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US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies

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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.

The Findings

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.

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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.

Ameen Housing:

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.

Devon Bank:

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.

University Islamic Financial (UIF)

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.

Ijara Loan:

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.

LaRiba:

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.

In Conclusion

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.

Ameen.

 

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63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abdul

    October 15, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    SubanAllah after reading this I am not sure what to do since I have guidance financial. Now the question comes is do we take any loan from this companies since all of them in one way or another unfair to the Muslim customers. Can’t even imagine living in Northeast to buy a house with full money down, any advise from anyone inshaAllah.

    • Avatar

      Adam Taufique (@adamtaufique)

      October 15, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      I thought they said that 1) housing in the US is a need and 2) you can use Guidance in the case of a need. Wouldn’t Guidance be permissible in that situation?

      Guess I’m unsure where your doubts are.

      • Avatar

        Zeeshan Mohammed

        May 19, 2016 at 7:13 PM

        That’s correct. The resolution from AMJA states that they believe buying a house in the US is a need, and you can use Guidance for this need.

    • Avatar

      Tamer

      October 15, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      I think the takeaway from this resolution by the AMJA scholars is that if you have a need to buy a house, then using Guidance or Ameen Housing is OK.

      • Avatar

        Zeeshan Mohammed

        May 19, 2016 at 7:16 PM

        Agreed. That’s exactly what the resolution is saying, and it goes as far as considering buying a house a general need of the Muslim’s in the US.

    • Avatar

      Mohammad Ali

      October 26, 2014 at 6:04 AM

      So it is not OK to finance your home through explicit riba but it is OK to do so if the “contract” is written in this way or that?

      Mahmoud El Gamal quotes classic Shari’a scholar Ibn Qayyum, in the following words: “It is impossible for the Law of the Wisest of the wise [God] that He would forbid a harmful dealing [riba, or usury], curse its perpetrators and warn them of a war from God and his Messenger, and then to allow a ruse to result in the same effect with the same harm and added transaction costs in constructing the ruse to deceive God and his Messenger.”

      I say: If you believe you have a dire need, take the home financing that suits you best, don’t try to fool yourself with contract mechanics, apply your common sense for God’s sake!

      • Avatar

        Mohamed Hussein

        October 27, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        There are many aspects of our religion that are governed by guidelines and technicalities. The essence of worship is to obey divine law. With that said, within Islamic finance, there are different mechanics and types of contracts. To equate them all is simply to be ignorant of them. What Dr. El-Gamal is referring to are contracts that simply mimic promissory notes. They certainly aren’t the perfect solutions to the problem, but are efforts to find a solution.

  2. Avatar

    Shahab

    October 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    Jazakallah khair for this eye opening article. Then perhaps the first order of business for Muslim Matters is to remove the advertisement banner for Guidance Financial that is on this site. this is the first thing to do in order to avoid putting muslims into sin.

    • Avatar

      Tamer

      October 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      I think you might be stepping your boundaries by calling out MuslimMatters as a promotor of sin! I believe the article (and the actual text of the resolution itself) are clear with regards to Guidance and others. They fall under the category of those who avoid Riba but they have constrains due to their relationship with fannie mae freddie mac. Those constrains are overlooked in the case of need (as defined above) in the case of Ameen and Guidance and in the case of dire need in the case of others who fall under that category.

      • Avatar

        Habib D.

        October 16, 2014 at 12:42 AM

        Have a look at this hadeeth:

        Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah has cursed the one who consumes usury, its client, its witness, and its recorder.”

  3. Avatar

    Fahad M.

    October 15, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    I think even Muslims have fallen into the mind trap of
    thinking that owning a home is better than renting.

    but today, experts are telling us that the math is not adding up.
    The math tells us that owning a home does not make sense
    in today’s world

    Yes….its much better to own your own home, but not through
    financial institutions. They are designed to keep you locked in
    and imprisoned to a house for 30 years.

    Every person who I know who has tried to sell his home
    before completing the 30 year mortgage has incurred a loss.

    Also…owning a home is expensive. Here are a few things
    to think about:

    1) Property taxes (they keep going up every year)
    2) Maintenance (even in a newly built house, things will break and need fixing)
    3) More maintenance (you may have to pay for garbage removal, snow plowing, etc)

    Have a look here at the video by Khan Academy that will show you
    why the math just doesn’t add up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNL6f1xkie4

  4. Avatar

    Siraaj

    October 15, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    What I love is that people in the comments read the entire fatwa, not just the “general need” paragraph out of context. The contracts remain defective and one should only engage I’m them if the need crosses a threshold. They say it so many times, and even right after the general need speak about specific need varying on individual based on ability to rent. That also needs more clarity, but I’m happy this fatwa isn’t a blanket endorsement.

