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What’s the Matter? Cutting, Mental Health & Family Ties

Sarah Sultan, LMHC

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Question:

My parents had a turbulent marriage: full-on warfare and not pretty to watch growing up. I grew up highly conflicted about how I felt about them – I know I had to love them, but it took me until my adulthood to finally like them as humans.

I got a lot of flak from my mom because I was her (metaphorical) punching bag.  This didn’t exactly help with the conflicted feelings.  I started cutting myself pretty seriously from when I was 18 until the age of 24.  I married and moved out and moved on.  No more cutting. Yay!

I have a brother 3 years younger than me who over the last ten years has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar, etc.  I was never close to him.  I became my mom’s punching bag again as she dealt with him.  I wanted to help but I also wanted to escape. And here’s how things stand: I help how I can.  I get full-blown depressed off and on.  I have written to a couple of shaykhs that I’ve studied from (online) but I guess they aren’t therapists.  Given my situation, what can I do? Where can I even start?

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Answer:

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Bismillah wa salaat wa salaam ‘ala Rasoolillah.

Assalaamu alaykum,

First of all, I want to acknowledge that what you’ve experienced both as a witness of your parents’ turbulent relationship, as well as being forced to bear the weight of your mother’s difficulties, is something that a child should never have to endure.   One thing I noticed in what you said was your statement, “I know I had to love them.”  It is completely normal to experience feelings of anger after the years of struggles you’ve endured in your relationship with your mother.  What is most important is how you react to these emotions- and it is very admirable that you are striving to help your family despite all of this.  I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to reward you immensely for that.

Secondly, congratulations on abstaining from self-harming!  That is an incredible achievement and you should be so proud of yourself!  Yay for you!  Now that you have begun to reintegrate yourself back into your family and the cycle has restarted in the way you are treated by your mother, please pay very careful attention to any signs you may notice that may lead to the urge to cut again.  You mentioned that these interactions result in feelings of depression so be aware that this may lead to the urge to cut again.

In striving to help your family, you are also pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  There is a particular emphasis on good treatment of parents as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them, but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.’” [al-Isra’ 17:23-24].  However, also be conscious that if you do not care for yourself in the process, you won’t be able to help anyone.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” {Sahih Al-Bukhari}  It is not only others that have a right over us, but we ourselves do as well.

With regards to your question about where you can start: it sounds like you already have.  It sounds like you’ve taken steps to help with your brother and your mother.  It also sounds like despite not knowing your brother too well and having experienced so much difficulty in your relationship with your mother, they both hold a part of you and you love them.  I imagine that must be a very difficult mix of emotions to bear- one part of you feels resentful while the other part cannot stay away because they are your family and you love them.  As I said before, these emotions are very normal but it is what you choose to do with them that characterizes you.  And it sounds like you are someone who is striving to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by maintaining ties with your family masha’Allah.  I would encourage you to take small steps to reintegrate yourself while carefully taking heed of the impact this is having on you.  If you notice yourself getting depressed and struggling to deal with your emotions, take a step back.  I would highly encourage you to seek therapy if you haven’t already done so in order to be able to ground yourself at least once per week.  This is particularly important considering your history with cutting and depressive episodes.

You mentioned that you are trying to help your brother- may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reward you and grant him ease in his struggle with mental illness.  In maintaining your relationship with him, spending time with him and listening to him, you can provide something incredibly valuable.  Also, helping him to receive treatment as well as maintain consistency in receiving these services would be very beneficial.  Continually seek Allah’s help and guidance throughout this and remind yourself of both the worldly reward (helping others and potentially improving familial relationships) as well as the much greater reward of the Hereafter (the pleasure and mercy of Allah).

I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to increase you in peace and goodness and guide you on the path of improving relationships within your family.

If you have a question for our counselors, please submit here.

