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Fair Trade Commerce for a Better Future – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

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Lecture by Shaykh HamzaYusuf | Transcribed by Anonymous

[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s lecture entitled ‘Fair Trade Commerce for a Better World.’ The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity].

All praise be to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). I’d like to thank Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for the blessing of all the angels that come with all of you. You brought angels into this arena and insha’Allah Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will let us taste some of the pleasure of angelic presence.

Alhamdullilah, what I wanted to talk about was fair trade, and extending that meaning beyond the confines that have defined it in the dominant western discourse. The Qur’an tells us not to consume “wa la ta’qul nasi bi batili”. Don’t consume the wealth of people falsely, unjustly, vainly. Batil is everything that is empty, it’s what’s not good. So it’s the opposite of haqq, which is truthfulness, sincerity, reality, what is real. So it says don’t consume the wealth of people unjustly. “takuna tijaratan aow Ila tijaratun an taraadin minkum,” let your trade only be trade that is mutually content. In other words, each side is content with the actual event of trade and commerce. This is an incredibly important point, all of the Qur’an is important but this verse is so central to what’s happening right now globally, and why we’re seeing so much turmoil in what are called the markets.

These global markets, where wealth is consumed unjustly. People’s wealth is stolen, misappropriated, given to people without the right accountability. And this is happening in many many places. And so Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that “tejarat”, commerce should be fair. In other words, each side should be pleased with the event that’s happened, that’s transpired.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in Surah Rahman, “wa wada’al meezan, al-laa tatghow fil meezan”. He placed a balance, scales, that you not transgress the balance. Historically, our scholars identified these verses that are between the heavens and the earth. They’re between, if you look at Surah Rahman, it opens with heavenly, celestial discourse, and then it talks about this balance and then it goes, “wal ardha wada’a ha lil anaam” and we placed the earth for all living things but between those is the balance. This refers to all types of balance. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given an economic balance, and this is historically how they understood it, the prohibition of cheating people in the marketplace, which is related to this balance between the celestial and the terrestrial.  And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us that the earth was placed for all creatures, al-anaam are all living creatures. It’s not just the human beings.  Some of the commentators say “an’aam” comes from “nowm” which is all things that sleep, because sleep is the gentle tyrant. It’s what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has given us to remind us that He is “Qaahirun fawqa ibadihi,” that Allah is overpowering, overwhelming His servants. The fact that we have to sleep at the end of the day, and our lives are rounded by this little sleep.

So the idea of just commerce and balance is very important in the Quran. Historically in the marketplace -and this is unfortunately no longer the case because of digital scales- but historically you had scales in the marketplace, so people could actually see the justice. If you bought a pound of fruit, the merchant would put a pound weight on the scale, and then he would place the fruit on the other. And in Islamic tradition they used to always tip the scales to be on the side of the buyer, not on the side of the merchant, because the Prophet (saw) said may God have mercy on a man or a woman, who is forbearing, who is forgiving, who is generous, when they sell or when they buy. And I’ve seen this many times when I was in Fez or places in Morocco, they would do this. They would tip the scale, they’d put an extra date to tip the scale, just to show that you’re getting the extra, because they wanted that ziyada, that extra, of ihsaan.

We’re living in a time of incredible economic injustice and that injustice is because we have an unjust economic system.  Economics now has become a necessary science to understand. You have to understand the basics of economics to be living on the planet that we’re living in, because it’s affecting all of us. It’s affecting our lives. We have to understand the false dialectic that’s been created between the so called Keynesian and monetarist.  This left/right dialectic, as if there’s no other alternative to these two approaches to economics because the Muslims have an alternative, but unfortunately we’ve been absent from the discourse. Even though much of what is beneficial in western commerce came out of transacting with the Muslims. In fact, “average” is from an Arabic word, because merchants they used to say, and you can look this up in chambers etymological dictionary or google it. Average is an Arabic word because merchants used to have a type of takaful, when they would send a ship with goods, and if goods were destroyed, a portion of the goods were destroyed, they would take an average and all the merchants would share in it. It was a type of insurance. So this came, ta’reef, tariff, is from the Muslims because we forget that our religion is a religion of commerce. I reflected deeply at one point when I was studying the seerah, why the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would be a merchant before he was a prophet. Why was he a merchant? Because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) could have made him many things, but he made him two things: he made him a shepherd in his youth, and he made him a merchant in his adult manhood. He made him a shepherd because all prophets are shepherds because the essence of being a prophet is caring for a flock, it’s caring for people in a way that the shepherd does not want any harm to come to the flock. And who does the shepherd guard the flock from? The wolf. The wolf.