  5. Avatar

    Shoeb Sharieff

    October 16, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    Kindly note that :
    1) Customers apply to IjaraUSA directly
    2) Ownership goes to a Trust which is on title to the property for 100 % throughout the whole transaction – the trust does not sell the property to the customer, but leases it out (ijara concept)
    3) The transaction structure has been formally approved by Mufti Muneer Akhoon, Sh. Mufit Umer Esmail, and Imam Yahya.
    4) we are working with AMJA to clear up this confusion as one of their scholars is already our customer and another used our services to finance their Masjid in Katy and yet another to finance Islamic American University.

    • Avatar

      Khalid

      October 17, 2014 at 1:31 AM

      The mentioned scholars are not renowned at all for their IF expertise.

      Just because the scholars dealt with you in the past does not mean they have not changed their view now about your company. After detailed discussions with other scholars, they probably changed their opinion now. You might be approached by them to cancel their loans becuase they are unIslamic according to AMJA.

  6. Avatar

    Tamer

    October 16, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Two things:

    Are you allowed to publicly announce that one of 7 people financed their home with your company? Also, the only one in Katy TX is Dr. Main AlQudah, are you saying that he is okay with your contract? Also do you have permission to announce that they’ve financed through your company?

    Secondly, when you participated with them in the conference, did you get a chance to present your contract? If so, what is/was your comapany’s response to the specified violations?

    :) im just curious

  7. Avatar

    nur

    October 16, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    we went through lariba bank to get our mortgage and they use a rent to own contract like Devon bank but it didn’t state that in the article. I am confused so did lariba lie to us, please if anyone has info regarding lariba please comment, JAK

  8. Avatar

    Khalid

    October 16, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    It’s interesting how the company is called LaRiba but out of all of the mentioned companies, they are the most involved in Riba! Once again Muslims hoodwinking other Muslims for worldly gain.

    • Avatar

      Tamer

      October 16, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      Why do we always presume the worst of each other? I’m sure those who are running LaRiba truly believe that their contracts are legit. I don’t believe that they knowingly are deceiving Muslims.

      • Avatar

        Khalid

        October 17, 2014 at 1:02 AM

        Scholars have been telling LaRiba for years that they are directly dealing with Riba, but the Asian scholars were ignored. We’ll see now if they listen to Arabic scholars.

      • Avatar

        Tamer

        October 17, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Why Do you have to being race into this bro? Lol

        And just for the record, AMJA has also issued fatawa opposing LaRiba’s contract for the past 8 or so years ago.

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        October 21, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Tamer, Khalid’s point is valid. He is bringing race into it because many groups of people purposefully ignore scholars of one ethnicity or another. “Oh, he’s a Pakistani Alim, his fatwa doesn’t apply to me because I’m Arab.” or “Oh, he’s a Malaysian Sheikh, his opinion is irrelelvant to Indian Muslims.”

        It happens A LOT and if you’ve never encountered it then alhamdulillah you are blessed; however racism is a HUGE problem among Muslims and we cannot ignore it.

        All Khalid is saying is that since they ignored the Asian scholars, maybe they will pay attention now that Arab scholars are saying it too. Meaning that they will be forced to look beyond their own bigotry.

        This exchange is important, I hope people don’t ignore it just because it is shaded out.

      • Avatar

        Tamer

        October 21, 2014 at 9:02 AM

        I’m afraid thats not really convincing. I agree that people, unfortunately Muslims included, have elements of racism. However, when it comes to money and halal-and-haram, I believe that Muslims follow those who posses knowledge because of their knowledge and not because of their race. Putting it in terms of Arabs vs Asians turns off the up and coming generation (me included) and creates (by bringing attention to) unnecessary divides (that although exists, no one wants to hear that his people are racist).

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        October 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Tamer, you said “I believe that Muslims follow those who posses knowledge because of their knowledge and not because of their race”

        I wish I could believe that.

        I sincerely wish that I hadn’t personally heard disgusting and hateful bigoted statements coming from educated people against Scholars of other ethnicities.

