killed mercilessly by the army in the previous days and weeks all over Egypt.

Yesterday morning I went to the morgue at a nearby hospital in Alexandria to see Amr before he would be washed and buried in the next few hours. When I arrived, there were many people waiting outside the doors to see their own family members as many people were killed the same day as Amr. Some of Amr’s friends and relatives were there, too. After waiting for a while, I entered the room where his body was lying on a table, covered by a long blanket.

I stood beside him and uncovered his face, and there he was, my love, lying there cold even though I had seen him strong and happy and smiling less than 24 hours before that moment. I stroked his beard, part of it was still soft, but part of it felt hard because of the dried up blood. His nose was bloodied and he had a cut beside his eye but he was beautiful, even in death – silent as though sleeping. I touched his lips and his cheeks, they were cold.

I stood there for some time looking at his face, feeling as though my heart was being repeatedly run over by a truck. I refused to cry loudly but tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I told him “I love you Amr, I know that you always wanted to die for the sake of Allah, and you got what you always hoped for inshaAllah, and I’m so proud of you. Ya Allah forgive his sins and accept him as a shaheed and reunite me with him in the hereafter. Ya Allah make me patient in knowing that it was his appointed time and that, by Your will and Grace, he is alive with his You as a shaheed.”

I didn’t leave him until I was ready, I’m not even sure how long I was standing there. At the end, I kissed his cheek and told him that I would see him later inshaAllah, then covered his face and left the room.

The janazah was after Asr, there were hundreds of people there – his friends, his colleagues from school, extended family. He was a very beloved person to many. There was no dry eye, but everyone was speaking only good words and saying Alhamdulillah that Allah took him in the best way anyone can die in this world. We prayed on him, and I went outside to see a crowd of hundreds of men carrying his shrouded body towards the cemetery. The women didn’t follow, we were waiting until he was buried to go to his grave and make duaa. After some time, his mother and I and some female relatives walked towards to cemetery and were making our way to where he was.

Suddenly I notice all the men around me yelling for us to go out the side door, to run. I didn’t understand what was happening but I started hearing loud bangs behind me, rocks being thrown at us and all the men telling the women to run. So I ran and ran without looking behind me, I was hit on my cheek by a large rock while I was running, but alhamdulillah, some of Amr’s friends saw me and told me to run ahead of them so they could be behind me and make sure nothing happened to me. The people who attacked us were thugs who had heard there was an “ikhwani” funeral (although my husband was not from the ikhwan, he was just a religious man who believed in something called right and wrong). Many people were injured, some with stab wounds, but as far as I know, there were no causualties alhamdulillah. (Update: unfortunately I heard that 2 people were killed during these events, innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon).

Even in death, Amr’s enemies hated him and all those around him! But their hate means nothing to me, after all if an enemy of God hates you, then that is a sign that you are, God-willing) on the right path.

Dear friends, my heart aches in a way I never knew a heart could ache. I miss him whenever I am awake and dream about him when I’m asleep. He was the best kind of husband a woman could ever hope for, kind, generous, soft and loving, but also strong and brave. His clothes are still hung up on the hooks in our room, as though he’s going to walk through the door and change into his pajamas before he sleeps. His friend gave me Amr’s wallet and cell phone at the janazah, but his wedding band was missing, we still don’t know where it is…I wish that I had it.

But through all this, I can’t say anything except innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un, and continue to make duaa for him. I refuse to dishonor him or myself by asking God “why” he took him or thinking “if only he hadn’t gone to the protest on Friday, he would be alive.” No, it was Amr’s time to return to Allah, I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt. And although I wish I had more time with him in the dunya, I sincerely look forward to reuniting with him and being his wife, if God allows me, in Paradise. In Jannah time does not end, there is no fear of being separated from your loved ones. I believe with every inch of my heart that our love was truly a love that can last from this world to the next.

