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Chronic Illness and Ramadan: Coping Tips and Strategies

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By Merium Khan

I still remember the moment vividly: I was 13 years old, and at a Muslim youth camp. A fellow teenage camper was talking about Ramadan when her voice started to tremble. As she described her inability to fast due to medication, the tears started to flow and her voice dissolved in grief. It was so poignant, but being a young, healthy person, I couldn’t possibly truly understand that sense of loss she felt—until recently.

A few years ago at the age of 25 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and found myself unable to fast.

During the first Ramadan that I could not fast due to the illness, I faced the stark reality: I would likely never fast again for the rest of my life. Long night prayers would be lost to me as well, as lack of sleep would exacerbate my symptoms just as surely as lack of food.

My mind flashed back to that fellow camper from years past, and I finally truly understood. Like her, I found moments when grief overwhelmed me, such as the time at a friend’s house when I hung my head, sobbing, until her 7 year old daughter patted my leg and said, “Khala, Allah understands…He understands.”

Since then, I have wished that somewhere buried in those “How to be a Super Muslim During Ramadan” articles and khutbahs, there were more useful Ramadan resources for Muslims with a chronic illness. We eventually just learn to stumble our way through the month, and after crossing off the things we can’t do, learn to figure out what we can do and how to survive the month without worsening our illness.

These are a few lessons I have learned these past few Ramadans as a young, non-fasting person:

Ramadan Prep:

The weeks before Ramadan require extra rest. Don’t skip it; take it like a medicine otherwise you’ll have less energy when you need it in Ramadan.

Conserve Energy:

Don’t use up all your energy in the beginning of the month. If you end up staying up too late, attending or hosting too many iftars, or otherwise overdoing the stress on your body in the first part of the month, forget about having the strength to do any ibaadah (worship) in the last ten nights (ask me how I know!).

Pay Your Fidyah:

Have your fidyah arrangements planned out ahead of time and pay it promptly. Fidyah is the payment for missing the fast, and the details are beyond the scope of this article.

Illness and Ramadan-Move Beyond Your Grief:

It’s okay to mourn what you have lost (ability to fast, to pray at night, etc.) but don’t let that be a trick to prevent you from doing what you actually are able to do. I realized that with a shock one year when, after playing pity party for the first week of the month, told myself, “Wait. You can’t pray qiyam, but you sure can pray your five prayers awesomely. Why aren’t you doing that at least?”

Reading and listening to extra Quran, making extra dhikr are also acts of ibadah that can benefit those who may not be attend taraweeh or qiyam.

Consider priorities:

You may have to turn down some or all iftar invitations to preserve your health for prayers and worship. This is especially true in the summer months when iftar time is late. Don’t let cultural or social pressures cause you to compromise on your health, especially during such an important month of worship.

Use Post-Iftar Time Wisely:

This is tricky but essential: when Isha is late, any taraweeh or qiyam can become a difficulty if not a near impossibility. This is particularly true for those whose illnesses will be exacerbated by lack of sleep and rest. Being able to restructure the time to get down to worship between Maghrib and Isha is going to be important during these summer months. I’ve found it difficult to apply this (especially as a wife/mother), because there’s such a rush between Maghrib and Isha and so much to get done.

Watch How Much Time You Spend Eating:

One of the things I remember about fasting is how much more time there seems to be in the day when you’re not spending any on food and drink. So for those of us who cannot fast, we can reconsider how much time we choose to spend on eating during the Ramadan days. This doesn’t mean skipping meals, but perhaps minimizing meal prep times, or skipping the non-essential snacks and “comfort foods” that may take up time to prepare and eat but are not essential to our health (like a leisurely snack of tea and cake). This frees up valuable time for worship.

Don’t be Shy to Get Help:

Your caregivers and friends are still there to help and support you, even when they are fasting. There is this tendency, since we are not fasting, to not ask others for help because they are fasting and we don’t want to burden them. This can lead to burnout and disease flare-ups, so we have to be open and ask for help when it’s needed even though we may feel bad about it. For those of us who have family responsibilities, it is important to be honest about our limits.

My husband will ask me in all honesty: “Can you do _________, or are you too tired?” and he trusts that I will be candid and not try to push myself to be the “Super-Wife.” This however has taken a lot of communication on my part, and understanding and compassion on his. It means that he has to eat a solitary suhoor, and sometimes even a solitary iftar on occasion if I am not feeling well. I have had to learn to put away my desire to do things perfectly, and allow him to help and support me in order to be well.

The Final Stretch:

All those beautiful and inspiring articles about how you’ve got to push your hardest, turn the last ten days into a sprint for the finish, and do what you’ve never done before? Lovely for the average folk, but it’s not going to apply to you if your illness is of the type that flares up due to lack of rest. Take the advice that will benefit and craft your own schedule. You’re not in Ramadan to aggravate your illness; rather you need to worship Allah in a way that recognizes that your body has a right over you. Always look for quality over quantity.