        I wish that I had not heard people being denounced as “idiots” or “munafiq” because of where they came from or what their background ethnically was.

        The reality is that I’ve heard Arab scholars refer to Southeast Asian Alims as “stupid monkeys” while calling their fatwas (rooted in Qur’an and Hadith) “Idiotic ramblings”

        Racism is real, and somehow intellectualism hasn’t purged it.

        I sincerely wish that it wasn’t the case.

  9. Avatar

    Hamayoun

    October 16, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    Salam, can we get Guidance to comment on this?

    • Avatar

      Hamayoun

      October 21, 2014 at 9:51 PM

      Salam, that is very strange. That’s not the way I understand what AMJA said about Guidance.

    • Avatar

      Nasir Chhipa

      May 16, 2016 at 12:47 PM

      How can the Guidance Financed house is a Saraiah compliant? If he/she is claiming interest when filling tax return at the end of the year.

  10. Avatar

    Hassan

    October 17, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    This is weird, I read article differently. Why are you not highlighting the following part in most of their fatwa

    “Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. “

  11. Avatar

    Sharif

    October 17, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Anyone have names of the smaller companies whose contracts are generally permissible but their ability to fulfill the needs of the general Muslim community are somewhat limited? “(2) Companies whose contracts are in agreement with Islamic law”

    Depending on the location and situation of the readers, those companies could be a viable option.

    Is there a list available somewhere?ra

  12. Pingback: Weekly industry update | Islamic Finance Expert

  13. Avatar

    DustonB

    October 20, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    Wow… I typed out a complete thought and it was blocked as being “spammy” even though there wasn’t a single link or anything of the sort.

    OK; simple statement then:

    My problem with all of these so-called Islamic Financial Institutions is that they have no provision for building a home from scratch.

    Basically Muslims aren’t allowed to have anything new, we have to buy used homes from non-Muslims.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      October 27, 2014 at 1:24 AM

      Dear DustonB

      We apologize for the inconvenience. Since spam filters in WordPress (the back-end for most websites) are not very customizable, sometimes valid comments seem not to go through. It possibly stems from a combination of things that combined create a red flag. We sincerely apologize for this. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on MuslimMatters.org.

      WasSalamuAlaikum
      Aly Balagamwala

      Comments Team Lead

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        October 28, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        Salaam Alaikum,

        Thank you for the response on that issue. I appreciate it.

  14. Avatar

    Hustry

    October 20, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Why not use the systems that muslims have been using for centuries? I’m sure this is not the first time in history that muslims wanted to buy houses? Maybe the historians should dig up the old records and see what we were doing before?

  15. Pingback: US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies « Loan Marketplace

  16. Avatar

    Siraaj

    October 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Guys, the investment industry as a whole in this country is a gigantic sham. There is more than enough academic and journalistic content to fill a lifetimes worth of reading discussing every single one of these scams. Wall Street has lobbyists galore selling us debt and investments to clear our bank accounts and fill their own pockets.

    Want an education? Take a loan that can’t be paid back to attend a big name university while will have zero impact on your life after you get in the door of your first job.

    Want a home? Don’t rent bro, buy a house because rent is just money down the drain – yearly property taxes, interest (or you can call it rent if you like), and maintenance costs on your personal time and finances are obviously not. Bad credit? No problem, here’s your sub-prime loan with jacked interest rates (sorry, “rent”).

    Want furniture – finance your furniture.

    Want to survive old age? Drop it in a 401(k), we’ll definitely make sure we only make safe investments.

    Please bear in mind that not one single one of these organizations escapes the “do this is if you absolutely must, it’s better not to” clause. If you want to test your own sense of taqwa about this, here’s the litmus test – upon seeing the fatwa, were you intent on buying the house that maxes out your creditworthiness? Or were you intent on getting a place to own because you “need” rather than emotionally want to spend on a house because everyone else does?

    If you truly “need”, I would like to see all of you avoid costly new homes, costly upgrades, costly anything. Buy a manufactured home for pennies on the dollar and put it on a property that doesn’t break the bank, that you can pay off within five – ten years. I sincerely doubt most people will do this.

    For solutions to all these issues:

    1. Stop investing your cash like lambs lead to the slaughter – invest it towards increasing your earning potential. Tech careers continue to explode and do not require a four degree, but mastery of the technology you want to work with.