Ya Allah, You reunited Musa’s mother with him after she put him in the river. Ya Allah, You reunited Yaqub with his beloved son Yusuf after many years of painful separation. Ya Allah, You are the Only One who can reunite me with my beloved in the hereafter, so Allah I ask you to not prevent me from being with him again.

Last night after we came home, we received a call from a friend of a relative – someone who had witnessed first hand what happened to Amr after he was shot. [editor’s note: Amr was shot by a sniper.] She told us that he didn’t die right away, he was alive for a few moments. His left hand was holding his chin where the bullet had entered, and his right index finger went up, and he said clearly “ashhadu anna la illaha ilAllah, wa ashhadu ana Muhammadun rasoolullah” and he had a huge smile on his face, as though it was his wedding day. When I heard this, I couldn’t help but cry that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had honored me just by letting me know this wonderful person and allowing me to have his child.

My friends, your words of encouragement have not gone unnoticed. I have nothing but love and respect for you all, and I know now so much more than before that as Muslims, although we have many faults in our community, when we come together we are truly a force to be reckoned with. Your support and love and duaa have touched me greatly. I will undoubtedly need your continued duaa and support when I return to Canada inshaAllah.

I ask Allah to let me never stray from His path, for my own sake and my daughter’s, and also for Amr’s sake – to honor him in the way that Allah chose for him to die.

Ya Habibi ya Amr. Ya Habibi ya Amr. Ya Habibi ya Amr. I hope that right now your soul is in a green bird, and you are flying through Jannah, eating and drinking from its provisions and are close to the throne of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), where you will never shed another tear or ever feel any sense of loss or suffering. You are my love in this world and the next inshaAllah, you are in my heart always, you are in my prayers always.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Faiza M D

    August 19, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    May Allah accept your husband as a shaheed and reunite you with him in Jannah. Aameen

  2. Avatar

    Mama3uae

    August 20, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    Thank you, sister, for sharing your life experience with us. It brought me to tears.. It’s so hard what you went through…MashaAllah, you are an incredible woman and I admire you for your strength and iman. May Allah (swt) answer all your dua’as and continue to bring peace and faith in your heart and your child’s, until you are reunited inshaAllah in jennah al firdous with your beloved Amr, and may He accept your dear husband as shaheed inshaAllah.

  3. Avatar

    AA

    August 20, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    May Allah forgive dear Amr and accept him as a Shaheed. May Allah grant you the best comfort possible and provide halal sustenance for your and your child. May Allah give us the opportunity to die as strong muslims, in the best of circumstances.

  4. Avatar

    dhaadhamishka

    August 20, 2013 at 4:41 AM

    May allah grant him jannath n reunite u with him. Maasha aallah.

  5. Avatar

    Saharish

    August 20, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    May Allah grant your husband jannatul firdous and give you and the rest of his family great patience and reunite you in jannah. Ameen.

  6. Avatar

    broAhmed

    August 20, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Salaams sis. Asma. Thank you for taking the time to write this. It reminded me of the shortness of life and what it means to be a both a man and a good husband. I admire your certainty that this was br. Amr’s time and your steadfastness in the face of adversity. These qualities are a gift from Allah.

    In one of the articles where you’re being interviewed, you mention how difficult it is to imagine your 9-month old baby growing up without her father. I have a Bosnian friend who lost his father during the war there. The father died while my friend was either very young or not yet born. My friend acknowledged to me one time that it was difficult growing up without his dad, but he was still proud of what his father had done. Tell your daughter about who Amr was: the man, the husband, the father, just as you have told us here. Even if it is difficult for your little Ruqaya growing up without her baba, you can still inshaAllah make her proud of the father she hardly knew in this life.

    Allah is fully capable of making easy even the most difficult of situations. May he give you and your daughter Ruqaya ease and happiness in this life and the next, make you both amongst the steadfast, and reunite you both with Amr in the Hereafter. Masalaama.

    • Avatar

      broAhmed

      August 20, 2013 at 7:36 AM

      Clarification: my friend’s father died fighting in the Bosnian War. This was what my friend was proud of.

