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How Physically Intimate Can a Couple be Post-Nikkah but Pre-Marriage / Rukhsati?

Sh. Yaser Birjas

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What is permissible Post-Nikkah Pre-Consummation (Rukhsati/Marriage)

Question:

I just had my nikkah done with my husband and we are having our rukhsati done soon (in the next few months). The reason for [the] delay is just mainly to prepare for the wedding and  [to] accommodate family members’ schedule [for] the wedding. After the nikkah is it permissible to do all the acts that are permissible between a husband and wife even if the rukhsati hasn’t been done?

Sincerely,
Getting married in my 20s
[This question has a second part, which will be answered at a later date, inshaAllah]

Answer:

From a technical Fiqhi perspective, when a man and woman have their nikah, kitab or marriage contract (different terms for the same practice) done Islamically they are considered a husband and wife. It is permissible to delay the consummation of marriage (rukhsati or wedding) for a later and more convenient date with no specific time limit as long as they both mutually agree on it until the circumstances are right for them.

Allah Al-Mighty says:

“O You who have believed, when you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them, then there is not for you any waiting period to count concerning them. So provide for them and give them a gracious release.” [al-Ahzab 33:49]

In his tafsir, Imam at-Tabari rahimahullah said in regards to this ayah: “before you have touched them” means before having intercourse with them. He then added that it was the interpretation of the scholars of tafsir.

During this period between the nikah and the rukhsati, it is permissible for the couple to interact with each other in a manner that is permissible for a husband and wife including the actual consummation of marriage. However, if they do choose to be intimate with each other then the full rights of the wife become due upon the husband such as the full dowry and her right for housing and sustenance. What constitutes consummation of marriage is an issue of minor dispute among scholars. They all agree that having intercourse is a perfect definition but then some scholars say a perfect privacy is enough and others say being physically intimate in a manner less than actual intercourse is the minimum.

Some of the Fiqh rulings of non-devotional practices such as marriage are subject to cultural considerations. Hence, what is acceptable during that period between the nikah and the rukhsati is subject to the general culture, the culture of both families and the actual agreement between the two contracting parties. Therefore, if the general culture entails the absolute abstinence during that period then this should be maintained and respected.

Uqbah ibn Amer narrated the Messenger of Allah, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), said:
“The conditions which you have the most duty to fulfill are those by which you have made marital relations lawful.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

In addition to that the maxims of Fiqh -qawai’d Fiqhiyah proclaim:

“What is determined by custom is tantamount to a contractual stipulation” (Al-ma‘rufu ‘urfan kal-mashrutu shartan).

As a result of this, the young couple should respect the unpronounced stipulations that are in accordance with the cultural norms provided that these cultural norms don’t violate any established principle of Fiqh.

Parents and the families of the two contracting parties expect the young couple to be at the level of maturity to adhere to these cultural norms. To bring the fitnah in the streets as an excuse to break these rules is not really a legitimate excuse and it could backfire. It’s better to show a high standard of character even during those beautiful moments before officially moving in together.

Nevertheless, if the husband and wife do get intimate in the relationship prior to the official consummation of marriage they have not committed haram or sin, but it might cause some bitterness within the family because they might perceive it as disrespectful behavior.

One issue might arise; as a result of being too intimate prior to the wedding day is the power struggle between the father of the girl and her young husband. If the young lady still lives with her family while already living intimately the life of wife with her husband, she might have to deal with a confusion of authority situation. Her husband’s demands and her family’s demands might clash and she will be caught in the middle.

Unfortunately, the sense of chivalry among the youth today is not as great as it used to be. The sense of responsibility and commitment from them is not at the level where it should be. Therefore, it is definitely preferable to wait until the actual wedding date before the young couple can fully consummate the marriage.

May Allah give you all happiness, love and mercy. And Allah knows best.

Sh. Yaser Birjas is originally from Palestine. He received his Bachelors degree from Islamic University of Madinah in 1996 in Fiqh & Usool, graduating as the class valedictorian. After graduating, he went on to work as a youth counselor and relief program aide in war-torn Bosnia. Thereafter, he immigrated to the U.S. and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He is also an instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, where he teaches popular seminars such as Fiqh of Love, The Code Evolved, and Heavenly Hues.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mahmud

    February 6, 2014 at 12:49 AM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    What is it that prevents people from delaying the nikah until the wedding date? Why do they do it a few months earlier?

