The issue of purchasing a house through Islamic financing has been written about in detail by experts and intellectuals for the past decade or so. However, it appears that majority of American-Muslims are either in doubt or are misinformed about the validity of the actual practice (buying homes through ‘halal mortgages’ or loans). Many prospective home owners dismiss all Islamic home loans as problematic or interest based loans candy coated in Islamic terminology.
This led the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) to invite a group of 230 Imams from all over the United States to its annual Imams’ Conference in Dallas, Texas in February 2014 to discuss current Islamic finance companies and their contracts from theoretical and practical perspectives (read about the conference here).
After discussing and debating various clauses of the contracts, AMJA announced that it will take a few months to further discuss their concerns with the named companies and then issue a final verdict with regards to their contracts. This declaration was released yesterday.
What is AMJA
AMJA stands for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. It’s a nonprofit established in 2002 with the goal of conducting research about contemporary issues facing Muslims in the West and issuing Islamic verdicts with the findings. This research is conducted and supervised by the Resident Fatwa committee (RFC), which comprises of scholars with Doctorates of Philosophy in various Islamic Sciences.
Their website finds a long list of publications and research papers (mainly in Arabic) covering various subjects including interfaith, youth, food and nutrition, careers and arbitration. Over the years this organization has built a reputation of scholarly work and has shown dedication to tradition and authenticity through their research. You can find more about their published research papers here.
AMJA requested and received copies of the contracts of various Islamic home finance companies and studied them. Their conclusion was divided into two main categories: (a) three classes of Islamic home finance companies and (b) ruling on individual companies. I have included both below:
The Three Classes:
(1) Companies that use interest-based loans: AMJA’s description of such companies is that they are using contracts that are an offshoot of traditional interest-based loans. AMJA’s ruling with regards to these companies is that it is not allowed to deal with them.
(2) Companies whose contracts are in agreement with Islamic law. Generally speaking, these companies are of very little reach and are not supported by government-sponsored enterprises (such as Freddie Mac etc.). This means that they do not receive funds from such enterprises, which permits them the freedom to control their contracts without any restrictions or regulations from the government (loosely speaking- obviously there are government regulations but they are nowhere close to those imposed by Freddie Mac, for example). The downside of such companies is that they don’t have enough funds to sustain a large operation when compared to those who have the support of government-sponsored enterprises.
(3) Companies that use contracts that avoid explicit Riba in their contracts, however their contracts contain some components that are forbidden from an Islamic prespective. The contracts offered by such companies usually utilize one of the following three modes of finance: Ijarah (Lease-to-purchase), Musharakah (Declining Balance co-Ownership) or Murabah (Cost plus profit). Within these contracts there might be some clauses that are in violation of the essence of Islamic rule, according to AMJA.
Some of the clauses that you might want to pay attention to include, but are not limited to, what happens when one defaults or is late in making their payments? Is the arrangement of paying taxes, maintenance and other costs considered fair (since the majority shareholder in any company is expected to pay according to their shares, the loaning company in a Musharakah contract should participate in such costs and not only the minority shareholder)? What happens in the case of eminent domain? Other examples of the components indicated above include invalid clauses, inequity, undue risk, unknown quantities and the like. For more information about the fiqhi debate as why such components are forbidden in Islam, please consult with your local Imam or contact AMJA directly. It is highly encouraged that you request a copy of the contract before signing, read it and inquire about any unclear or ambiguous aspects of it. It’s also highly recommended that you speak to your local Imam/scholar or reach out to AMJA for more clarification.
The concept of “Need” and “Dire Need”
Although there are some violations in the aforementioned contracts, AMJA views owning houses to be a general need of the Muslim population in America. AMJA defines need as:
that which is desired by an individual or society to make things easier on them and remove constraints. If one is lacking what is determined to be a “need,” then the individuals or the society face hardships and difficulties that go above and beyond the customary efforts required of individuals by the Islamic Law. People may differ in estimating those hardships.
As for determining the level of need for specific individuals, this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.
What I found interesting about this definition is that although AMJA believes that there is a general need for Muslims to own a house, it leaves the determination of such need to the individual(s) interested in buying the house. This indicates that even though there is a general need that allows for using imperfect contracts, the individuals’ situation is still a critical factor to decide the actual level of need.
Another interesting aspect of this definition is following statement:
…this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.