The reason, I believe, the reason that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was chosen to be a merchant was because the merchant is the most beneficial human being in human society. There’s no one more beneficial to human society than a merchant. Everything, the chairs that you’re sitting on are from commerce, the clothes that you’re wearing are from commerce. The glasses that you’re looking through if you’re looking through glasses, are from commerce.  The fillings in your teeth are from commerce. The medication that is keeping your blood pressure low right now is from commerce. Everything that is beneficial to the material wellbeing of the human being is from commerce. But there’s another secret in commerce. Commerce teaches you good character, because the most successful merchants are the ones with the best character. You go back to people who treat you well, and that’s why historically they used to say ‘customer is king.’ The customer is always right. A merchant shouldn’t get angry because even if the person buying from him is making him angry, he’ll lose the sale if he starts getting angry because the person will just walk, walk out.  And so it actually creates good character. Tahleebul nafs. Akhlaq. “Wa innaka ala khuluqal adheem” – you’re on a vast ethos, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

But the other thing about commerce is, if you want your commerce to be successful, you have to be trustworthy.  That is the essential characteristic of commerce, trustworthiness. If you give your word, you stand by it. If you write a note, you fulfill it. If you promise goods on a certain day, you fulfill that. And if you don’t, people stop doing business with you. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) before Islam was known as al-Amin, the Trustworthy. He was known as al-Amin because he was the most trustworthy of merchants. People knew that if you gave him your money, not only did you get it back, but you got it back with great benefit.  Khadijah never had anybody that transacted with her money like the messenger of Allah and should we be surprised?  And when she sent Maysara out with him, and all the people around him have beautiful names, like Maysara, and Umm Baraka, Baraka, Ummu Ayman, Haleema as’Sa’diya, they all have beautiful names, all the people that raised him and nurtured him. So he’s with Maysara, the place of ease, the one who makes things easy, and Maysara noted all these things about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and informed Khadijah [but Khadijah had insight into who he was before anyone else, which is why she’s Khadijatil Kubra raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her).  Her name Khadijah is from khidaaj, which is like naaaqis. It’s used in the Arabs would, if a child was born early, they would be thin and skinny, they would call them Khadijah. But she’s also naaqis until the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) completes her. Khadeja al-Kubra was a merchant and she used her wealth for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Abu Bakr was a merchant. He used his wealth for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Umar. All of these people, look at them. The people around the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the Qureish were the great merchants of the Arabian Peninsula. But he went to the people of agriculture, because these are the two forces in the world, agriculture and commerce, these are the things that make the world go round, they’re what enable us to survive and they’re in our original story, is all of the human condition. Everything is there in that original extraordinary story of the messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told of principles of commerce.  One of the principles that he taught, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), was that the truthful merchant is with martyrs on the Day of Judgment. The ulema say that it’s because of the rarity of a real merchant. Imam al-Awzai once was in Beirut, and he passed by an onion seller and the onion seller was saying, onions sweeter than honey,  and Imam al-Awzai said to him, do you think it’s permissible to lie about something like that?    That’s called advertising. Don’t think advertising is some new thing. Arabs were marketing a long time ago, they used to market with poetry. Now we have jingles plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is. The Arabs had jingles as well, right. I wish I could get that part of my brain back, that that got lodged into. But they’re very good, these jingle makers. Jingle bells. They used to advertise, but truthfulness is important. The Muhtasib, which is like the ombudsman, it’s the person that goes into the marketplace for quality assurance.  It’s a person that is an interface between those who regulate the weights and those who are weighing in the scales in the marketplace.  Umar appointed Shafa or Shifa as the muhtasiba during his time. She used to go in the marketplace with a stick and she would turn over fruit to make sure the good fruit was not on the top and the bad fruit on the bottom. If you go into a store now you will get your strawberries. They have all the big ones on the top and then the tiny ones on the bottom.  That’s not by mistake.  But it’s a type of “ghish”, because you buy the big ones and then when you open the package you get all the little ones one the bottom. Although little ones can be better than big ones. So this is what the muhtasib did. The hisba is part of our tradition, having quality assurance in the marketplace. This is part of the Islamic tradition and we forget this.