  7. Avatar

    Marina

    August 20, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Inshaa Allah, Allah will grant him Jannat and give patience and stength to you to bear this irreplaceable loss. Thank you for sharing. Our prayers are with all the muslim brothers and sisters.

  8. Avatar

    Sona

    August 20, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Brought me to tears. It’s one thing to hear a story on the news and feel bad, its another to hear the story from the actual family.. I cannot even imagine what you’re going through but may Allah ease your pain, reward you for uttering only that which pleases and praises Him, and may He reunite you with your husband in jannatul-firdous in the company of the best Muslim, our Nabi (SAW).

  9. Avatar

    Mulla

    August 20, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    May Allah bless you and grant you both Jannatul Firdaus.

  10. Avatar

    Yameenuddin Ahmed

    August 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    May Allah reward you immensely in this world and hereafter and may Allah reunite you with Br. Amr in aakhirah insha’Allah. Allah (swt) is Kareem and what He decides for us is the best. May Allah protect and preserve you and make yourself and your son great assets of Ummah. This is how ahl-al-eman should be.

  11. Avatar

    Tahira Afzal

    August 20, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    May Allah accept all your Dua’as for him as you asked and may Allah grant him the highest level in Jannah and may Allah reunite you with him in Jannah and make your daughter Salehah Ameen. You make all women of Eman proud by being so brave. May Allah make things easy for you Ameen. He looks and sounds like a man of Jannah indeed Insha Allah.

  12. Avatar

    Muhammad Mateen

    August 21, 2013 at 1:46 AM

    Have no words to express my feelings after reading such a beautiful writing from a wife for his loving husband. Muslim women must read this and show the same courage, strength and Imaan.

    May Allah s.w.t. be with you my sister in Islam, may you see and meet your husband in every dream, may you feel him around every time, may Allah s.w.t. reunite you and your daughter with your husband hereafter – Aameen!

  13. Avatar

    Muhammed Ali

    August 21, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Allahu-akbar, may Allah grant him the highest station in Jannah, and give you and your family strength and courage during these difficult times, and may you be joined together again, in sha Allah.

    Ameen

    Ya Allah have mercy on our brothers and sisters where ever they may be in need. ameen.

  14. Avatar

    Sayem

    August 21, 2013 at 4:24 AM

    As Salamu Alaikum, May Allah help you and give you more patience. In Sha Allah, you will reunite with your husband soon, it’s just a matter of time In Sha Allah.

  15. Avatar

    Sister Pakistani

    August 21, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    May Allaah accept brother as a shaheed, forgive him, and provide your family with sustenance. Sister, I am marveled at your courage and your true eemaan in accepting qadhaa wal qadr. may Allaah SWT allow our daughters and sisters and mothers with this eemaan in accepting qadhaa of Allaah SWT in our lives. may Allaah SWT give you strength in this life and re-unite you and your daughter and your family with your husband in jannatul firdaus.

    May Allaah SWT give us tawfeeq to have a good end and an end of a shaheed.

  16. Avatar

    Faisal

    August 21, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Alhumdullillah sister Allah has given you immense courage and imaan…. May Allah grant brother Amr all the bounties of Jannatul Firdaus….. I cry for him but i cry more for our weak imann!! May Allah guide us & protect us……. Brother Faisal (India)

  17. Avatar

    Muneera

    August 21, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Sis Asma, This article is heart breaking and inspiring at the same time :’-( we are all praying for you .. we are all with you. May Allah keep you strong like this always i know its not easy but this is another test from our Lord.

    Your sister from Toronto,

  18. Avatar

    Saracen

    August 22, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    What an inspiring article! It reminds us of how short life is, how our circumstances can change in a split second, and it teaches us steadfastness in the face of adversity. May Allah grant our brother the reward of a martyr and patience for our sister.