    2. Learn to save money – learn how to save on groceries, learn how to purchase lightly used goods whose value only depreciates at significant discounts (cars, furniture, etc).

    3. Save up for a reasonably priced home that meets your needs – most people don’t need more than 2000 sq ft of home. Look into getting a manufactured home:

    https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=manufactured+homes

    In summary, don’t believe the hype. Every single org that has commented here and elsewhere stands to make money from your business. Most of you do not care about shari’ah compliance – you’re looking for the cheapest loan, and you’ve already determined, ironically, that despite the fatwas from various scholars who support one org (and not another, and vice versa), they are the exact same as banks, so you’re going for the bank loan.

    There’s a small percentage of you that want the home, but were waiting for a fatwa, and once you got it from anywhere, you were ready to take the loan. If you’re in this group, slow down and so do some more research.

    There’s a tinier percentage that remains skeptical, but still wants a home – what I’ve written above is mostly for you. You can have that home, but you need to be smart about it.

    And then there are the almost nonexistent people like myself who rent, who save up and pay cash for everything, who are thrifty, who mostly stay out of debt, and realize the system for what it is – do items #1 and #2, ignore #3, whoever said you can’t participate in society without home ownership doesn’t seem to have done their homework.

    • Avatar

      DustonB

      October 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      Akhee, no offense intended but if you really think that the average person can just “save up” for a manufactured home then you are way out of touch with reality.

      At 1400 square feet the manufactured home that my wife and I are getting is still going to be $145,000

      Do you really think that the average person can just “save up” that amount of money?

      • Avatar

        Siraaj Muhammad

        October 28, 2014 at 7:09 PM

        Absolutely. Have you researched how “average” people are buying homes without debt? I would encourage looking into this.

        Groceries are one of the biggest expenses. Strategic couponing can cut grocery bills over 90 – 95%. Have you investigated this?

        What is your profession? Have you first considered upgrading your professional skills and then saving for a home?

        • Avatar

          DustonB

          October 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM

          Siraaj, Median household income in the United States is $44,000
          How can a family with a household income of $44,000 buy a house without taking out some sort of loan?

          In order to save up the $150,000 it would take to buy a modest home it would take nearly 20 years to save up the money barring any emergencies and assuming that they are able to find an apartment to fit the family for less than $1000 per month.

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        December 3, 2014 at 9:47 AM

        Siraaj, you’re still not answering my questions.

        It’s okay to admit that you’re wrong.. it doesn’t make you a lesser person just because you hadn’t considered a perspective outside of your personal experience.

  17. Avatar

    Yasir S.

    November 10, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Assalam U Alaykum,
    I was comparing Guidance & University Islamic Financial for last couple of months for buying a home at right time and did lots of research. I saw AMJA ruling on MM web site on weekend which puzzled me more. With all due respect to AMJA scholars, I do not see any difference on both besides financing model or contract but no sure why scholars have little bit favorable ruling for Guidance.
    Guidance is using this ruling as the only Sharia compliant company in USA which is totally wrong. I think AMJA should clarify their position on Guidance’s claim.

    Here is why I do not see any difference:
    1: Both works with Freddie Mac but AMJA ruling did not mentioned about Guidance.
    2: Both charge late fee but AMJA ruling mentioned about Ameena but skipped Guidance…
    3: AMJA mentioned insurance payout for Devon & UIFC but this applies to all companies regardless of Musharikah or Murabaha. Insurance company always issues a check for both mortgagee & customer for repair. If house fully paid off then check will go to customer only. Even if we consider it is ok to have both names for Guidance because of Musharikah then Guidance should keep portion of claim as their % of share but they do not or cannot.
    4: Bank’s right to freeze the purchaser’s account: This applies to all contracts but AMJA mentioned only for Devon & UIFC… I don’t think anyone can freeze account because of suspicion until customer stopped making payments. Please keep in mind both UIFC & Guidance follow same investor FREDDIE MAC guidelines.
    5: Bank’s right to declare property in default mentioned for Devon & UIF. Same rule applies to any company who work with Freddie.
    I apologize if I offended anyone but based on my experience and little research I don’t see any difference between UIFC & Guidance unless someone can explain.
    Jazzak Allah Khair.

    • Avatar

      asim

      October 26, 2016 at 5:46 PM

      I agree with you. I went by the Fatwa as well and purchased a house through Guidance. I see no difference in terms of paying back loan. It is same as the regular bank. I feel betrayed and am frustrated. You would think that Im not a scholar in Islamic finance but any lay person who pays a monthly mortgage bill would understand that so called islamic banks are not much different than the regular banks.