Now one of the things that is very striking about our age is the incredible disparities between the north and the south. The north and the south, and this is something that was pointed out in the seventies by Brant in Germany, he wrote a book about this. So this is, this has been going on for a long time but people in the west, the best of the people, Ulul Baqiyya, those people that are still on virtuous tradition from their ancestors, these people are very concerned about these disparities. Canada is one of the countries that has a real concern. Many of the best countries in the world, if you look at them today, that have the highest social indices in the world have a great concern about social justice. Not just in their own countries but in other places.

And so what happened, you had a movement that began from a Mennonite Christian woman and the Mennonite community is a strong community in Canada. She went to Puerto Rico and she witnessed the types of social disparity, and it troubled her and she wanted to help. And so she thought of bringing goods paying good prices, just prices to people in Puerto Rico and importing those goods into these countries like United States and Canada.  And this was the beginning of the fair trade movement.

CNN recently reported from a website that was supported by, was actually a state department funded project that the average American has, and this would obviously be very difficult to work out. But it’s interesting to think about. The average American has 59 slaves working for them around the world. 59. In other words, your lifestyle is based, our lifestyle, not yours, I’m putting myself in there too. Our lifestyle is based on the suffering of other people because, for instance, and I’ve stopped eating chocolate for this reason, when I found out, and you can see the film on this. There’s a documentary that was done on it, on the child labor in harvesting cocoa, that 70% of cocoa on this planet is harvested by child labor. And so when you’re eating that chocolate, your pleasure is somebody else’s pain. And if you don’t think that’s having an impact on your being, then you have to wonder why everybody’s on Prozac in these countries.  Why are people so depressed? They’re depressed because, because much of what we’re enjoying, the fruits of our cheap lifestyles, of our cheap gasoline, of our cheap clothes, of our cheap shoes, all of these things, the Walmart world of cheap goods is based on exploited labor from other places.  Not only is that exploited labor the pain and suffering of other people but its direct result is the unemployment that’s happening all over these western countries. They’re losing their jobs because they’re going to Walmart and buying something that’s made in Indonesia with labor laws that don’t exist, often in incredibly difficult conditions, people working in factories that are really subhuman, and they will buy that instead of buying something that was made by somebody in their own town. There used to be people that made shoes, Americans and Canadians and these other places, they actually used to produce things. That’s no longer the case.  But it’s not fair because it’s based on the exploitation of other peoples. And we have to deal with the fact that this is the life that we’re living.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ZAI

    March 28, 2014 at 5:36 AM

    Mashallah.
    Amazing talk by Shaykh Hamza.
    In-depth, multi-faceted, detailed and critical analysis that
    goes beyond superficial do’s and don’ts or simplistic
    summations or slogans. Brilliant. Glad to see his work
    being presented here.

  2. Avatar

    Bismillahfille

    March 28, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    This read makes me want to change

    • Avatar

      O H

      March 28, 2014 at 9:15 PM

      Heard this lecture couple of weeks back and I was really pumped up and motivated to change. Sadly never came!! I hope its different for you…

  3. Avatar

    umaneesa

    March 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    ”The average American has 59 slaves working for them around the world.”
    Powerful stuff

  4. Avatar

    Giovanni

    March 28, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Because much of the problem is structural, in order to effectively make a change we need a collective and concerted effort to redesign our technology and infrastructure and the way it is developed. Permaculture is among the techniques that will enable just such a structural redesign inshAllah . http://beyondhalal.com/2013/12/the-growing-relationship-between-muslims-and-permaculture-design/

  5. Avatar

    O H

    March 28, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Although I disagree with many of his views, this was a good, unique lecture. The optimistic and proactive approach he proposed and encouraged is severely lacking among the Muslims globally and hence we are in the situation we are today.

