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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

How Do Muslims Plan for Disability

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Families with children with disability have an extraordinary set of challenges and blessings.  Disability (or special needs) is a broad term.

Many disabilities will prevent what we often think of as “normal.”  It may hinder or prevent educational opportunities, and employment. Many people with “special needs” can get educated, get married and live long and productive lives.  The problem for many parents of younger children with special needs is that they typically have no certainty about their children’s future needs. Even if the situation looks dire, it may not stay that way.  

How do parents plan for a world where they may not be around to see how things will end up for their special needs children?  What can they do to help their children in a way that does not violate Islamic Inheritance rules?

Certain types of disability, especially the loss of executive decision-making ability, could also happen well into adulthood.  This can be a threat to a family’s wealth and be the cause of internal conflicts. This is the kind of thing every adult needs to think about before it happens.  

The Problem

The issues are not just that parents believe their special needs child will need more inheritance than other children. Muslim parents usually don’t think that. Some parents don’t want their special needs child to get any inheritance at all.  Not because of any ill-will against their special needs child; just the opposite, but because they are afraid inheritance will result in sabotaging their child’s needs-based government benefits.    

Many, perhaps most special needs children do not have any use for needs-based benefits (benefits for the poor).  But many do, or many parents might figure that it is a distinct possibility. This article is a brief explanation of some of the options available for parents of special needs children.  It won’t go over every option, but rather those that are usually incorporated as part of any Islamic Estate Planning.

Please Stand By

Example:  Salma has three daughters and two sons.  One of her children, Khalida, 3, has Down Syndrome.  At this point, Salma knows that raising Khalida is going to be an immense challenge for herself, her husband Rashid and all the older siblings.  What she does not know, however, is what specific care Khalida is going to need through her life or how her disability will continue to be relevant. She does not know a lot about Khalida’s future marriage prospects, ability to be employed and be independent, though obviously like any parent she has nothing but positive hopes for her child’s life.   

In the event of her death, Salma wants to make sure her daughter gets her Islamic right to inheritance.  However, if Khalida needs public benefits, Salma does not want her daughter disqualified because she has her own money.

Her solution is something called a “stand-by special needs trust.” This type of trust is done in conjunction with an Islamic Inheritance Plan and is typically part of a living trust, though it could also be a trust drafted into the last will.  I will describe more about what a special needs trust is below. For Salma, she is the Trustee of her trust. After she dies, she names her husband (or someone else) the successor Trustee. The trust is drafted to prevent it from becoming an “available resource” used to determine eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits that go with that.

If it turns out that Salma passes away when Khalida is 5, and her assets are held in trust for her until she is 18 and her Trustee determines she does not need a special needs trust, she will get her inheritance precisely like everyone else based on their Islamic right.  If she does need benefits, the Trustee will only make distributions to Khalida that would not harm her eligibility.

This way, there is no need to deny Khalida her inheritance because of her disability, and she is also making sure giving her daughter inheritance would not harm her daughter’s healthcare or other necessary support.  

Munir Vohra is a special needs advocate and an athlete

The Shape of Special Needs Trusts

A stand-alone Special needs trusts, which is sometimes called a “supplemental needs trust” the kind without the “stand-by” variation I described above, are a standard device for families that have children with special needs. A trust is a property ownership device. A Grantor gives the property to a Trustee, who manages the property for the benefit of a beneficiary. In a revocable living trust, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary are typically the same person.  

When the trust is irrevocable, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary may all be different people. In a special needs trust, the person with a disability is the beneficiary. Sometimes, the person with a disability is also the Grantor, the person who created the trust.  This might happen if there is a settlement from a lawsuit for example and the person with special needs wants it to be paid to the trust.  

In many if not most cases, the goal may not be to protect the beneficiary’s ability to get public benefits at all. Many people with a disability don’t get special government benefits.  But they do want to protect the beneficiaries from having to manage the assets. Some people are just more susceptible to abuse.

The structure of the arrangement typically reflects the complexity of the family, the desire of siblings and extended family to continue to be involved in the care and attending to the needs of the person with a disability, even if they are not the person directly writing checks.   

Example: Care for Zayna

Example: Zayna is a 24-year-old woman with limited ability to communicate, take care of her needs and requires 24-hour care.  Zayna has three healthy siblings, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her father, Elias, earns about $70,000 per year and is divorced. Zayna’s mother Sameena cannot contribute, as she is on social security disability. However, Zayna’s adult brother and sisters, brother in laws, sister in law and several aunts, uncles want to help Zayna meet her needs E.lyas creates a third party special needs trust that would ensure Zayna has what she needs in the years to come.

Zayna receives need-based public benefits that are vital to her in living with her various disabilities and her struggle to gain increasing independence, knowledge and dignity.  So the trust needs to be set up and professionally administered to make sure that when Zayna gets any benefit from her trust, it does not end up disqualifying her ability to get any needs-based benefit.  