  18. Avatar

    Samuel

    November 16, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    I am puzzled by this declaration by US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies as one of these companies listed OK to do business with sold my brother’s mortgage loan after few months to another conventational bank. I would like to see more documentation published AMJA backing their “fatwa” declaring some banks halal and some are not.

  19. Avatar

    kamal hassan

    December 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    I need some one realy to convince me with,: Now if i rent i will pay around $1200-$1400 a month, where if i buy a house will cost me around $900 and the house will be mine, where when you rent you throw money a way. Where the sense in this matter. And by the way when you pay your mortgage of $900 a month for example, you will get about half of that back in the saving if you pay 3% interest. where the 3% doesnt cover the bank expenses to cover the loan.

  20. Avatar

    DustonB

    December 3, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I notice that NONE of the Islamic finance institutions have stopped in to explain why they refuse to provide any form of loan or financing package for the construction of new homes.

    If their structure doesn’t allow for new home construction then I challenge that the entire structure is flawed and cannot possibly be 100% Islamically compliant.

    • Avatar

      SS

      January 13, 2015 at 12:31 AM

      http://www.amjaonline.org/en/articles/entry/amja-resident-fatwa-committee-resolution-about-islamic-home-financing-companies-in-the-us

      AMJA resolution about Islamic Home Financing Companies in the US

      The AMJA Fiqh Committee Resident Fatwa Committee met in Houston on the 20-22 of Dhul-Qadah 1435 A.H. (September 15-17 2014 C.E.) in order to issue a resolution concerning Islamic Home Financing in the United States. This meeting took place after an entire conference had previously been held on this topic, in which papers were discussed in the presence and with the participation of representatives of most of the relevant companies. This was followed up by correspondence between the Resident Fatwa Committee Fiqh Committee and those companies with an attempt to clarify and respond to the Shareeah issues that are present in their contracts. Sh. Jamaal Zarabozo (may Allah preserve him) also participated in this meeting in Houston. Click here read the full declaration
      Ameen Housing: (See updated Fatwa below) 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 Shareeah 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 Shareeah 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.
      Addendum about Ameen Housing contract (As for Jan 2015)
      All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the blessings and peace be upon the final Prophet and upon all of his family and Companions.
      The Fiqh Committee of AMJA had issued a declaration explaining the issues in the contracts of the Islamic Home Financing Companies in the United States. That ruling was based on the contracts that they used at the time of the issuing of that declaration. With respect to Ameen Housing, two issues were of major concern. One was the late payment fee when a person paid his rent late and the other was the issue of the cost of maintenance being properly distributed between the two parties wherein Ameen returned a fix percentage of the rent to the buyer/renter regardless of the actual amount of maintenance expenses.
      After the issuing of that declaration, Ameen Housing—may Allah reward them for responding positively to that declaration—have now discontinued their late payment fee policy and have clarified to the Committee that the distribution of the maintenance expenses is handled in a way that is just.
      Based on the above, the Fatwa Committee now rules that the contracts that Ameen Housing is now using are consistent with the laws of the Shareeah. We have now no Shareeah objection to their practice and it is permissible for Muslims to purchase homes through them.

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        January 13, 2015 at 9:47 AM

        Thank you for completely wasting your time and not coming close to addressing the issue that I raised. By all means, continue posting long paragraphs of useless information.

  21. Avatar

    SS

    January 13, 2015 at 12:33 AM

    Addendum about Ameen Housing contract (As for Jan 2015)
    All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the blessings and peace be upon the final Prophet and upon all of his family and Companions.
    The Fiqh Committee of AMJA had issued a declaration explaining the issues in the contracts of the Islamic Home Financing Companies in the United States. That ruling was based on the contracts that they used at the time of the issuing of that declaration. With respect to Ameen Housing, two issues were of major concern. One was the late payment fee when a person paid his rent late and the other was the issue of the cost of maintenance being properly distributed between the two parties wherein Ameen returned a fix percentage of the rent to the buyer/renter regardless of the actual amount of maintenance expenses.
    After the issuing of that declaration, Ameen Housing—may Allah reward them for responding positively to that declaration—have now discontinued their late payment fee policy and have clarified to the Committee that the distribution of the maintenance expenses is handled in a way that is just.
    Based on the above, the Fatwa Committee now rules that the contracts that Ameen Housing is now using are consistent with the laws of the Shareeah. We have now no Shareeah objection to their practice and it is permissible for Muslims to purchase homes through them.