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Sarah Sultan is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has experience in a variety of therapeutic interventions and has worked with several age groups including children with special needs, adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues, families undergoing difficulties and survivors of trauma and domestic violence. Sarah is currently working as a therapist at a residential treatment center for teens in crisis, where she works with adolescents dealing with suicidality, trauma, self-harming behaviors, aggression and a variety of other issues. She is also an instructor with Mishkah University, where she teaches a course about the intersection between Islam, psychology and counseling. She has been actively involved in serving the Muslim community over the course of the past 10 years through providing lectures, halaqas and workshops.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ummzakariya

    January 16, 2014 at 3:19 AM

    May Allah bless both the questioner and the answerer.

    One side of my family has history of psychiatric illnesses ( mainly unipolar depression). Appears to be the result of repeated cousin-marriages to protect family-wealth.

    And from my observation I say that those who were more religious ( as in prayed more, read quran more, pray tahajjud and tawakkulAllah) have had very long relapse period. MashAllah!

    Also, I notice that innate pessimism and lack of confidence in some of these members , has drawn them closer to Allah (as they feel the need of Allah’s help all the time )

    But , like sister Sarah mentioned, having family support is really important in such cases . ( it takes some serious level of patience from the family to bear with them.)

    Keeping the mind busy helps a great deal.

  2. Avatar

    Mel

    January 16, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Thank you for discussing this subject with a non judgmental approach. A lot of our Religious Leaders are not familiar with Self-harm, Eating disorders and many of the issues the Ummah has to deal with. Some of the symptoms of these conditions are similar to what some believe to be internal jinn possession. It would be beneficial if our Religious Leaders would know a little bit about basic disorders and if they do not, not to become defensive. We have so much to learn from each other. We need both Religious Counsel as well as Professional Therapists.

  3. Avatar

    Fa

    January 16, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    I feel here that the questioner’s mother needs help too. Being trapped in a turbulent marriage with an abusive spouse may have left her very hurt and bitter. I hope she was not abusive with the kids. But when a woman has to singlehandedly strive, struggle and sacrifice her life to provide a good life for her children then she begins to feel very deprived. if the spouse does not care and share the responsibilities then she feels the kids are obligated to see, listen and understand what she is going through. Sometimes this is too much to ask of the young ones specially in the Western culture. But look at the deprived life of orphans living around the world, they will do anything for someone to look at them affectionately. A mother loves her kids unconditionally and sometimes all she needs is moral support and sympathy. I hope the questioner is a parent too as she can better understand the disturbed mother and not repeat the same mistakes with his or her own children. Treating the mother’s anxiety will help stop the cycle of depression in the family InshaAllah.

  4. Avatar

    Mel

    January 16, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Thank you for discussing these topics in an intelligent and non-judgmental manner.
    One the things missing from the Masjaad are support groups and counselors Although we can receive religious counseling which we need, very few of our Religious Leaders are familiar with the disorders mentioned in the article even thought they are common..Alot of the symptoms of Mental Disorders mimic what some Muslims believe to be internal jinn possession, imagine being told you or a loved one is possessed by jinn and left to deal with it along with other very real disorders. SubhanAllah, we have a lot to learn. InshAllah, we put our knowledge together and open our hearts it will become easier.

  5. Avatar

    Mimi

    January 17, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    MashaAllah, this series is so beneficial! May Allah bless all involved in it, including the questioners! It’s always difficult to navigate relationships with semi-abusive parents, so getting a clear response like this is very helpful for the community at large.

  6. Avatar

    SS

    January 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    I really appreciate what muslimmatters is doing by starting this “whats the matter?” section and also in bringing these muslim professionals to our notice.

    Jazak Allah Khair.

  7. Avatar

    Umm Ali

    February 11, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    A bad childhood stays with the person till the grave. I was emotionally abused by my mother. Whatever was left of me, my husband took care of it.

    These days I am trying real hard not to transfer the abuse to my child. To accept him as he is. It is difficult when the only thing you learned through the years is that you are not good enough for them. I want my child to know me as a pillar of strength in his life and as an affectionate mother.