Contributions to the special needs trust will not go against Islamic Inheritance rules unless made after the death of the donor.

If Zayna dies, her assets from the special needs trust will be distributed based on the Islamic rules of inheritance as it applies to her.

When disability planning is not about Public Benefits

Perhaps most families with special needs children do not use any needs-based public assistance.  They are still concerned about special needs and planning for it.

Example:  Khadija, 16, is on the autism spectrum. For those familiar with the autism spectrum, that could mean a lot of things.  For her parents, Sarah and Yacoob, other than certain habits that are harmless and easy to get used to, it means Khadija is very trusting of people. Otherwise, she does well in school, and her parents don’t think she needs way more help than her siblings and she has just as good a chance of leading a healthy and productive life as any 16-year-old girl.  

The downside of being too trusting is that the outside world can exploit her.  If she ends up getting inheritance or gifts, she may lose it. The parents decide that when she gets her inheritance, it will be in a trust that would continue through her life.  There will be a trustee who will make sure she has what she needs from her trust, but that nobody can exploit her.

In some ways, what Khadija’s parents Sarah and Yacoob are doing is not so different from what parents might do if they have a child with a substance abuse problem.  They want to give their child her rights, but they don’t want to allow for exploitation and abuse.

Considering your own needs

There are many people who are easy marks for scammers, yet you would be unlikely to know this unless you are either a close friend or family member, or a scammer yourself.  While this often happens to the elderly, it can happen at just about any age. Everyone should consider developing an “incapacity plan” to preserve their wealth even if they lose their executive decision-making ability.   

There is this process in state courts known as “conservatorship.” Indeed, entire courtrooms dedicate themselves to conservatorships and other mental health-related issues.  It is a legal process that causes an individual to lose their financial or personal freedom because a court has essentially declared them not competent to handle their affairs. Conservatorships are a public process.  They can cause a lot of pain embarrassment and internal family strife.

One of the benefits of a well-drafted living trust is to protect privacy and dignity during difficult times.

Example: Haris Investing in Cambodian Rice Farms

Haris, 63, was eating lunch at a diner.  In the waiting area, he became fast friends with Mellissa; a thirty-something woman who was interested in talking about Haris’s grandchildren.  The conversation then turned Melissa and her desire to start a business selling long distance calling cards. Haris was fascinated by this and thought it made good business sense. Haris gave Mellissa $20,000.00. The two exchanged numbers. The next day, Mellissa’s number was disconnected.

Haris’s wife, Julie became alarmed by this.  It was out of character for her husband to just fork over $20,000 to anyone on the spur of the moment.  What was worse is that the business failed immediately.  

Three months later,  Haris meets Mellissa at the diner again.  She then convinces Haris to invest $50,000 in a Cambodian rice farm, which he does right away.   His wife Julie was pretty upset.

How living trusts helps

As it happened though, Haris, a few years before, created a living trust.  It has a provision that includes incapacity planning. There are two essential parts to this:  The first is a system to decide if someone has lost their executive decision-making ability. The second is to have a successor Trustee to look over the estate when the individual has lost this capacity.  This question is about Haris’s fundamental freedom: his ability to spend his own money.

If you asked Haris, he would say nothing is wrong with him.  He looks and sounds excellent. Tells the best dad jokes. He goes to the gym five times a week and can probably beat you at arm wrestling. Haris made some financial mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

Julie, and his adult children Haroon, Kulsum, Abdullah, and Rasheeda are not so sure it’s just a mistake.  The living trust created a “disability panel.” This panel gets to vote, privately, in if Haris should continue to act as Trustee of his own money.  If they vote that he should not manage his own money, his wife does it for him.

The family has a way to decide an important and sensitive issue while maintaining Haris’ dignity, privacy and wealth.   Haris’s friends don’t know anything about long distance calling cards or a Cambodian rice farm; they don’t know he lost his ability to act as Trustee of his trust.  Indeed the rest of the world is oblivious to all of this.

Planning for everyone

Islamic inheritance is fard and every Muslim should endeavor to incorporate it into their lives.  As it happens it is an obligation Muslims, at least those in the United States, routinely ignore or deal with inadequately.  However, there is more to planning than just what shares go to whom after death. Every family needs to create a system. There may or may not be problems with children or even with yourself (other than death, which will happen), but you should do whatever you can to protect your family’s wealth and dignity while also fulfilling your obligations to both yourself and your family.

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#Society

Cleaning Out Our Own Closets This Ramadan: Bigotry

Why Eliminating Hate Begins with Us

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Before Muslims take a stand against xenophobia in the U.S., we really need to eradicate it from our own community.

There. I said it.