How can rent be without causing harm? Financially, obviously those who choose to rent are not worried about property taxes or devalue of the property and more importantly aren’t responsible for any major maintenance or insurance. However, renters do not take advantage of any equity or tax incentives. Moreover from a social perspective, owning a house may encourage home-owners to sustain long term relations with their neighbors, the Muslim community around them, and even the grocery stores in the area. Children in the family increase the chances of having the same friends, attend the same schools and masjids which helps in cultivating a stable childhood.
AMJA also used the terms “need” and “dire need” in what appears to be an attempt to create a distinction between the contracts below with regards to how islamic their contracts are. There was no definition as to what a “dire need” constitutes. The natural consequence of such distinction is the advantage it lends to certain companies over others. This might be a way (a good way) of placing pressure on companies whose contracts have more violations than others. This also will decrease the competition between companies (given that people actually follow AMJA’s recommendations), which might backfire with regards to consumer protection. Only time will tell.
Rulings with regards to the Individual Companies:
Disclaimer: It should be noted here that the opinion below is that of AMJA and that neither MuslimMatters.org nor the author of this article have an opinion on this matter. The AMJA declaration can be found on their website here. It also should be noted that Guidance Residential advertises with MuslimsMatters, however they were not consulted with about the actual content of this article.
Before listing the rulings per each company and their contracts, AMJA highlighted the following two very important points:
– The current verdicts apply only to the version of the contracts that were presented at the time of issuance of the verdict as well as the manner of execution of the contract. This makes sense as such contacts are often edited and updated.
– AMJA requested more clarification from some of the below mentioned companies with regards to their relationship with federal financing institutions such as Freddie Mac and others. However a detailed clarification was not received.
They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contract is sound in general. However, it contains some Shari’ah violations with respect to maintenance, taxes and insurance, as these expenses are not distributed in a just manner according to percentage of ownership.
The ruling of the RFC Committee concerning Guidance Residential is that it is permissible to deal with them in the face of need. The representatives of this company are advised to review those defective portions of their contract.
They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contracts are not sold to the federal institutions [such as Freddie Mac]. They also avoid explicit interest in their transactions. However, their contract does contain some Shariah objections glitches, such as unfairness in the percentage that they discount in the rent to take care of basic maintenance, expenses that be more or less than that discounted amount. Additionally, they have just introduced a late payment fee [which is another violation of Shariah principles].
The ruling of the RFC Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this company in case of need, although one should do one’s best to make one’s payments on time in order to avoid the late payment fee. The Committee also encourages the company to abstain from those aspects pointed out by the Committee.
This company has two types of Islamic contracts:
The first contract is Murabahah a cost-plus purchase. This contract is surrounded by doubts concerning whether the bank truly owns the property before it is readied for sale. In addition, this contract also contains some defective or problematic conditions or aspects of great unfairness, such as with respect to (a) the bank having exclusive benefits from insurance payouts while requiring the purchaser to pay for the insurance, (b) the bank’s right to freeze the purchaser’s account simply on the suspicion that he will not be able to make his payments, (c) the bank’s right to declare the purchaser in default if he does not use the property as a residence or due to his death although heirs have the right to continue the contract after his death, in fact the cost-plus purchase contract states that the heirs are bound by the contract.
The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [Murabahah contract of] this company in the presence of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee advises the Bank to correct these aspects and to affirm the ownership of the property before selling it and to avoid the other invalid conditions as much as possible.
The second contract is a rent to own contract. This also contains a number of Shariah violations and invalid conditions, including having two different contracts (sale and lease) at one time, about one item during one time period. Various Fiqh councils have ruled that this model is not permissible as the legal effects of the two types of contracts are contradictory. This may be corrected by separating the two contracts by making them independent of each other time-wise, such that the sale contract is done after the lease contract, which must be a true lease and not something meant to simply hide the sale. Or, they [may replace the sale] with a promise of handing over ownership at the end of the lease.
From among the defective or void stipulations that this contract embodies are the fact that the bank can evict the lessee upon default but the bank still holds him responsible for the rent until they can find a new renter, the fact that the bank does not pay for the basic maintenance of the property and the fact that the lessee is required to pay insurance while the bank retains the right of any payments from the insurance, allowing the bank to benefit while the lessee bears the cost.
The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [rent to own contract of this] company when one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee emphasizes its recommendation to the bank to rectify the current model by separating between the two contracts and avoiding the defective or void stipulations as much as possible.