Ramadan conjures up so many feelings for those who deal with illness. There is the loss of the ritual worship (fasting, sometimes Qiyam), and even some of the usual habits and routines require change to accommodate life with an illness. It leaves a person with a sense of loss, and yet eventually we learn to create our own Ramadan routine that will allow us to participate in the month and yet stay healthy.

If your heart aches over the loss of fasting, remember this: the One who has ordained fasting has also ordained for you this illness as a test, so rejoice in the fact that there is mercy and wisdom behind his decrees. I take comfort in the fiqhi ruling that states that whenever fasting becomes harmful for a person, then in that case, fasting actually takes the ruling of haraam (forbidden). Therefore, by abstaining from fasting, I am preserving my health and, Allah willing, earning reward by avoiding this harm on my body. In the end, there is always some divine wisdom that we may never see:

“And Allah knows, and you know not” (al-Baqarah: 216).

 

 

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sabeeha

    June 30, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    This brought me to tears. I too have multiple sclerosis and feel ‘less’ because my fatigue makes me unable to do the things I used to be able to. JazakiAllah Khayr for this.

    • Avatar

      reshma naheed

      July 1, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      JazakAllah khairan.i suffer from acute depression & when im fasting continuouslythere’s an inner voice saying break d fast drink water.im very guilt conscious.What to do

      • Avatar

        Sari

        July 2, 2014 at 7:55 AM

        I am suffering from depression as well. My Dr has stopped me from fasting. You should do as your Dr says. It’s Zulm to force our bodies to do something that is harmfull for it. Our bodies have a right over us. We must take care of ourselves.
        Allah swt gave us this illness as a trial. He knows. He knows what our hearts are going through. He knows what loss we feel when we look at others fasting and Thinkng of the rewards they will get by their fasts. He knows the anguish, the sense of loss. But Allah swt loves those who are patient.
        Verse of Quran; in Allaha ma’assabereen. Allah swt is with those who are patient….
        Don’t feel bad.. It’s ok. Allah swt gave us this illness we didn’t chose it… So don’t blame yourself over something that is not in your hands…
        This is a month of blessing. Don’t let this month go by grieving. Make the best out of it. Do what your body allows you to do. Pray your fard, nafal, do lots of zikar, charity dua lots of dua. Dua it’s self is worship. Read Quran or listen to it. It gives peace.
        Even when in bed and you feel all low you cannnn do zikar and dua. Allah swt willll nottt let our efforts go waste my dear sister..
        Grief not. For Allah swt is near. He knows
        May Allah swt give us all health and a quick recovery. Ameen.
        As sister Abez said. We will met in Jannah my friend all healthy insha Allah. :)

        Jazak Allah khair urn kathera :)

  2. Avatar

    Leenah OV

    June 30, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    Assalamu Alykum. Thank you for this article: it is informative and thought provoking. On another note: I have been able to restore my health by a “paleo” diet for the past two years after suffering from a lot of pain, migraines, fatigue, mental fog, inflammation and IBS. Please consider the “Wahls” protocol for MS sufferers. A Jordanian sister with MS had also great results with it. Google MS paleo to find it. May Allah SWA grant you healing.

    • Avatar

      Imraan

      July 1, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Thank you for that tip! I’m going to have to try it myself – if I may ask it, were you an MS sufferer, too? The symptoms you describe are quite similar to mine, though I have a different neurological condition. Incidentally I just bought Dr Wahl’s book – I’m glad someone else has managed to attain better health through it, alhamdu lillah.

      Best wishes for this blessed Month.

      • Avatar

        Leenah OV

        July 6, 2015 at 5:27 PM

        Assalamu Alykum
        Dear Imran,
        I apologise for this late reply, have had a year filled with travel and helping others because I am again physically and mentally able to and have the necessary energy. I did not have MS but I was probably heading down that road. Real food, trying to find more relaxation and positive soothing reflections through our religion have made that possible again. I hope you feel better now!

  3. Avatar

    Hyde

    June 30, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    Bless. Very timely article.

  4. Avatar

    Holly

    June 30, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    Dear Sister, thank you so much for writing this. I am a new Muslim and this is my first Ramadan. It has been a great struggle balancing feelings of spiritual failure against my physical health (and medication). I continually go back to 2:185 for solace, and I am only taking in what is absolutely necessary. Moreover, I choose carefully what I eat, as I’m truly trying to cleanse my body and spirit. I’ve also made a donation to our local hunger program. I pray that Allah accepts my intention. But thank you again for letting me know that I am not alone in this experience. Thank you for sharing your story, and I pray that you have a blessed Ramadan.