There is no nice way to put it. Muslims can be very intolerant of those outside their circles, particularly our Latino neighbors. How do I know? I am a Latina who came into Islam almost two decades ago, and I have experienced my fair share of stereotypes, prejudice, and just outright ignorance coming from my very own Muslim brethren.

And I am not alone.

My own family and Latino Muslim friends have also dealt with their daily doses of bigotry. Most of the time, it is not ill-intentioned, however, the fact that our community is so out of touch with Latin Americans says a lot about why we are often at the receiving end of discrimination and hate.

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (The Qur’an, 13:11)

Recently, Fox News came under fire for airing a graphic that stated, “Trump cuts aid to 3 Mexican countries,” on their show, “Fox and Friends Weekend.” The network apologized for the embarrassing error, but not before criticism of their geographical mishap went viral on social media. The reactions were of disbelief, humor, and repugnance for the controversial news channel that has become the archenemy of everything Islamic. People flooded the internet with memes, tweets, and comments regarding the ridiculous headline, Muslims included. American Muslim leaders quickly released statements condemning the lack of knowledge about the difference between Mexico and the nations of Central and South America.

Ironically, however, just about two months ago, my eldest son wrote an essay about the bullying he experienced in an Islamic school, which included insults about him being Mexican and “eating tacos” even though he is half Ecuadorian (South America) and Puerto Rican (Caribbean), not Mexican. I include the regions in parentheses because, in fact, many Muslims are just as geographically-challenged as the staff at Fox News. When a group of Hispanic workers came to replace the windows at his former school, my son approached them and spoke to them in Spanish as a means of dawah – teaching them that there are Latin American and Spanish-speaking Muslims. His classmates immediately taunted him saying that the laborers were “his cousins.” Although my son tried countless times to explain to his peers the difference between his origins and Mexico and defended both, they continued to mock Latinos.

On another occasion, a local masjid invited a famous Imam from the Midwest to speak about a topic. My family and I attended the event because we were fans of the shaykh and admired his work. A few minutes into his talk, he made a derogatory remark about Mexicans, and then added with a smile, “I hope there aren’t any Mexicans in the room!” A gentleman from the community stood up behind my husband, who is Ecuadorian, and pointed at him saying, “We have one right here!” Some people chuckled as his face turned red. The shaykh apologized for his comment and quickly moved on. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes. This was nothing new.

Imam Mohamed Alhayek (Jordanian Palestinian) and Imam Yusuf Rios (Puerto Rican) share an intimate moment during the 16th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day. Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

Once, I visited a Pakistani sister, and as I enjoyed a cup of warm chai on her patio, she turned to me earnestly and said, “You and (another Latina Muslim) are the only educated Hispanics I know.” She then asked me why Latinos did not have “goals and ambitions” because supposedly, all the Hispanic students in her daughters’ school only aspired to work in their parents’ businesses as laborers. She went on to tell me about her Hispanic maid’s broken family and how unfortunate it was that they had no guidance or moral values. I was shocked by her assumptions, but I realized that this was the sentiment of a lot of Muslims who simply do not know a thing about our culture or have not taken the time to really get to know us.

When I accepted Islam back in 2000, I never expected to hear some of the narrow-minded comments and questions I received from those people who had become my brothers and sisters in faith. After all, I came to Islam through the help of an Egyptian family, I declared the Shahada for the first time in the presence of people from Pakistan, and I was embraced in the masjid by worshippers from places like Somalia, Sudan, Palestine, India, Turkey, and Afghanistan. A white American convert gifted me with my first Ramadan guide and an Indian sister supported me during my first fast. I expected to be treated equally by everyone because Islam was for everyone and Muslims have been hearing this their whole lives and they preach it incessantly. I do the same now. As a Muslim Latina, I tell my people that Islam is open to all and that racism, colorism, classism, and xenophobia have no place in Islam.

Nevertheless, it did not take long for me to hear some very ugly things from my new multi-cultural community. I was questioned about whether I was a virgin or not by well-meaning sisters who wanted to find me a Muslim husband. My faith was scrutinized when my friend’s family introduced me to an imam who doubted I had converted on my own, without the persuasion of a Muslim boyfriend or husband. I was pressured about changing my name because it was not “Islamic” enough. I was lectured about things that I had already learned because foreign-born Muslims assumed I had no knowledge. I was even told I could not be a Muslim because I was Puerto Rican; that I was too “out there,” too loud, or that my people were not morally upright.

I know about good practicing Muslim men who have been turned down for marriage because they are Hispanic. On the other hand, I have seen sisters taken for marriage by immigrant Muslims to achieve citizenship status and later abandoned, despite having children. I have been approached by Muslim men searching for their “J-Lo,” who want to marry a “hot” Latina because of the disgusting exploitation of Latina women they have been exposed to from television, movies, and music videos. I have made the mistake of introducing this type of person to one of my sisters and witnessed their disappointment because she did not fit the image of the fantasy girl they expected. I have felt the heartbreak of my sister who was turned down for not living up to those unrealistic expectations, and who continues to wait for a Muslim man who will honor her as she deserves. An older “aunty” once said to my face that she would never let her children marry a Latino/a.