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      February 9, 2014 at 10:04 PM

      The main reason I’ve heard from younger Muslims why this is taking place is because
      after a Nikah it allows the couple to spend time together talking, getting to know each other, etc…and if they then find out they’re incompatible, they can break it off and there is less stigma
      attached to divorce because there was no consummation…and the sister below who warned Muslim girls not to give into pressure from men during this period is 100% correct. He will get away scott-free even if he breaks off the marriage for “incompatibility” later. It’s the woman who will get stuck with the typical double-standard label and the consummation will defeat the very purpose of this “solution” before arousi.

      This would not need to exist if Muslims got over their divorce stigmas to begin with, which
      disproportionately affect women. Knowing divorce has a stigma, many women have immense
      pressure that they have only one shot at getting it right…whereas men don’t have to worry ’bout
      it in most of the cultures. I think rather than complaining about this “solution”, Muslims should spend more time reforming the crooked cultural practices like stigma of the divorced so “solutions” like this
      wouldn’t be needed.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        February 9, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        The only divorce stigma I really have is my parents wouldn’t like it. Since they have so many rights over me, and since my mother has struggled constantly and showed patience constantly, obviously I’m supposed to show her constant gratitude. I really have to excel with my parents, and part of that is following their marriage wishes.

        So perhaps the issue you are talking about has a lot to do with parents.

        If my parents were ok, I would have no problem with marrying a widow or divorced woman. But they aren’t, so I simply can’t look there.

        This nikah before the rukhsati thing seems to be something which is an incredible hassle. I agree, if this divorce stigma is what spawns such inconvenient practices, we ought to get rid of the stigma.

        • Avatar

          ZAI

          February 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM

          Br.
          I was not referring to you personally.
          I was simply answering the question you asked generally as to why
          many people are carrying out nikah before walimah/arousi/rukhsati.
          It is because they feel they can get to know someone in a halaal manner and if it doesn’t work out, a divorce w/o consummation has less stigma then a divorce after consummation, wherein incompatibility is discovered much later.

          It is especially attractive to many women because a lot of women do NOT divorce more so because of stigma rather than because they want to stay in a marriage. Many, many horror stories brother of women who after consummated marriage discover their husband is a totally different person…an alcoholic, fasiq, atheist even. I even know one couple…the girl came over from India to marry a guy, and guy turns out to have a girlfriend on the side, whom he still sees and carries on with.They pretty much hoodwinked her….not that this cannot happen to men, but again stigma is stronger on women, so many feel they have one shot to get it right.

          In any case I was talking generally.
          Do not feel it was directed towards you.
          Salaamz.

  2. Avatar

    Imran

    February 6, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    JazakAllah Kheiran Shaykh. Really appreciate it.

  3. Avatar

    Mahmud

    February 6, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    What a strange tradition. I hope to have my nikah around when the wedding is.

    • Avatar

      Umm ZAKAriyya

      February 8, 2014 at 2:15 AM

      Yeah . It’s hard for the newly married.

      But not everybody in the indian subcontinent does this ( rukhsati). Many of us have walima immediately after nikah . So the marriage is over in like 2-3 hours .

      • Avatar

        Umm ZAKAriyya

        February 8, 2014 at 2:22 AM

        Some of the reasons why people do this :

        1)Education
        2)Family tradition
        3)some families like to have a nikah party(elaborate one)arranged by the girls fathers and walima by the groom. Having more parties is a status symbol.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        February 9, 2014 at 11:40 PM

        I’m Bangladesh and Indian myself, and I have absolutely no plans to do this. Nikah and rukhsati ought to be at around the same time.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad

      July 7, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Just because you’re unfamiliar with this concept does not take away the religious validity of a nikkah without the accompanying rukhsati. Also your unfamiliarity with it does not invalidate what may be a completely acceptable tradition in many other cultures. You need to be respectful and cognizant of the fact that there are a vast number of cultures across the planet that practice Islam, and as long as parties are not violating religious rulings, you have no right to pass a judgment on what order things ought to happen in. If one way works for you, that’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t automatically mean that every Muslim on the planet ought to follow the cultural norms you adhere to.

  4. Avatar

    sarahl

    February 7, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    I’m 17 years old and I will be (Insha-allah) having my Nikah this December. So when our Nikah is done, you’re saying I shouldn’t become intimate with my husband?? I’ve known him for a long time and our “rukhsuti” won’t be done until the next couple years because we’re both so young.. I just got really confused reading this article.