    It is difficult to forget the pain but we just need to channelize our anger and disappointment. What really helps me is when I help another miserable person out of his anxiety and tel him/ her that I am there. Allah then takes care of me and helps me in wonderful ways.

    • Avatar

      confusedsoul

      May 15, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      I was also emotionally abused by my mother.I was very much distant from her and also other family members.I knew i have to respect them for the pleasure of allah swt but it was very hard for me so i gave up and ended up marrying a wrong man.I actually cant decide whether he is Mr.wrong or Mr.right but i married him just to escape from my home where i was not in peace. Parents never realize that what damage their constant criticism and negligence towards emotions of their kids causes to their personality.Now i found out that i was having low self esteem and depression that made my life miserable and lead me take the wrong decision of marriage.But now i believe that it was my fate and there must be some good in it for me.
      i request all of you to pray for me please that allah swt makes my life easier and grant me jannah aameen.

  8. Sarah Sultan, LMHC

    Sarah Sultan, LMHC

    March 6, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Dear Umm Ali,

    I ask Allah (swt) to give you the strength needed to work through the struggles you experienced during your childhood and to grant you the ability to overcome the difficulties that come with parenthood. Becoming a parent brings up so much from our childhood that otherwise may not have come back up for us. You clearly love your son tremendously and are doing all you can to be the best mother possible to him. And, have no doubt- Allah (swt) chose you to be his mother because He knew you were the best person for the job and capable and strong enough to handle it despite your difficult past.

    You have already taken a great step in admitting that your own childhood issues may have an impact on the way you parent your son. I would encourage you to seek further help in exploring these issues and working through them in order to ensure that they do not negatively impact your mother-son relationship. May Allah (swt) reward you and grant you ease. Ameen.

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Podcast: David’s Dollar | Tariq Touré and Khaled Nurhssien

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We often preach about our children learning the importance of money, group economics, and developing healthy spending habits. How awesome would it be to have a fully illustrated picture book that explores how a dollar travels from hand-to-hand?

Join Khaled Nurhssien and award winning poet and author Tariq Touré as they discuss Tariq’s new children’s book David’s Dollar. In this Interview they touch on art, Islam’s approach to community and Tariq’s creative process.

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#Society

Beyond 2020: Grounding Our Politics in Community

Kyle Ismail, Guest Contributor

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As tense and agonizing as these unending election days have been, it pales in comparison to the last four years.  I plainly remember how it all began on the night of November 07, 2016. I watched as the political map of the US became increasingly red late into the night. All the social media banter, conspiracy theories and left-wing critiques of candidate Hillary Clinton, formed an amorphous blob of white noise as I heard Trump announced as the next president. Now that Trump has run for re-election, half the country was hoping for a repudiation but will have to settle for the fact that despite a small margin, Donald J. Trump will not have a second chance to erode our democratic institutions and divide us. But we can’t move forward until each of us acknowledges our own pathological role in what we’ve become as a deeply divided country. 

We need to grapple with how we can gradually improve the circus-like reality that has become our ordinary, daily politics. We’ll relive more and perhaps improved “Trumps” if we don’t accept our own responsibility in creating a divided America. This starts with being better members of local communities. Here are a few of Trump-induced realizations that I’ve come to accept:

  1. Caring about our immediate neighbors and listening to their challenges and concerns is the part of political engagement that we all have to embrace above and beyond actually voting if we hope to be more than a 50/50 nation.
  2. Social media and its profit-driven algorithms are actually eroding how we see each other but could also be altered to help better educate us about our local social/political landscape.
  3. Local Politics has direct impact on our lives and is also at the heart our religious obligations to our neighbors. It also sets the tone for where the federal level derives policies that prove to be best practices (some examples are included below).
  4. Agitation and protest are not the same as being politically organized on a local level. Protest is sometimes needed, but it will never replace consistent and patient work. We learned this lesson with the Arab Spring as that movement failed to transform into a movement that was able to govern effectively. And the same appears to be true about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The voting is over for now. But voting is really the smallest part of being committed to bettering our communities. It was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who gave the most specific definition of community/neighbor and encouraged his followers to guard the rights of the neighbor:

“Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

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Why does this relate to being politically organized?? The need for political organizing comes when any group of people want to create change in accordance with their values. We’ve all watched protest after protest that change little to nothing at the neighborhood level. This will continue to happen without organization, which span school boards, block clubs, nonprofits, and religious community outreach.  How can Muslims enjoin right and discourage wrong in any meaningful way? It comes through having authentic relationships with neighbors and turning that into organized and engaged communities.

Rosa Parks

Nothing illuminates the value of such relationships better than the story of Rosa Parks in her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People often think that she was the first brave soul to defy the custom of allowing whites to sit before African-Americans could be seated on her city’s buses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference was that her sets of relationships were so interwoven into her local community that it forced a massive response. Park’s connections spanned socioeconomic circles as she had close friendships from professors to field hands. She held memberships in a dozen local organizations including her church and the local NAACP. She was a volunteer seamstress in poor communities and provided the same for profit in wealthy white circles. When someone with her relational positioning was able to leverage the political organizing ability of MLK and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was sparked.

When something happens to Muslims, who can we mobilize to respond? Who becomes angry? Who do we work with in our communities to create policies that reflect our values And what are our internal barriers to such cooperation?

“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Our Predecessors Organized Locally

At some point in time voting became the sum total of political engagement in the minds of many and is now deemed by some as worthless. We quickly forget that the organizations that battled for voting rights were first locally organized to improve communities. SNCC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League all formed to create change in various ways and the fight for voting rights was a component of these local agendas. So when we’re tempted to believe that voting doesn’t matter, it’s likely due to our lack of engagement in local issues that form the contours of our community life. If you’ve ever heard of Ella Baker or Fannie Lou Hamer (worth researching!), you probably never bought into this type of logic.

One of the many lessons we can pull from this rich history is that we cannot pursue policies, seek alliances, or negotiate a position with political parties (see Ice Cube’s debacle in negotiating with Trump) without first being organized from within. No set of friendships or outside philanthropic support can supplant the need for internal organization. This lack of organized political engagement has weakened Muslims in general but has fatally weakened African-American Muslims as voices within the larger Black community – a voice that gave Islam its first fully accepted and influential place in American society.

Immigrant-based Muslim communities could also benefit from a local approach because despite being several generations in America, their American bonafides are still not set in stone. Concerns about Islamophobia will not change outside of developing authentic relationships with non-Muslims.

This also pushes back against a culture shaped disproportionately by social media algorithms that promote isolation and division for the sake of profit. Our attention to the national news cycle also takes our attention away from local communities where our power is formed. In this type of political malaise, re-engagement in local politics and community relationships can bring us back to important principles that resonate with the values of Islam.

Local politics help shape federal policy

The final word on any law or policy rests with the federal government, but much of what becomes orthodoxy begins with a few concerned citizens in local communities. As with community policing, criminal justice reform, climate sustainability, or any issues that has not caught on, the federal government will often step back to see how a new law plays out at state and local levels. Illinois didn’t wait for Obamacare but has a well-established program to ensure that anyone 18 and younger in Illinois has health insurance through a program called All Kids . Colorado has, in the midst of protests against police brutality, altered their law of Qualified Immunity to make police more accountable. And California has advanced the conversation on reparations  by sanctioning a study to understand how the state could benefit by redressing the descendants of American slavery.

By advancing issues and electing representatives who support the causes we believe in, we insert ourselves into a narrative that would’ve otherwise been forged without us. There’s no shortcut in this process short of rolling up our sleeves to understand our local systems and existing organizations. Moneyed interests are prepare to control the narrative regardless of who the president is and we have to remake this system from the ground up. Our history provides us with a roadmap to do this and it goes far beyond being citizens who only argue over national issues while standing on the sidelines. Remembering our 40 neighbors as advised by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best place to start.