The same comments concerning their cost-plus model and lease-to-own models as were stated concerning Devon Bank can be repeated here. Thus, their models have the same rulings and the Committee offers them the same advice. There is an exemption to deal with this company only if one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor.
This company starts by directing the purchaser to get a standard interest-based [mortgage] loan and then creates a trust with the purchaser a partner in the trust, in order to borrow from the bank and then get ownership of the property. After that, the trust will sell the house to the purchaser with a rent-to-own contract. The purchaser is alone in getting the interest-based loan at the beginning and then shares in it at the end.
The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.
The contract of this company does not differ from a traditional mortgage that interest-based banks provide. This is the overriding contract between this company and the purchaser and what they present as an Islamic form to it actually has no existence in reality and has no legal authority in case of dispute.
The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.
As one of the fortunate individuals who witnessed this journey of how this resolution transpired, I have come to appreciate the amount of work it takes to build these contracts. It was inspiring for me to see that even though our scholars disagree with each other, they show respect and honor to each other. Observing scholars debate over some of the most detailed aspects of these contracts assured me that our Muslim faith is in good hands. It assured me that Allah has blessed us with scholars who differ in opinion but are united in their quest for the truth. I ask Allah to have mercy on our scholars, to cover and forgive their sins, and to make them amongst the people of paradise.
Our Struggles – Mental Health And Muslim Communities | The Family and Youth Institute
By Elham Saif, Sarrah AbuLughod and Wahida Abaza
Fariha just started her freshman year at university. Overnight, she was separated from her support system of family and friends and thrust into a foreign environment. She was facing many new challenges, including a heavier workload, new friends, student clubs and organizational responsibilities. She was drowning in endless assignments, exams, and meetings.
Fariha never thought much about mental health issues beyond the few “mindfulness” posts that she’d scroll through on her Instagram feed, but recently she was starting to feel out of sorts. She started to feel anxious as a hijab-wearing woman on campus especially after hearing about anti-Muslim incidents on the news. All of the possibilities of what could go wrong played over and over again in her head–and kept her up at night. Everything was beginning to feel overwhelming. She started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning and was losing motivation to complete her assignments. She felt confused and at times, even afraid.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, close to 50 million Americans suffered from mental health issues in 2017. One in 5 adults in America is living with a mental health illness at this very moment. American Muslims are not an exception to these statistics. According to different studies, like Fariha, 15-25% of American Muslims report suffering from anxiety disorders and 9-30% report mood disorders. Many of these mental health issues in the Muslim population go unaddressed and unresolved because of lack of knowledge, stigma and shame experienced in many Muslim households and communities.
When these issues go unaddressed, people report that the pain and suffering they experience rises and that overall their problems tend to get worse. Sadly, their struggles can snowball into additional illnesses that were not present before, such as self-harm or addiction. According to the research, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are sometimes not considered to be “real” illnesses. Community members often see mental illness as a sign of weakness, a mark of poor faith, or something that doesn’t affect Muslims. They may also see it either as a “test from God” or sometimes as possession by evil spirits. Even when there is an awareness, many of these illnesses and issues are culturally stigmatized as shameful and kept hidden within the person or family. People may be concerned about the reputation of their family or their marital prospects should a psychiatric diagnosis be disclosed.
The irony is that Islam ought to be more of a protective factor given how intertwined Islamic history is with the fields of psychiatry and psychology. The contribution of Islamic scholarship to the field of psychology is documented in our history and legacy from health promotion in the Quran and Sunnah, to early scholarly diagnosis, treatment, and intervention. Alaa Mohammad, FYI researcher and co-author of the chapter “Mental Health in the Islamic Golden Era: The Historical Roots of Modern Psychiatry” in Islamophobia and Psychiatry points out that,
“there was a lot of focus on concepts like ‘sanity’ and the significance of mental capacity as well as the general mental/emotional state in many of the early Islamic texts especially in regards to Islamic rules and law.”
Early Islamic scholars described the “cognitive components of depression and sadness, anxiety and fear, obsessions, and anger in detail and suggested a variety of therapies and treatments.” Learning more about this rich history and pulling from these stories in the Prophet’s (SAW) seerah is a key step towards opening the way for people to get the help they need and learning how to support one another.
Fariha knows that she needs help. She was considering seeing one of the mental health workers on campus, but she’s afraid of what her parents would say if they found out she shared so much with a stranger, especially one that is not a Muslim.