    • Avatar

      Mahmud

      March 28, 2014 at 7:38 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I’m pretty surprised myself-this has got to be one of the best things I’ve read. It’s extremely well done except for a short bit which I found incoherent(but that probably has to do with it being transcribed.)

  6. Avatar

    Muhamm

    March 29, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    Can anyone please provide the source for “59 slaves” and “corporations and mental disorder” studies.

    Jazak’Allah

  7. Avatar

    Sadeel

    April 1, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    Thank you!!! This is one of the reason for our initiative eShop launch of our MODSHOP to bring awareness to the Muslim community along with options on healthier garments. Our initiative is a ‘1st Step’ approach where the customer can support fair labor from the garment construction point. The majority o four brands are Muslim based in the USA. please do support http://www.modshop.us

  8. Pingback: Sharing Success: Fair Trade Commerce for a Better World | Khaleafa.com

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#Life

Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Ammar Al Shukry

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students

I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7) 

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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Highly Educated, Willingly Domesticated

Laura El Alam

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Doctor.  Engineer.  Certified Nurse-Midwife. Writer and Literary Critic.  Lab Technician. Parliamentary Assistant. These highly-trained, respected careers are the culmination of years of intense study, training, and self-discipline.  Most people, upon achieving these esteemed positions, would happily dedicate the rest of their working years to putting their knowledge and expertise to use. They would gradually gain more experience, earn greater pay, and amass professional perks.  Most likely they would also, over time, assume leadership roles, earn awards, or become sought-after experts in their field.

What kind of person has all this at her fingertips, but decides to give it up?  Who would trade in years of grueling study and professional striving for an undervalued position that requires no degree whatsoever What type of professional would be willing to forgo a significant salary to instead work for free, indefinitely, with no chance whatsoever of a paycheck, recognition, benefits, or promotion?

Who else, but a mother?

While certainly not all mothers choose to give up their careers in order to raise their children, there is a subset of women who do. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) may spend the majority of their days performing unglamorous tasks like washing dishes, changing diapers, and reading storybooks to squirming toddlers, but behind the humble job title are dynamic, educated, and capable women. They may currently have a burp cloth in one hand and a sippy cup in the other, but chances are, SAHMs have a mind and capabilities that reach far beyond the apparent scope of their household duties.

What motivates a capable and ambitious woman to give up her career and stay home to raise children? Is she coerced into it, or does she choose it willingly? What is her driving force, if not money, status, or respect?  I had many questions for these women -my sisters in Islam and my stay-at-home “colleagues”- and some of their answers surprised me.

For this article I interviewed seven highly-educated Muslim moms who chose to put successful careers on hold, at least temporarily, to raise their children. Between them, they hold PhDs, MDs, and Masters degrees. While the pervasive stereotype about Muslim women is that they are oppressed and backward, these high-achieving females are no anomaly. In fact, according to her article in USA Today, Dalia Mogahed points out that, “Muslim American women are among the most educated faith group in the country and outpace their male counterparts in higher education.” Across the pond, The Guardian reports that more young Muslim women have been gaining degrees at British universities than Muslim men, even though they have been underrepresented for decades.”    

 

Ambitions and dreams

Every single one of the women I interviewed grew up in a household with parents who highly emphasized their daughters’ education. In fact, all of them were encouraged -either gently or more insistently- to pursue “top” careers in medicine, engineering, or science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the women I interviewed were at the head of their classes at university.

In their school years, before marriage, all of the women I spoke with considered their career to be their main priority; motherhood seemed far-off and undefined. “When in uni,” explains Neveen, an endodontist who eventually put her career on hold to be a SAHM and homeschooler, “I never, ever thought I’d homeschool (nor did I believe in it), nor did I ever think I’d be a SAHM. I was very career-oriented. I was top of my class in dental school and in residency.”

“I absolutely thought I would be a career woman,” agrees Nicole, a mom of three in California who holds a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. “I never considered staying at home with the kids, because they were totally out of my mind frame at the time.”