    • Avatar

      Umm ZAKAriyya

      February 8, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      It’s very clear . Once the nikah is done , you are legally husband and wife and therefore can do everything what husband and wife do.

      But if in your culture/family , if certain acts between spouses are not appreciated, before walima/rukhsati/public announcement of the marriage ,then it’s good to respect that to please your elders . But even if you do get intimate with the spouse ( say , due to difficultly in controlling oneself .which is obviously normal) , it’s not a sin .

      One problem is that if some people do not know that you are legally married , then false rumor starts to spread if the spouses were seen to show affection towardseachother. This actually happened to a friend of mine in college . Her parents had done her nikah contract with her husband ,who happened to be her classmate. So when they were seen together , people started talking! Cuz they didn’t know she was married to him.

  5. Avatar

    Umm Saeed

    February 8, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    I was a new muslim when I wrote my marriage contract. I was totally ignorant about Muslim marriages and was told by the man (my husband now) that writing the contract would allow us to get to know each other in a halal manner. When I wrote my contract I did so with the understanding that the contract was equivalent to an engagement and the marriage would be later after a party was held and the marriage publicized.

    I was quite shocked after writing the contract when the Imam who also acted as my wali told us “everything is now halal”. As soon as my husband was alone with me he also insisted the same. I did not want this but he used all kinds of fatawa and stories from lectures to insist it was his right and I had to comply. At the same time he did not want to make the marriage public yet and gave me so many excuses why. I never knew my rights and feel that I was tricked into getting married and manipulated by my husband. I am telling my story as a warning to other sisters. Educate yourself and make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into, especially if you are a new Muslim and come from a different culture and background than your potential spouse.

    • Avatar

      timothywcrane

      February 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      His many excuses for not wanting his marriage public knowledge are disgraceful. Nikah is a contract of public knowledge, thus the requirement for witnesses (public knowledge is not upheld by a party, but witnesses to the contract in general). The fact that you did not know your were married is a violation of the standards of nobility and honesty in Islamic contract law even if valid under national laws. Public knowledge is matter of protecting honor.

      Even apostasy laws allow for the cause of ignorance as a way out.

      I am rather harsh on men who use guile and deception against women, yet inform the other of the male rights.

      I would have been rather harshly sarcastic, telling him that he should offer you a manumission at best, and free you if you give birth at least, for he obviously sees you as concubine and not a spouse, and no muslim, new or not can be made a slave, nor one who is captured illegally.

      Islam came as a mercy to all mankind, including women, and a warning to zulm (oppression) and those who practice it.

      My exhortation aside, I hope that you and he, for the betterment of both, have come to an agreement of truthful conduct and marital happiness.

      Divorce is the most hated lawful thing.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        February 9, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        I agree with Timothy. This crisis of mediocre/horrific husbands seems to be….everywhere. We need to make an effort to remove it.

  6. Avatar

    Jillian

    February 8, 2014 at 2:44 AM

    Good article. Rukhsati is absolutely culture, just like the Arab Walima…Basically a party to celebrate the marriage sometimes, not always after the couple has had intercourse. Think of this as a receptions, usually with nice clothes, dancing (sometimes separated by gender or not at all) and food. The Wedding Ceremony, religiously, is the nikkah just like the traditional christian church wedding, that is on part and the party is another. For some reason cultures with Islamic populations tend to split this two event up over month months or years. Legally you are married when you file the papers for the wedding, so for taxes, ownership laws, and hospital visitations in the USA nothing matters until those documents are filed. What is done intimately after only the religious part is between husband, wife, and God. BTW, I’m engaged and I plan to have the wedding (religious and legal) and the reception the same day or weekend this fall. Please keep my fiance and I in your duaas, and inshallah everything will work out well!

    • Avatar

      Omer Farooq

      October 26, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      “Rukhsati is absolutely culture, just like the Arab Walima…”

      I humbly want to point out that you are wrong. Please don’t state your personal opinion as a fact in deen. Please approach an Islamic scholar of your choice for an explanation with example of both “rukhsati” and “walima” from Prophets (phuh) personal life.

  7. Avatar

    Hamza Khurshid

    February 22, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    You have provided the answer in a very detailed and simplistic manner… thank You

  8. Avatar

    M.S.