What can parents do?
Research has found that in the face of rising Islamophobia, supportive parenting serves as a protective factor and helps strengthen young Muslims’ sense of identity while unsupportive parents who don’t help their children navigate their experiences end up weakening their identity, which then increases their chances of participating in more risky behavior.
When Fariha finally shared her fears and anxieties with her parents, she was surprised and relieved to hear that they took her seriously. They listened to her and she didn’t feel like they were ashamed of her, only concerned for her well being. They were eager to find her the help she needed to feel like herself again.
As Muslims, we need to shift our mindset around mental illness and the effects of Islamophobia. Like Fariha’s parents, it is imperative that we listen carefully and look more deeply at the issues facing our youth. It is through this openness that we can reduce the stigma and encourage more people to seek help.
The Family and Youth Institute recently released an infographic that talks about some of the struggles facing our American Muslim communities. They teamed up with Islamic Relief USA to get this infographic printed as a poster and will be sending them to over 500 masajid/community centers around the United States in the coming months.
What can you do to help?
- Reduce the stigma by sharing this article and infographic and starting a conversation with your friends and family members. The more we talk about it, the more we normalize and destigmatize mental illness and move towards mental health.
- Organize a community conversation around the issue of mental health. Invite a mental health specialist to come speak to your mosque youth group or parent group.
- Seek therapy when needed. Connect with SEEMA and the Institute of Muslim Mental Health for a list of Muslim therapists. If you are seeing a clinician who is not Muslim, share this book Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions with them to give them a better sense of the specific religious and cultural needs of their Muslim clients.
- Educate yourself – There is a plethora of information out there about mental wellness and wellbeing. For help navigating through it all, sign up for The FYI’s daily article share to receive vetted infographics, articles and videos on this topic. Mental health affects our whole life. Whether you are struggling with bullying, helping a loved one with depression, living with and caring for an elder or wanting to build the best environment for your new baby, we have a resource for you!
These steps are just small ways we can begin to shift the conversation away from shame and stigma and towards help and healing. Mental illness and mental health issues can be scary, but they do not need to be faced alone and in isolation. As the Prophet Muhammad said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” Together, we can fight the existing stigma and misconceptions, provide support, educate the community and advocate for our brothers and sisters suffering with mental illness and their families.
Aftab A., & Khandai, C. (2018). Mental Health Facts for Muslim Americans. APA Division of Diversity and Health Equity, Washington, DC.
Basit A, & Hamid M. (2006). Mental health issues of Muslim Americans. The Journal of Islamic Medical Association of North America, 42(3), 106-110.
Ciftci A., Jones N., & Corrigan, P.W. (2013) Mental health stigma in the Muslim community. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 7(1), 17-32.
Hodge, D.R., Zidan, T. & Husain, A. (2016). Depression among Muslims in the United States: Examining the role of discrimination and spirituality as risk and protective factors. Social Work, 61(1), 45-52.
Zong, X., Balkaya, M., Tahseen, M., & Cheah, C.S.L. (2018). Muslim-American Adolescents’ Identities Mediate the Association between Islamophobia and Adjustment: The Moderating Role of Religious Socialization. Poster session presented at the biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, Queensland, Australia.
Loving Muslim Marriage | Is it Haraam to Talk About Sex?
Female sexual nature and female sexual desires are often misunderstood, especially among Muslims. There are some classes and seminars by Muslim speakers that offer advice to Muslim couples about intimacy but unfortunately, the advice is not exactly aligned with correct female sexual nature.
So we decided to come together to clarify these misunderstandings and explain the sexual nature of women and their desires, so we can help build healthy intimacy within Muslim marriages leading to happier Muslim marriages.
This is going to be a series of videos that we will release every week, inshaAllah.
What should be expected out of these videos?
Each video will address a specific myth or misconception about either female sexuality, or Muslim marriage to help men better understand women. We will also explore male sexuality and other subjects.
– to help better quality marriage
– to help couples- both men and women- get a more satisfying intimate life
– to help women navigate intimate life in a manner where they are fulfilled, paving the way for involvement and desiring of intimacy; breaking the cycle of unsatisfying intimate lives for both husband and wife
Please keep in mind that these videos are for people with normal sexual desires — they are not meant to address asexuality.
The content of these videos is a mean to provide marital advice based on mainstream orthodoxy as well as best practices and relationships.
