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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

Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

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Mindful

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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#Society

A Code of Conduct To Protect Against Spiritual Abuse

Danish Qasim

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Code of Conduct for Islamic Leadership, Institutions

When there is a claim of spiritual abuse, the initial reaction of concerned Muslims is often to go to another Muslim leader and expect that leader to take care of it.  Most of the time, however, religious leaders in the community have no authority over other religious leaders who are found abusing their position. Many of these leaders feel a foreboding sense of powerlessness to exert change, leaving those who abuse, to do so freely and with impunity. 

There have been attempts by some leaders to take action against abusive religious figures. However, when this happens, it is usually followed by a public or ‘in-group’ campaign against the abusive figure, and the abusive figure and his supporters return in kind. This becomes messy, quickly. There is name-calling, mud-slinging, and threats, but in the end, it amounts to nothing, in the end, leaving everyone involved to make their own decision as to whether or not to continue support for the alleged perpetrator. Other religious leaders may know the accused is guilty, but due to friendships or programs they wish to continue doing with the accused, they will cover for them, especially when there is only a perceived low level of evidence that the public could ever discover it. 

There are several methods and excuses through which abuse is covered up.

The Wall of Silence

In cases of tightly knit groups, whether Sufi tariqas, super Salafi cliques, activist groups, or preachers who have formed a team, the abuser will be protected by a wall of silence, while the victim is targeted, maligned, and ostracized for speaking out against the leader. They, not the abuser, are held accountable, liable, and blamed. While the abuser is expected to be ‘forgiven,’ the victim is socially shamed for a crime committed against him or her. More often than not, the victim is intimidated into silence, while the perpetrator is left free to continue abusing. 

The Kafir Court Rationale

There have been countless situations when there have been legal claims made against a transgressing spiritual leader, but through coercion and pressure, the shaykh (or those close to him) will be able to convince his victim that they are not allowed to go to kafir court systems to solve issues between Muslims. Ironically, these same shaykhs see no difficulty signing legally binding contracts with other Muslims they do business with, or when they give classes, which stands to reason, they are perfectly fine accepting the same ‘kafir court’ as a source of protection when it is for themselves. 

Stop Hurting the Dawah Plea

In other cases, when the disputes are between fellow students, or representatives of the shaykh and those lower ranking students, the shaykh himself is able to get on the phone with the disgruntled victim, give him or her special attention, and convince the person to drop it and not pursue justice, as that may ‘hurt the dawah.’ Sometimes, the shaykhs will ostensibly push for Islamic mechanisms of justice and call for arbitration by other religious figures who they know will decide in his favor. It is critical not to fall victim to these arguments. 

Your Vile Nafs Culpe

Far too often in these groups, particularly the more spiritually inclined ones, everyone will acknowledge the abuse, whether illicit sexual behavior, groping, financial fraud, secret temporary marriages, or bullying by a Shaykh, but steadfastly invoke the ‘only prophets are perfect, and our Shaykh is a wali–– but he can make mistakes’ refrain. Then, when those seeking recourse dare disclose these issues, even when there is no dispute about the factuality of their claims, they are browbeaten into compliance; told their focus on the negative is a sign that they are ‘veiled from the more important, positive efforts of the group, and it is they who should overcome their vile nafs.’ With such groups, leaving may be the only solution. 

Pray it Away Pretext

Sometimes, a target of abuse may go to other teachers or other people in the community to seek help, guidance, or direction. The victims hold these teachers in high regard and believe that they can trust them. However, instead of these teachers acting to protect the victims, the victims are often placated, told to pray it away. They are left with empty platitudes, but nothing concrete is ever done to protect them, nor is there any follow-up. 

The Forgive and Forget Pardon

They are told to forgive…

Forgiveness has its place and time, but at that critical moment, when a victim is in crisis and requires guidance and help, their wellbeing should remain paramount. To counsel victims that their primary job and focus at that pivotal juncture is to forgive their abuser is highly objectionable. Forgiveness is not the obligation of the victim and for any teacher or religious leader to invalidate the wrong that took place is not only counterproductive but dangerous––even if the intention behind the advice came from a wholesome place.

The Dire Need For A Code of Conduct

It is very easy to feel let down when nothing is done about teachers who abuse, but we have to understand that without a Code of Conduct, there really isn’t much that can be done when the spiritual abuse is not considered illegal. It is the duty of Islamic institutions to protect employees, attendees, and religious leaders. We also must demand that. 