    June 6, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Ina lilAllahi wa ina Ileyhi Raaji’uun.

    I sense this sister’s troubles may have more to do with other people’s expectations of the kind of wedding party they would like to see and attend, and whether it messes well with their calendar-year vacation and/or pre-planned weekend activities.

    I guess this is what happens when you try to infuse cultural expectations & insist on carrying the baggage of the fore-fathers, instead of opting for the simplicity & ease afforded by Islam and the Sunnah.

    It would have been really amazing if her relatives & extended family contributed and fully funded a whole year’s worth of rent, utility bills, furniture, and grocery expenses, instead of know-towing to the bride-zillas/groom-zlllas of the clan. Can you imagine the honeymoon, the happiness, and the mood these two would been in, if their kith & kin gave them financial freedom for a year (or two)? Allah knows best.

    May Allah give you ease sister, shower His mercy on you and your relatives and admit us all to Jannatul-Fidaus al-‘Alaa.

  9. Avatar

    Tolga Ak. (@tolgz15)

    October 22, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    Jazakallah khayr for the insight, although there is more complex situations. This short article touches on the basics. May Allah bless us with a beautiful spouse insha’Allah!

  10. Avatar

    zainab

    November 30, 2014 at 1:35 AM

    If husband don’t fulfill his wife desires and they don’t have any physical relationship from past 1 year? who is responsible?what should wife do and if she do something wrong?

  11. Avatar

    asma

    May 26, 2015 at 6:02 AM

    Assalamu aliakum I got married on 31/1/2014 on skype through my husband was in saudi it’s almost 1 yr 4 months now I came to saudi to meet my husband due sm problems v can’t meet. But as I came I came to know he hd married another gal n he is avoiding I want to is our marriage is valid r not pls let me know dis answer

    • Avatar

      Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man

      June 26, 2015 at 12:41 AM

      Asma, Asalaamualaikum.

      I’m not a sheikh, but I’ve never heard of a nikkah or marriage over skype. You weren’t even there in person. Inshallah You should let him go and find another man who will love you for who you truly are. Stay friendly, beautiful, and read the Quran (in your country translation as well).

  12. Avatar

    rashida

    June 19, 2015 at 9:00 PM

    i am a girl of 18 yrs. i want to get married as well as continue my arabic studies in a different country. In Shaa Allah eventhough our families have accepted us. my brideprice will be paid in this or after ramadan. my husband studies in turkey and i ll soon be persuing my arabic studies in saudi arabia. my husband is32 yrs now. i cant go to study with pregnancy nor a child alone.
    my husband is demanding of sex after the brideprice. am afraid to get pregnant now. is there a way to prevent being pregnant for some time. i dont want him to commit zina and i am not ready to have a child now. what should i do? by Allah, help me.

    • Avatar

      Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man

      June 26, 2015 at 12:39 AM

      Rashida!

      Girl, you should tell him you don’t want to raise a child without a father and if that doesn’t work you should try to get some birth control. See if maybe you can get some condoms that he can try.

    • Avatar

      Sff

      November 30, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      It’s called birth control

  13. Avatar

    shaima

    November 16, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    Okay after a year of nikkah So when is valima done on the vidae day itself..?

  14. Avatar

    Nosh

    February 8, 2016 at 6:41 AM

    Please can someone help me.. I got khula 3 years ago.. Now a rishta came for me and the imam refused the khula and wanted ex husbands written letter signed.. So i did that too and got talaq from him then i got told i need to do idat.. But iv found out im pregnant with my fiance’s child (yes we did wrng it was a very emotional time it jus happned in the comfort).. My question is do i still need to do idat?

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      February 9, 2016 at 3:01 AM

      Dear Sister

      Our comments section is not geared for personal fiqh questions. I would advise you to consult a scholar in your community, check with a fatwa service such as islamqa.com or contact one of the mashaikh through their Facebook page.

      Best Regards
      Aly

  15. Avatar

    mind.will.evolve

    September 12, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    I recently did nikkah and planning for rukhsati in few months. I am male and i had to convince my wife`s family for nikkah. i had few reasons for this firstly, i wanted to verbally interact with her openly and freely which i consider is not allowed if girl is a na-mehram. Although interacting with her was not object able by her family but i always felt it was a sin and i should do nikkah.
    Secondly, i wanted to delay rukhsati as i m planing to construct a room and waiting for promotion on job . I think islam makes things easy and there is no one way of doing right thing. One should follow the principles and multiple ways are possible for it. Social and cultural norms should be valued ,if things work in positive and healthy directions they will automatically fit into islam. I love my wife by the way.