“I expected that after graduation I would follow a research-based career,” adds Layla*, another SAHM in California who holds a PhD in Computer Engineering. “I never thought I’d stay at home because I believed it was fine for kids to be in daycare. I also thought SAHMs were losing their potential and missing out on so much they could otherwise accomplish in their lives.”

As young women, many assumed that if they ever chose to start a family, they would have assistants, nannies, or domestic helpers to lighten their load. Several of them believed they would put their future children, if any, in daycare. However, the reality of motherhood made each of these women change her mind.

“My child was highly attached to me,” explains Sazida, an Assistant to a Member of Parliament in England, “and I could not envision him being looked after by anyone else despite generous offers from relatives.”

“After I had my first child all I wanted to do was be able to care for her myself,” concurs Melissa, a Certified Nurse Midwife from New York.

 

Other Motivations

It turns out that maternal instincts were not the only factor that made women choose to drop out of the workforce. Dedication to Islam played an enormous part in their decision-making.

“After having my first child,” explains Layla, “I decided that he was far more precious than working. He is a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave me to protect and care for.”

“After I became Muslim,” shares Nicole, “My goals changed, and I hoped to marry and have children. I do think it was beneficial for my children to have a parent always there to depend on,” she adds. “I feel like I was the anchor in the family for them, and I hope to continue that role.”

“What’s important to me,” asserts Neveen, “Is to raise my kids as good Muslims who love -and are proud of- their life and deen.”

Another reason many highly educated women choose to stay at home is because they have the opportunity to homeschool some or all of their children.  Remarkably, out of the seven women who answered questions for this article, five reported that they chose to homeschool at least one child for a few or more years.

“I really enjoy my homeschooling journey with my kids and I get to know them better, alhamdullilah,” states Layla.

The opportunity to nurture, educate, and raise their children with love and Islamic values is the primary reason why these talented women were willing to put their successful careers on hold. “Hopefully Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will reward us in Jannah,” muses Layla.

 

Challenges

Although none of the women I interviewed regrets her choice to be a SAHM, they all agree that it is a challenging job that is actually harder than their former career.

One obstacle they must overcome is the negative perception others have about successful women who make the choice to put their career on hold. “I soon learnt that casual clothes, a toddler, and a buggy don’t give you the same respect as suits and heels,” says Sazida.

One would expect, given their faith’s emphasis on the dignity of mothers, that Muslim SAHMs would enjoy the support of their family and friends.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

One mom explains, “My in-laws offered to look after my child, and my father-in-law couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay at home when there was perfectly good childcare that they were offering. After two and three years passed, he got more and more disheartened that I was not earning and complained about the lost potential income.”

“My non-Muslim mother told me that I wasting my education,” confides Nicole. “She did not support me staying home, though I think she appreciated that I was there for my children and have a good relationship with them.  She was a SAHM as well, so I am not sure where that was coming from, actually.”

Melissa’s mom was similarly skeptical of her daughter’s decision. “My mother didn’t love me being fully dependent on my husband,” she admits.

“I was not at all supported by my family or friends,” laments Radhia, a Lab Technician with a BS in Microbiology with a Chemistry minor.

Other than being doubted and blamed for their choice, there are other challenges that SAHMs face. Accustomed to mental stimulation, exciting challenges, professional accomplishments, and adult interaction, many former career women find staying at home to raise youngsters to be monotonous and lonely. The nannies, assistants, cleaners, and other workers they had envisioned often never materialized, since hiring these helpers was usually too expensive. Husbands who spent the day working as the family’s sole breadwinner, were usually too tired to help with household duties.  A few women admitted that they felt guilty asking for help in the home when their husband was already exhausted from work. To exacerbate the problem, most of the women I interviewed lived far from family, so they could not rely on the help one normally gets from parents and siblings. That means the bulk of the childcare and housework fell onto their laps alone.

“The main challenges for me,” states Nicole, “were boredom, and finding good friends to spend time with who had similar interests. I was also very stressed because the raising of the children, the housework, the food, and overall upkeep of our lives were my responsibility, and I found that to be a heavy burden.”