    • Avatar

      Zenab

      July 1, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      Salaam, my name is zenab “and I am the founder of the disabled Muslims network, the dmn is an organzation that supports Muslims with chronic illnesses and disabilities living worldwide. Feel free to message me via http://www.facebook.com/disabledmuslimsnetwork

  5. Avatar

    Amel

    July 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    This is an important article and reminder. Two people in my family are unable to fast due to chronic health conditions that require medications at set times. In both cases, the conditions were diagnosed unexpectedly, which made each person feel like they were suddenly robbed of the opportunity to fast. It is kind of like suddenly being hit by a car and wondering what just happened. Both people are young, and I have seen with these individuals that it is a terrible feeling to suddenly find that you are unable to fast, and to know that you may never again be able to fast. This is why we should heed the advice of the Prophet (PBUH), which says:

    “Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.”

    There is also a stigma associated with not fasting, which may lead people with illnesses to pretend they are fasting in social situations. No matter how ill you are, there will always be people who doubt that you are truly ill enough to break your fast, and they may make non-fasters feel guilty, especially if they are young. This even happens with pregnant women, who are sometimes chastised by other women who feel that it shows weakness to break one’s fast during pregnancy. When the non-faster is male, however, the stigma is even greater, because no one expects to see a young (supposedly healthy) male breaking his fast. Keeping this in mind, I hope we all check our attitudes towards non-fasters because things are not always as they appear on the outside, and the non-faster may be suffering intense turmoil during this blessed month.

    As for people who are not fasting, Ramadan this year is taking place during the summer, which means that the weather is hot, and the days are long. A lot of Muslims are fasting, but they do not have much energy or stamina. People who are not fasting (for legitimate reasons) thus have some advantages over fasters in that they can (in some cases) more easily move about and exert themselves (provided they are not too ill). If someone is unable to fast (whether ill, pregnant, menstruating, etc.), this is but one aspect of Ramadan, and there are many other beneficial things one can do during the month, which is a month of enormous and unparalleled blessings. Each person should try to determine for him or herself which types of good deeds they are capable of and then try to do them. It could be anything, small or big. Even if you are confined to bed, you can try to think of something beneficial to do, whether it is with your money (if you have the means) or your mind. Even the simplest act (such as bringing a smile to the face of another human being) can have a positive impact.

  6. Avatar

    Imraan

    July 1, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Dear sister, thank you for this reassuring piece. I’ve been living with a chronic health condition for over seven years now, and been very unwell for the last three and a half; every year I go through the grieving process for not being able to fast because I’m on a cocktail of medication and dozens of supplements just to help keep me going for the rest of the year, let alone the Noble Month.

    For too-long has there been a stigma surrounding ill-health among Muslims, because people – though well-intentioned – seem to want to find a ’cause’ for the condition with the hope of treatment taking form in Du’a or exorcism, or increasing worship, or whatever else. Maybe it’s a cultural thing largely, in that we forget that these tribulations we face are tests of our character from the Almighty – largely, finding advice on the developing and beautifying of the soul and spirit of the unwell person seems lacking when scholars address congregations. I can’t blame them, of course, because those who often might require this kind of counsel or advice tend to be lacking from such congregations regularly, or haven’t a voice sufficient to be heard; whereas we do so-much for the plight of the unwell, the orphans, widows etc. in the heartlands of the Muslims, I hope in sha Allah that our communities can perhaps, in addition to this as awareness increases, offer a different kind of support to those that need it locally.

    In sha Allah, I pray that He grants you and all others healing and that you find what works for your health; in the meantime there are millions of us unable to fast due to long-term ill-health who have to live with the burden of trying to justify to others, and then ultimately ourselves, why we cannot fast. Of course, it is good to be certain that this is obviously detrimental to one’s health, because after all we can only deceive ourselves, never Him; yet once we’re past that stage there is an obvious void in terms of the support available to the chronically unwell to prepare for the Noble Month, advice that we can take in order to benefit as much as possible from the bounties of this most precious of times.

    Thank you for this, once more.

    With love and prayers,

    • Avatar

      Zenab

      July 1, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      Salaam, my name is zenab “and I am the founder of the disabled Muslims network, the dmn is an organzation that supports Muslims with chronic illnesses and disabilities living worldwide. Feel free to message me via http://www.facebook.com/disabledmuslimsnetwork

  7. Avatar

    nadia

    July 1, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    Excellent article. Love the last point about it being and act of obedience by not doing harm. I also love this “When a slave of Allah falls ill or goes on a journey, he is credited with the same amount of recompense as he used to do in his state of health or when he was at home” Al-Bukhari 2996

  8. Abez

    Abez

    July 2, 2014 at 2:03 AM

    JazakillahuKheiran! You hit the nail on the head, sister- especially the part about mourning the loss of your ability to fast. I have POTS, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and Sjogren’s Syndrome, and I wasn’t able to fast at all last Ramadan, and I think the one before it too.