    “It is He (Allah) who has sent his Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may make it prevail over all other religions, no matter how much the disbelievers hate it.” (Qur’an, 9: 33)

    The revival has already started. Allah has selected His servants from amongst the most pious to lead the way.

  19. Avatar

    Zaheer

    August 22, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    Salaam, mods: how is it that such a comment appears here? I’m all for free speech (not really, especially when it’s this inane), but this adds no value and is completely incendiary. Maybe there is something in the Comment’s Policy about some authors moderating their own articles, and the fact that moderators can’t monitor every single comment. Still, this comment should be removed, Insha-Allah.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      August 22, 2013 at 7:44 AM

      WaAlaikum Assalam:

      Since moderators can’t moderate 24/7, sometimes the comment stays there until moderators see it and act on it. Once we see such a comment we act on it. However, in this case, you have not replied to the comment in question and hence we are not sure which comment you are referring to. Please let us know (unless we moderated it already).

      Regards
      -Aly

  20. Avatar

    Q-d

    August 22, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

  21. Avatar

    fawadkhan

    August 22, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    i cant believe barbarism in Egypt i saw one video i have no words.i have no words for those who have show determination i hvnt seen as such determination that such Egyptian showing.O Allah help them Please Allah help them

  22. Avatar

    Atiya

    August 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Inna lilaahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon. May Allaah grant this man and the countless others who lost their lives fisabeelillaah the highest place in paradise without reckoning. May Allaah give his wife, his baby and his family and the families of all the other martyrs Sabr. Ameen.

  23. Avatar

    Shiraz Azad

    August 29, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    May Allaah grant Amr and all those who die for Allah’s sake, the highest place in Jannah. Ameen!

  24. Avatar

    rahman ramesh

    September 1, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    By Allah azza wajal, my wife, children and I pray for Amr and you and, insha Allah, both of you will be united in Jannatul Firdaus where you can see Allah azza wajal’s Face everyday! Be strong and bring up your child well. Take care…… from us in KL, Malaysia.

  25. Avatar

    Sobia Khan

    September 8, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    Subhan Allah Sister Asma – May Allah azza wajal grant Br. Amr the great status of shaheed, forgive him and elevate his status and grant you and all your family the best of Sabr and accept from you your beautiful patience and grant you both eternity together in the highest level of Jannah with your progeny. May Allah grant you a life in this dunya filled with love and aafiya. My heart aches for you as I am also a wife in love! May Allah bless you in this life and in the hereafter. May Allah ease your pain and the pain of all of our brothers and sisters suffering.

  26. Avatar

    AM

    September 21, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Truly inspiring. You and your husband are both a source of strength and courage for us. May Allah SWT accept Amr’s Shahadah inshaAllah. May Allah grant every ease and happiness to you and your daughter and all your relatives in this world and reunite you with Amr in the here-after.

  27. Avatar

    Dina El-Mosalami

    December 19, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    Ya habebty.. Your story is the most moving I have read in a very long time. But what makes me at ease is how much of a true mo’mena you are. I hope someday I can reach the level of your beautiful beautiful faith. Pick a new wedding band for Amr, keep it in mind. The ones you gave each other in dunya will not last, pick two new ones for your akhira with him. Smile and thank Allah, you have been blessed with real love in dunya and inshaAllah in akhira as well. It is almost time for fajr in Egypt now, and I am about to make my tahajjud. This tahajjud is for you, may Allah reunite you with habibik in the akhira and grant you the highest level of Jannah with him.

  28. Pingback: January 2014 Favourites | Mellow Muslimah

  29. Avatar

    Tasneem

    May 12, 2016 at 5:43 PM

    Beautiful articles … Harsh realities

  30. Avatar

    Syed Areeb

    December 8, 2017 at 3:12 AM

    May Allaah bless you abundantly and always help you in times of distress, indeed it is your true reliance and faith in Allaah that you were able to take all of this in a way that suits a responsible and observant Muslim.
    My heartiest wishes for you and Ruqayya’s well being

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#Life

Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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#Life

Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim

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trust

Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outward uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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