Some helpful links:

Local Elections

State Legislatures

School Boards

County Prosecutors

Mayors

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#Current Affairs

Politics In Islam: Muslims Are Called To Pursue Justice

Imam Asad Zaman, Guest Contributor

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The pursuit of justice is a core Islamic value. One of the important roles Allah, the Exalted, assigned to His messengers is the task of establishing justice among the people. Allah, the Almighty, emphasized the importance of justice when He prohibited Himself from oppression and declared it forbidden among us humans. Allah is the Lord of all justice and fairness. In His fairness, He commands us to not allow our anger or hatred towards any group lead us to injustice against them. “Be just,” He commands, “it is closer to righteousness.”

Allah, the Most High, commands us to be witnesses for justice, even against ourselves. The concept of “even against ourselves,” is an open call to all people of faith to rise to the occasion, especially where we see systemic or structural oppression. In most such cases, the oppression is carried out in our name, usually by our elected government.

Allah’s emphasis on justice leads many Muslims to worry that if they vote for a president who transgresses against another country, the fault falls on everyone who voted for him. This fear paralyzes Muslim engagement in the American political system. Let us examine the circumstances of responsibility in such cases.

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To be clear, the present governments of almost all countries on Earth, including the so-called Muslim countries operate with corruption and oppression. Taking Egypt as an example, the government’s domestic policies have led to the unjust death and imprisonment of thousands of Egyptian citizens, and their foreign policy enables the perpetuation of Gaza’s destruction. This, however, does not require the average Egyptian Muslim citizen to reject all relationship to the nation of Egypt. The question then arises: how responsible is the Muslim for the actions of his government? Likewise, when the American government acts with injustice at home and abroad, how responsible is the American Muslim for the actions of his government? When the average citizen is not consulted before the execution of military operations, to what degree are we held responsible?

Allah’s Messenger provided for us a balanced approach to engaging with the injustice around us. Abu Saʿīd al-Khudri narrates that he heard the Prophet say,

“Whoever sees evil should change it with his hand; and if he is unable to do so, then he should change it with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then he should hate it with his heart—that is the least of faith.”

Let us take a practical example:

In 2001, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. To justify his action, he invented a series of lies that Iraq possessed nuclear capabilities. It took him more than a year to align the power brokers in America and Europe to enable this evil action to occur. Neither the opinions nor the interests of the American population were taken into consideration.

Before the invasion, the public had two concerns: that the justification presented for the war was speculative and unfounded, and the war would result in countless unnecessary deaths. These worries quickly materialized into realities as time proved them to be true. However before the war, various politicians, pundits and opinion makers helped sell this unjust action to the people in order to gain their consent. They are undoubtedly guilty of murder and should be remembered as peddlers of death.

But what was the duty of an average American Muslim? The hadith mentioned above lists three levels of engagement:

Level One:

Someone who was part of the military or legislative authority had a duty in front of Allah to attempt to stop the invasion with action. If he was a congressman, he had a moral duty to vote against the war. If he was a member of the military, any intelligence agency, or government policy group, he had a moral duty to challenge the claims of the war’s proponent’s and provide information to the public so that they can know the truth. This duty applied to the person despite the likelihood that such a course of action would have probably jeopardized their career or their life.

Level Two:

Most Americans were not in the position described in level one. In their case, their duty was to speak out against this act of injustice. They could have written letters to their legislators, participated in protest rallies, held events in congress, and even spoken to their neighbors, classmates and colleagues about how wrong this action was. Any American Muslim who was not under threat of arrest for speaking out, but chose to remain silent still, failed to fulfill his duty to protest the evil.