Justice is a process. It is not a net result. This means that sometimes we will follow the process of justice and still come up short. The best thing we can do to hold abusers accountable for our institutions is to set up a process of accountability. A code of conduct will not eliminate spiritual abuse. Institutions that adopt this code may still cover up abuse, in which case victims will need to take action against the institution for violating the code. This code of conduct will also protect teachers who can be targetted and falsely accused.

As members of the community, we should expect more.  Here is how:

  •  Demand your Islamic institutions to have and instill a code of conduct. 
  •  If you are in a group outside of an institution, get clarity on the limits of the Shaykh.
  •  Understand that anyone, no matter their social status, is capable of doing horrible things, even the religious figures who talk about the importance of justice, accountability, and transparency. 
  • When it comes to money, expect more from your leadership than emotional appeals. Fundraising causes follow trends, and while supporting good causes is a positive thing, doing so without a proper audit or accountability is not. It lends itself to financial abuse, mistrust, and misappropriation.  

Establish a Protocol

A lot of hurt can be saved and distrust salvaged if victims are provided with honest non-judgment. Even in the event that there is a lack of concrete evidence, a protocol to handle these kinds of sensitive situations can provide a victim with a safe space to go to where they know they won’t be ignored or treated callously. We may not be able to guarantee an outcome, but we can ensure that we’ll try.

Using Contract Law to Hold Abusers Accountable – Danya Shakfeh

In cases of spiritual abuse, legal recourse (or any recourse for that matter) has been rare due to there being no standard of conduct and no legal means to hold abusers accountable.  In order to solve this problem, our Code of Conduct creates a legal mechanism of enforcement through contract law.

The reason why contract law is important and applicable is that the law does not always address unethical behavior.  You have heard the refrain “Just because it is legal, it does not mean it is ethical.” The law, for varying reasons, has its limits. Although we associate the law with justice and morality, the law and justice and morality are not always interchangeable and can even be at odds with each other.  

Ultimately, specifically in a secular society, the law is a set man-made rules and sometimes those rules are arbitrary and actually unfair. For example, there is a class of laws called ‘strict liability’ laws. These laws make a defendant liable even if the person committed the offense by accident.  One example of strict liability law is selling alcohol to a minor. In some states, even if the person tried to confirm the minor’s legal age, the seller could still be held liable for the offense. On the flip-side, there are is a lack of anti-bullying laws on the books in the United States. This allows employers to cause serious emotional damage to employees, yet the employer can get away with such offensive behavior.  Accordingly, the law does not always protect nor is it always ‘just.’

On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

This is one of the reasons that victims of spiritual abuse have had little success in having their claims addressed at a legal level.  Because abuses are not legally recognized as such, there is often no associated remedy. For example, when a woman enters into a secret second marriage only to find that the husband is not giving her all her Islamic legal rights, that woman’s recourse is very limited because the law does not recognize this as abuse and does not even recognize the marriage.

Further, if a victim of spiritual abuse is abused due to religious manipulation unless the abuser engaged in a stand-alone crime or civil claim, the victim also has no legal recourse. For example, if a religious scholar exploits a congregant’s vulnerabilities in order to convince the congregant to turn over large amounts of money and the congregant later learns that the Islamic scholar did not really need the money, he or she may have no legal recourse.  This is because manipulation (as long as there is no fraud) is not illegal and depending on how clever the religious scholar was, the congregant would have no legal recourse. Our way of solving this problem is by using contract law to set and enforce the standard for ethical behavior.

Use of Institutional Handbooks

Whether people realize it or not, institutional handbooks are a type of contract. Though an attorney should be consulted in order to ensure that they these documents are binding, policies do not necessarily need to be signed by every party nor do they need to be called a “contract” in order to be legally binding.  By creating institutional handbooks and employment policies that relate to common issues of spiritual abuse, we can finally provide guidelines and remedies.

When an employee at an institution violates the institution’s policies, this is a “breach of contract” that can result in firing or even monetary damages. In other words, the policy is that document which victims and institutions can use to back their cases when there are allegations involving abuse.  Policies can also hold institutions themselves liable for not enforcing the policy and remedies as to victims’ abuse. Policies also serve the purpose of putting the community and their beneficiaries and patrons on notice as to what is expected of them.

Our Code of Conduct is the most comprehensive of created ethical guidelines for Muslims leaders and institutions for making spiritual abuse remedies actionable. We believe it will provide remedies to victims that would otherwise not be available through other legal means.  By binding the parties to a contract, victims and institutions can take these contracts, along with the abusers, to court and use the contract to fill in the gap for appropriate behavior that the law otherwise does not fill.

Download the Code of Conduct For Islamic Leadership By In Shaykh’s Clothing

Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse

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Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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