Some experts joined us in these videos to offer their expertise from an Islamic and professional perspective:
Shaikh AbdulNasir Jangda: He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and at the age of 10 began the road to knowledge by moving to Karachi, Pakistan, and memorizing the entire Qur’an in less than one year. After graduating from high school, he continued his studies abroad at the renowned Jamia Binoria and graduated from its demanding seven-year program in 2002 at the top of his class with numerous licenses to teach in various Islamic Sciences. Along with the Alim Course he concurrently completed a B.A. and M.A. in Arabic from Karachi University. He also obtained a Masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Sindh. He taught Arabic at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2005 to 2007. He served as the Imam at the Colleyville Masjid in the Dallas area for three years. He is a founding member and chairman of Mansfield Islamic Center.
He is the founder of Qalam Institute and he has served as an instructor and curriculum advisor to various Islamic schools. His latest projects include Quran Intensive (a summer program focusing on Arabic grammar and Tafsir), Quranic analysis lectures, Khateeb Training, chronicling of the Prophetic Biography, and personally mentoring and teaching his students at the Qalam Seminary.
In these videos, Sh. Jangda helped present the Islamic rulings and corrections of various misconceptions regarding intimacy and female sexuality.
Dr. Basheer Ahmed: He is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with 18 years of teaching experience at various medical schools. He started off his career by teaching at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York as a Psychiatrist in 1971. Then he started his own private practice in 1984 till the present time. Meanwhile, he continued to teach at various universities around the U.S.
He is also the Chairman of MCC Human Services in North Texas.
In these videos, Dr. Basheer explained several psychological conditions that women may suffer through when they are sexually dissatisfied in a marriage.
Zeba Khan: She is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate.
She helped address the uncomfortable myths and misconceptions throughout these videos and helped provide the correct perspective of female and marital intimacy for Muslim couples to enjoy a better marriage.
Usman Mughni: He is a Marriage & Family Therapist and holds a Master’s of Science degree
Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, along with a degree in diagnostic medical imaging. He worked as a therapist at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in the Center for Addiction Medicine. Usman has experience providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families at Northern Illinois University’s Family Therapy Clinic along with experience working with individuals, couples, and families struggling with chemical dependency and mental health diagnoses and running psychoeducational group therapy at Centegra Specialty Hospital’s partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
Since Usman enjoys working with couples to help bring tranquility back into the marriage and providing premarital counseling to couples who hope to have a successful marriage at a time when divorce seems to be on the rise, he especially joined us in this series to offer his expertise. He highlighted the most common intimacy issues in Muslim marriages that he has observed throughout the years of his experience as a therapist. His insights and knowledge has helped us clarify many misconceptions not only regarding female sexual nature but also about men and marital intimacy.
Ustadha Saba Syed: She has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language and Literature at Qatar University and at the Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.
She’s been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage, family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas. SHe also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.
She took the initiative of putting together these videos because through her pastoral counseling experience she realized that there are many marital intimacy problems in Muslim marriages, mainly due to the misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding female sexuality and female sexual nature.
Hence, with the speakers above, and with these videos we hope to clarify and explain as many myths and misconceptions that we believe have become a hindrance to happiness and success in Muslim marriages. We welcome your comments and suggestions in order to make this series more successful.
Losing Our Parents, Finding Ourselves
“To lose one parent is misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.” – Oscar Wilde
If I am to take Mr Wilde’s words to heart, I’ve had an extremely careless kind of year. Despite our utter devotion to our extremely beloved parents and our best efforts to hang on to them, my siblings and I still went ahead and lost them both about ten months ago.
A long-drawn-out, physically and mentally ravaging illness in which he (and us) suffered for over a decade, took my brilliant, generous, math genius of a laughing, twinkly-eyed father. Upon which, a day after his funeral, my wise, gentle, hostess in chief, caregiver-supreme of a mother promptly contracted a deathly cancer of her own and within a few rollercoaster months, went out like a shooting star.
In between, just to keep things interesting, I also unexpectedly lost a beloved khala (my maternal aunt), a dear long-time family doctor, and our pet cat, who in perfect health one day, dropped dead on our front door the next morning, without any warning whatsoever, completing what was certainly a most eventful year.