“I think the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity about whether I was a good enough mother and housewife was difficult,” shares Melissa. “All my sense of worth was wrapped up in the kids and home, and if something went wrong I felt like a failure.”

“It was not as easy as I thought it would be,” confesses Radhia. “It was overwhelming at times, and I did miss working. Emotionally and physically, it was very draining.”

“Staying home has been harder than I expected,” adds Summer*, a Writer and Literary Critic from Boston. “I didn’t realize how willful children could be. I thought they’d just do what I said. I’m still trying to get used to the individuality! It’s harder than my job was, only because of the emotional load, and the fact that the effort you put in doesn’t guarantee the results you hope for.”

 

Money Matters

Giving up their salary also put women in a state of financial dependency, which can be a bitter pill to swallow for women who are used to having their own resources.

“I felt very dependent on my husband, financially,” says Radhia.

“Alhamdulillah, my husband does not refuse if I ask him to buy anything,” explains Layla. “However, I felt like I was losing my power of deciding to buy something for someone else. For example, if I want to buy a gift for my mother or my sister, he never refuses when I ask him, but still I feel internally it is harder for me.”

“Alhamdulillah my husband’s personality is not one that would control my financial decisions/spending,” shares Neveen. “Otherwise I would never have chosen to be a SAHM.”

“Giving up my career limited my power to make financial decisions,” asserts Summer. “I could still spend what I wanted, but I had to ask permission, because my husband knew when ‘we’ were getting paid, and how much. He paid the bills, which I didn’t even look at.”

“Asking permission,” Summer adds, “is very annoying.”

Re-entering the workforce was difficult for some women, while not for others.  The total time spent at home generally affected whether women could easily jump back into their profession, or not.  Some of the moms felt their skills had not gotten rusty at all during their hiatus at home, while others felt it was nearly impossible to make up, professionally, for missed time.

 

Words of Wisdom

Although all of the women I interviewed firmly believe that their time at home with their children is well-spent, they do have advice for their sisters who are currently SAHMs, or considering the position.

“If I could go back and speak to myself as a new mum, I would tell myself to chill the heck out and just enjoy being a new mum,” says Sazida.

Melissa offers, “I wish people understood how talented you have to be to run a home successfully. It’s a ton of work and it requires you to be able to do everything from snuggle and nurture, to manage the money, budget, plan precisely, be a good hostess, handle problems around the home, manage time, and meet goals all while trying to look cute.

“I would always recommend that women have their own bank account and money on the side,” advises Nicole. “You never know when you are going to need it.”

“Once their kids are in school,” adds Radhia, “I would suggest SAHMs start something from home, or take on part time work, or courses, if necessary.”

“For moms choosing to stay at home,” Layla suggests, “I would say try to work part-time if your time permits, and if you have a passion for working. Trust that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will protect you, no matter what. Remember, you are investing in your kids, and that is far more important than thinking ‘I need to keep money in my pocket.’”

 

Support, don’t judge

As a Muslim ummah, our job is to support one another as brothers and sisters.  It seems people forget this oftentimes, and erroneously believe that we are entitled to gossip, speculate, and sit in judgement of each other, instead.  In our lives we will all undoubtedly encounter women who choose to continue their careers, and those who put them on hold, and those who decide to give them up completely. Before we dare draw conclusions about anyone, we must keep in mind that only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows a person’s entire story, her motivations, and her intentions. Only He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is allowed to judge.

We must also remember that some women, for a variety of reasons, do not have the luxury of choosing to stay at home. They must work to the pay the bills. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their intentions and will reward their sacrifices as well.

 

It is my hope that this article will not cause more division amongst us, but rather raise awareness of the beautiful sacrifices that many talented and intelligent women willingly make for the sake of their children, and even more so, for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  They are the unsung heroes of our ummah, performing an undervalued job that is actually of utmost importance to the future of the world.

 

*Name has been changed

 

 

For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam. Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism. A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

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OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

Abu Awad

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Ali ibn Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.” 

I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.

I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.

Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).

To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.

I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.

It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.

The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.

It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.

1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.

2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.

3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US,  part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.

Aameen.

Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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