    Ramadan stopped being… “special” and just became a time of sulking and grief. SubhanAllah, it took me a while to get my head on straight and this Ramadan I’m trying to hit up other acts of worship and be grateful that I can eat and drink rather than just mope.

    <<<>>> from your sister in Islam as well as chronic illness. May we meet in Jannah perfectly healthy and perfectly content. Ameen.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 2, 2014 at 2:05 AM

      There were supposed to be extra gentle hugs in those brackets, and I’m not sure why they disappeared from the comment. So I’m putting them here- with extra, extra gentle hugs.

      • Avatar

        Maryam

        July 10, 2014 at 10:40 PM

        Sr Abez, have you seen the documentary Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead? Sometimes fruits and vegetable juicing exclusively helps alleviate pain a great deal.

      • Avatar

        Anna

        June 29, 2015 at 3:01 PM

        ASA, Sister,
        I know you left this comment last Ramadan but I was just blown over that another sister has EDS!! I have been grappling with whether or not I should fast this year as the first year I did it (2013, I’m a convert), I didn’t mind the hunger but my blood pressure dropped constantly and I fainted at work a few times. I’ve been trying to find some guidance as to whether I should just do it anyway or whether this makes me exempt. Any resources you have found would be appreciated!
        Jazaakallahkhair

    • Avatar

      Missi

      July 13, 2015 at 1:20 AM

      I know exactly how you feel. I also have EDS and POTS. Lots of hugs to you!!

  9. Pingback: MO Monthly Round-up: June-July | Muslimas' Oasis

  10. Avatar

    Rebecca

    June 17, 2015 at 4:06 PM

    Thank you for reposting this from last year. I have a few chronic illnesses. Nice to see so many who feel the loss of what we once could do. I fill my “fasting” by offerring to feed sisters, help with the kids so they can go to events, rides. Support in general. Our group even set up a FB page to coordinate it all. I’m involved and helping others to get the most from Ramadan and fasting. I am able to say this has all been a huge help for me and others.

  11. Pingback: Chronic Illness And Ramadhan: Coping Tips And Strategies  | The Gutless Ninja

  12. Avatar

    Missi

    July 3, 2015 at 7:45 PM

    This was so touching. I’m fasting during my first ever Ramadan, and it’s been such a struggle since I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. I walk this fine line where I am able to fast for now but only with taking major sacrifices; I can’t go to the mosque in the evenings because of my fatigue, and I’ve felt so cut off from the Muslim community. There’s also this lingering knowledge that I will most likely not be able to fast in the near future, as my disorders are degenerative. It’s just helpful to know that I’m not alone and that others are facing the same circumstances. Thank you so much for this article; it’s what I needed at this exact moment.

  13. Avatar

    UmmIskander

    June 7, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    Salaams I am so glad to read this, I am a parent carer to my disabled child and we live alone. I have been exempted from fasting because of my caring, my daughters disability and my own health issues ( I have to be with it 24/7 for my daughter). This is so rarely talked about. I had it explained to me that fasting should not be about neglecting your family or not being able to care or potentialy putting a child in danger or making your self ill.

  14. Avatar

    Umm Bilal

    June 17, 2016 at 1:01 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your article. I have severe health problems that causes me not to fast. After reading your article it makes it easier.

  15. Avatar

    UmmSusu

    June 16, 2017 at 12:16 AM

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum!

    I too suffer from MS and have not been able to fast since 2012 after my last pregnancy. I also feel depressed and I wonder if it is from illness itself since it effects the brain. May Allah heal us all, make this a purification, and accept our deeds and make us sincere. Ameen!

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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan

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Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.

If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.

The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.

Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?

The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence.  For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.

For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.

Come Prepared

Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.

Stock it with as many things applicable:

  • A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
  • A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
  • A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
  • A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
  • Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.

Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.

Do not pack:

Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.

Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.

Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.

Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.

Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there. 

Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…

I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.

Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.

Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.

Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device. 

Reward for Success, in this life and the next

You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.

Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.

Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.

“Here the icecream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of icecream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”

Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.

Reinforce the rules – but define them first.

“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.

Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.

Avoid saying this:

Try saying this instead:

Stay out of my purse Please use the toys in your bag
Don’t draw on the walls Crayons only on the paper
No yelling Please use your “inside” voice
No food on the carpet Please have your snack in the hallway
Don’t run off Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]
No peeing the carpet We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.
No hitting Hands nicely to yourself.

While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.

Plan for Failure

Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.

  • How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
  • Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
  • For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
  • Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
  • If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.

Don’t Give up

If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:

Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.

Aaaaaameeeeeeen.When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.

Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

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The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.

A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.

So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!

I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need  – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!

Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.

Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.

I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.

To catch Laylatul Qadr with MyTenNights, visit their website MyTenNights.com

Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.

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