I like to think my sister, brother and I, we took all these losses with patience and resilience, in more or less stride…holding fast to the rope of Allah, understanding His qadr and accepting His will as better and wiser than anything we could’ve willed for ourselves. We did this not because we are unfeeling robots or super-mu’mins but because this is how our parents raised us. They raised us to be strong and smart and strong, smart people don’t crumble in the face of what life throws their way. Doing so would be a betrayal of who we were as a happy family and we loved each other just too much to betray.
At least, that is what I loftily tell myself during daylight hours, when the sun is shining and the business of living takes precedence over the philosophy of dying. Because at night, when the house is still and quiet, when my children are curled up in their own beds when the work is done and I put my head to pillow, it is a lot trickier to be so practical-minded.
Every night, every single night for the last 10 months, when I lie down in the dark, before I fall asleep, no matter how hard I try to not have it happen, my mind insists on playing a torturous film. First, I watch my dad die. I am catapulted, in the pitch blackness of my room, back to the night of him in his bed, his eyes closed, his chest slowly rising and falling, rising and falling. I see myself standing beside him, my hand resting on his heart. I see my mother sitting beside us, head bowed.
We are breathing with him, both willing and not willing each next breath. There is nothing different in his outward appearance to suggest the end is near, but the air in the room is holy and we know what’s coming. We don’t move from beside him for one hour, then two, then three. Somewhere past midnight, I see/feel/hear the absolutely deepest silence I have ever encountered. He is gone. So quietly, one would have missed it if they weren’t right there. I see myself exclaim through the tears, “All praise to Allah for He has rescued my Baba from pain.” and I hug my mother.
But my hug doesn’t last. Because, immediately after, it is my mother’s turn. She is in the same bed, the bright morning light flooding into the room. Everyone dear to her is assembled around her, praying and reciting, in aching disbelief that something so similar is happening so soon. Her eyes are wide open and she is breathing faster and faster. I am telling her “Allah loves you, I love you, you’re doing so great, don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine, straight to Jannah, Ma, straight to Jannah“. Suddenly, her whole face softens, relaxes, eases into a radiant smile. She recites the kalima, the room rings with Allahu Akbar and she’s gone.
Earlier, I used to always sob through this entire montage. Pity for myself, grief for who I had lost, the ache of missing them in every imaginable future that lay ahead, would fill my eyes and drench my pillow. The reality of our situation hitting me afresh in the gut: We are orphaned, the roof blown off our heads in a whirlwind of a year, wondering how exactly does one live without the people who taught them how to. Later, as a few months passed, I watched with a more grim, gritted teeth patience. I knew I had to get through this if I wanted to eventually fall asleep. More recently, and this is perhaps the evolution of grief, I have begun to watch with a tender fondness, a dawning understanding of how privileged I was to see the peaceful passing of two righteous people, how lucky I have been to be taught that to love someone, to truly love them, means to bear witness to their journey of becoming more and more human.
And is there anything, ANYTHING more essentially human than death? I bore witness to my parents’ humanity till their very last breath on earth. And because I am human, and I believe in being kind to myself, I finally know that I am not losing my mind or being weak when I keep revising and reviewing this film each night. Instead, I am taming and teaching my very human mind to accept, to submit. I know that all my mind is trying to do as it wrestles every night in the dark, is attempting to make the most beautiful sense out of a most necessary reality.
How do we love? How do we let go? How do we gracefully bear witness to the final moments of our beloveds? How do we prepare for our own final moments?
These questions will take a lifetime to answer.
Perhaps you, dear reader, are already facing these questions. If not, you will certainly face them someday. The truth is, we will all, each of us, one day lose someone we desperately love, despite our very best efforts and most valiant hopes not to. This is the reality of this world. It will not be misfortune or carelessness on our part…it will simply be Allah reminding us that we belong only to Him, that only He knows what is good for us.
If last year, for me, was the year of loss, then this year and all the years ahead are the years of making sense of this loss and deriving meaningful meaning from it. In losing my parents, I must find my self. That is the only thing that will help my parents now. Because, when they were alive, I think I tried my very best to do my due diligence in bearing witness to their humanity. Now that they are in their graves, I can only hope and pray that on the Day it really matters, I am able to bear witness for my parents again: “Oh Allah! Have mercy on them as they did on me when I was younger.”
This is what our loved ones need from us. Prayers, good works so that we may be sadaqa-jaariah, and a relentless testifying to He who listens to all aching, breaking hearts, both in day and night: They were good, Allah. They were good. Have mercy on them.
May Allah forgive our parents, elevate them and reunite us all in Jannah.