  16. Avatar

    Niki

    November 5, 2016 at 6:26 PM

    Im a christian living n japan but im not yet divorce i have a someone muslim beliefs living uk in my situation can we do nikah even im not yet divorce?
    I am allow to do nikah even im not divorce ?

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      November 11, 2016 at 11:02 AM

      If you are already married to someone then you can not marry another man (assuming from your name you are a woman). In addition, there are conditions whereby a Muslim is allowed to marry a Christian female. I recommend you discuss these matters directly with an Imam who can guide you better in your situation.

      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  17. Avatar

    Anonymous

    December 16, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    Um hey, I have a question. So I’m a revert, and I know my parents would be dead against arranging a marriage for me with a Muslim guy, let alone even letting me go to the masjid (even though i live with my great Aunt and I’m 18), so I am not sure what to do. I am EXTREMELY cautious of guys online, and rarely ever do, but there was this one guy that I talked to that I really like. I know that many guys are trash, and just want one thing, and will lie till the cows come home, but he seems really legit, and respectful, and even though he has admitted he cares about me he is still extremely shy. We have talked a lot, and we seem to be very compatible, and I think we would have a great marriage together. Our one big disagreement, is that if i were to live in Pakistan, sometimes I would want to go out in nature, and just be alone, and not always be Chaperoned by him. No one in his town would ever have to know, cuz we could go on a walk, and rendezvous at a given time and place. He thinks I should just stay in the yard, and also thinks that Pakistan’s strict cultural beliefs are synonymous with Islam. Both of us do not want to make a hasty move, or a wrong move, and do not want to get married if the other person will just be unhappy. He suggested that I visit Pakistan for a few months, and try it out. I am very interested in doing so, and of course we would make arrangements with his parents and the like, and facilitate this through them, but I am wondering how I am going to get to know him in person. Should I get Nikkah and have very strict standards? I know he will not push for sex, because he wants to be EXTREMLY careful and not mess up, and not make a decision that he or I would regret. Secondly, the only real obstacles between him and me getting married is me wanting to know him more (and in person), and living in Pakistan to see what it is like, and also his immersion in being pak. Is there a way I can talk to him, to let me just have some time alone on nature? Cuz that is something that is REALLY important to me. He says he is sure his parents will like me, so I do not think that will be an issue..and i would figure that out real quick when video chatting them about the circumstances. Also, considering circumstances in America, I’ll be saving up cleaning money ($16) and probably be going to Italy otherwise, and trying to get a job there, so I was already planning in leaving the country anyways. Although I shouldnt have chatted with him in the 1st place, what is the most Islamic ally correct way to proceed from here? Also, I wanted to see peoples thoughts on this. I ask that you please give me advice on how YOU personally would succeede. Thankyou

  18. Avatar

    NCD

    April 1, 2017 at 5:51 PM

    I don’t understand this at all, the post itself or the comments… is it Islamic advice or cultural advice? I don’t think it’s good to reinforce cultural norms that go against Islamic ones, and if parents would have issues post-nikkah with any level of intimacy then that doesn’t go with one of the main reasons that marriage is so encouraged- to allow a halal way for two people to be intimate with each other which is in everyone’s natural inclination to want to do so. If a father objects to this then he should not have allowed the nikkah in the first place because at that point he is no longer her wali. Secondly I don’t understand the comments about this gap between nikkah and consummation giving a “get out” clause if someone isn’t who they appear to first be. Divorce is divorce. It is crucial to get to know someone as well as possible PRIOR to nikkah and there is nothing wrong with doing so. Rushing into nikkah because you feel you can’t do this beforehand has no basis. There is nothing wrong with culture, but if those cultural norms conflict or prevent people to do what is encouraged or even necessary in Islam then they shouldn’t be reinforced.

  19. Avatar

    Akhtar Javed

    September 30, 2017 at 2:40 AM

    what is the method of separation for any reasons, incase if nikah performed but wife and husband never lived together, not even met each other after nikah

  20. Avatar

    Dhikrat

    October 29, 2017 at 4:42 PM

    Asalam alaikun waramotulah please coming together of both parent agreeing to the union and both d wife and the husband without any gift been involve can we also call it Nikkah?

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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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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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