Level Three:

There is little likelihood that the approach of silence would be justified for most American Muslims. There are countries (such as Saudi Arabia), where people can be arrested, tortured, even murdered if they speak out against the government. A Muslim living in one of these societies has a duty to at least engage with the injustices around them on an internal level, detesting the action from the core of their heart. As for the Muslim who does not detest that millions of innocent people are killed, they should check their heart; they would be missing what the Allah’s Messenger described as, “the least of faith.”

What faith is left in the heart of the Muslim who is not bothered by the death of more than a million Muslims?! Even if his mind is polluted with patriotism, tribalism, nationalism, or an inclination towards military culture, there is no excuse for the lack of humanity that is required for this level of apathy.

Considering the hadith above, our minimum duty is to stand and speak against the use of our tax dollars for such acts of injustice. There were indeed many Muslim and non-Muslim voices of dissent that protested the American invasion of Iraq. In addition to the spiritual duty of speaking out against injustice, it was clear to many what was later proven to be true: the invasion was not good for America. The financial and human loss incurred by this war has not made neither America, nor the world safer.

Many propose that Muslims should react to the injustices in their countries by leaving them. But this evasive approach fails to actually address the injustice. There is a greater, though more challenging, expectation of addressing the injustices from within, especially in a country like America where criticisms are tolerated and protest can lead to policy that is felt around the world. A large amount of the pain, and suffering that is happening to the Muslims today can be stopped from inside America. Our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Kenya, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan are hoping that we will do something from our positions that will alleviate their suffering. They need our help.

Exonerating ourselves because our government acts without our consent may appease our consciences, but is of no benefit to our global Muslim community.

Such an approach is contradictory to the teaching of the Prophet as made clear by the hadith above. We have the opportunity and ability to speak out against evil, so passive dissent is not an option.

Allah tells us the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and al-Khadir 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  in Surah al-Kahf (peace be upon them both). When they boarded a ship of some men who agreed to give them a ride to their destination, Khadir pierced the boat’s basin, damaging their source of livelihood. Confused, Musa criticized this action, as it seemed like an injustice towards people who readily did a favor for them. What Musa didn’t know was that the men would encounter a tyrant king who had sent his men to seize all boats that were sound and intact. And as these men had helped Musa and al-Khadir, he wished to help them evade this king’s oppressive policy; the minor damage saved them from losing their boat!

The king was an oppressive tyrant. Musa and al-Khadir (peace be upon both of them) did not possess the power to remove the king or prevent the king from his evil action, and so they took action according to their ability. They knew that though they could not save everyone from the injustice, it was still their duty to act within their capacity to reduce the king’s injustice.

The Story of The Secret Believer

Allah also tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). We know he had a fairly high status in the government because he was part of their most confidential meetings. This secret believer did not exit the government after he saw the many evil deeds of the Pharaoh’s government. During the discussion in the Pharaoh’s cabinet where they decided that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was to be killed, this believer rose up and voiced his objections to the injustice, citing historical, logical, and emotional appeals. The meeting, however, concluded with the decision to execute Musa. Having been unable to stop this royal decree, he still made the effort to warn Musa so as to give him the chance to flee.

Allah tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa Click To Tweet

Instead of condemning him for participating in a government founded upon unbelief, Allah exalts his mention in His glorious book. He is our example of speaking truth to power, and the reason for Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)safety from Pharaoh’s plot. This man used his position to obstruct oppression, not perpetuate it.

As Muslim Americans, we live in a non-Muslim country. The decisions and actions of our government impacts all of us living in this country. Disengagement will allow selfish people to make decisions that will result in harm to our communities.

Participation will allow us to follow the examples of proactive engagement so as to prevent harm and ultimately change corrupt systems from within. An all-or-nothing approach will almost always lead to nothing.

Allah, the Exalted, provides these examples so that we can understand the practical role of Muslim in an overwhelmingly hostile society. Even though our environments have not reached that degree, we can still relate to the feelings of being oppressed and ostracized for our faith. Allah’s lesson to us in these stories is that our faith shouldn’t prevent us from trying to change these circumstances.

And to Allah is the end of all matters.

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