I met a brother named José who was told that he had to change his un-Islamic Spanish name so that he would be better received in the Muslim community, even though his name, when translated to Arabic, is Yusuf! I have been asked if I know any Hispanic who could work at a Muslim’s store for less than minimum wage 12 hours a day or a “Spanish lady” who can clean a Muslim’s house for cheap. I have spoken to Latino men and women who work at masajid doing landscaping or janitorial services who have never heard anything about Islam. When I approached the Muslim groundskeeper at one of these mosques with Spanish literature to give them, he looked at me bewildered and said, “Oh, they are just contractors,” as if they did not deserve to learn about our faith! I have heard that the child of a Latina convert was expelled and banned from returning to an Islamic school for making a mistake, once. I have been told about fellow Hispanics who dislike going to the masjid because they feel rejected and, worse of all, some of them have even left Islam altogether.

Latina Muslims share a laugh during the 16th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day.
Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

A few weeks ago, news was released about the sentencing of Darwin Martinez Torres, who viciously raped and murdered Northern Virginia teen, Nabra Hassanen during Ramadan in June 2017. The story made national headlines and left her family and the entire Muslim community devastated. Although the sentence of eight life terms in prison for the killer provided some closure to the public, the senseless and heinous act still leaves sentiments of anger and frustration in the hearts of those who loved Nabra Hassanen. Muslims began sharing the news on social media and soon, remarks about the murderer’s Central American origin flooded the comments sections. One said, “An illegal immigrant from El Salvador will now spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison where all his needs will be met, and his rights will be protected… When we attack efforts to stop illegal immigration and to deal with the criminals coming across the border every day, remember Sr. Nabra… we should all be united in supporting common-sense measures to ensure that our sisters do not walk in fear of attacks. (And no, this is not an ‘isolated case’…).”

Although I was just as relieved about receiving the news that there was finally justice for our young martyred sister, I was saddened to see that the anti-Hispanic immigrant sentiment within our own community was exposed: To assume that Latino immigrants are “criminals coming across the border every day” is to echo the very words that came from current US President Donald Trump’s mouth about immigrants prior to his election to the presidency. To blame all Latinos for a crime committed against one and claim it is not an “isolated case” is to do the same thing that Fox News and anti-Muslim bigots do when they blame all Muslims for a terror attack.

Why are we guilty of the same behavior that we loathe?

I do not like to air out our dirty laundry. I have always felt that it is counterproductive for our collective dawah efforts. It is embarrassing and shameful that we, who claim to be so tolerant and peaceful, still suffer from the very attitudes for which we blame others. As I write this piece, I have been sharing my thoughts with my close friend, a Pakistani-American, who agreed with me and said, “Just like a recovering alcoholic, our first step is to admit there is a problem.” We cannot demand our civil rights and expect to be treated with dignity while we mistreat another minority group, and this includes Latinos and also other indigenous Muslims like Black Americans and Native Americans. I say this, not just for converts, but for my loud and proud, half Puerto Rican and half Ecuadorian children and nephews and others like them who were born Muslims: we need a community that welcomes all of us.

Latinos and Muslims share countless cultural similarities. Our paths are the same. Our history is intertwined, whether we know it or not; and if you don’t know it, then it is time you do your research. How can we visit Islamic Spain and North Africa and marvel at its magnificence, and travel to the Caribbean for vacation and notice the Andalusian architecture present in the colonial era structures, yet choose to ignore our shared past? How can you be proud of Mansa Musa, and not know that it is said his brother sailed with other Malians to the Americas prior to Columbus, making contact with the indigenous people of South America (even before it was “America”)? How can you turn your back on people from the countries which sheltered thousands of Muslim immigrants from places like Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey after the collapse of the Uthmani Empire, many of which carry that blood in their veins?

Latino Muslim panelists during “Hispanic Muslim Day” at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, Union City, NJ Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

We need to do a better job of reaching out and getting to know our neighbors. In recent years, the Muslim ban has brought Latinos and Muslims together in solidarity to oppose discriminatory immigration laws. The time is now to establish lasting partnerships.

Use this Ramadan to reach out to the Latino community; host a Spanish open house or an interfaith/intercultural community iftar. Reach out to Latino Muslims in your area for support, or to organizations like ICNA’s WhyIslam (Por qué Islam) for Spanish materials. A language barrier is not an issue when there are plenty of resources available in the Spanish language, and we have the universal language that has been declared a charity by our Prophet, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and that is a welcoming smile.

There is no excuse.

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How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Zeba Khan

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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