  22. Avatar

    DustonB

    January 13, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    This whole conversation is just underscoring a fundamental disconnect that most Muslims seem to have from the reality of the American experience. an overwhelming majority of immigrant Muslims came here based on their high level of professional skills and therefore obtained occupations in the high income brackets, which then led to their children having a huge advantage in educational opportunities.

    There’s nothing wrong with that and I have nothing against them for that. Alhamdulillah for their success.

    However, they seem to think that the experience they have with household incomes in the six figures is the norm in America and don’t have any comprehension that there are literally MILLIONS of Muslims in American who are struggling to get by and who have no choice but to take a loan in order to get a house or else be stuck renting for the rest of their lives.

    I’ll say again, the median income for America is $44,000. If your plan does not include or help people in that income bracket then your plan is already flawed.

    If your plan has no place for people below that bracket then it is also challenged.

    Islam is a pathway for all people, as a way of life for all people any method must somehow apply for all people. If it doesn’t, then it is not fully Islamically compliant.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed

      August 5, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      While it would be great if every Muslim can be financed through these companies, it’s simply not possible. These aren’t charity organizations and it’s their right to make a profit. If they just approved everyone, they would go out of business. Then instead of having some companies which are permissible to deal with, you’ll end up with no company.

      If a Muslim in America needs to buy a house and cannot get approved by any of the permissible organizations, God will be forgiving if that Muslim decides to go with a conventional bank.

  23. Avatar

    Kamran

    April 27, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    Just two days ago I asked two different sheikhs about if there was any shariah-compliant home-financing scheme with which they agree. They both separately said about guidance:

    First one: It is halal but not the spirit of Islam.

    Second one: I think guidance is halal because giants like Taqi Usmani and Sheikh DeLorenzo have endorsed it. Moreover, we once had Q/A with Sheikh DeLorenzo and he was able to answer all our questions.

    Thought I would share.

  24. Avatar

    Rashid

    March 12, 2016 at 4:29 PM

    What are the names or websites address of those who qualify under AMJA Fitwa.
    thanks

  25. Avatar

    Rashid

    March 12, 2016 at 4:30 PM

    What are the names or websites address of those who qualify under AMJA Fitwa in Canada.
    thanks

  26. Avatar

    S

    April 27, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    Please reply with the valid companies in Canada. Thank you.

  27. Avatar

    Burned by AHC

    November 23, 2016 at 4:42 PM

    I would NOT recommend Ameen Housing to anyone, honestly. I am trying to get out of my home ownership contract with them. They keep increasing the rent on you and charge your exorbitantly to exit. At this point, it look like I will have paid them $60K more in less than three years than what I would have paid the alternate Islamic model I’m trying to change to.

    • Avatar

      PotentialBuyer

      November 29, 2016 at 4:12 PM

      @BurnedbyAHC, would you please let us know which alternate financing you’re going for?

  28. Avatar

    Arjmand

    September 4, 2017 at 11:11 PM

    @BurnedbyAHC Assalamu alaykum. May Allah make ease in your affairs. Can you please give more details? I am considering Ameen Housing so I want to know everything beforehand.

  29. Avatar

    Shamini Rajendram

    January 29, 2018 at 6:19 PM

    I brought this article up to LARIBA in my dealings with them, this was their reply:

    Yes, we are aware of AMJA. We tried to contact them through our Shari’aa scholar Dr. Muhammad Adam Sheikh – a Temple University Ph.D. in Islamic Studies – and Secretary of Fiqh Council of ISNA without success.

    We had two options to respond:
    1. To enter into attacks and counter attacks which would bring us into the sad culture of the Middle East, or
    2. To find a world famous INDEPENDENT Shari’aa Audit company that looks at our work in great details and decide if we are Shari’aa compliant or not.

    We found: RAQABA; a World renowned Independant Audit company with offices in London and in North Carolina. It is headed by a world famous scholar: Dr. Abdubari Mashaal who was Shari’aa scholar at Alrajhi – the largest Islamic Bank in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Finance House.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/abdulbarimashal/ and
    https://www.zoominfo.com/p/Abdulbari-Mashal/1817458356

    After reviewing our work for 3-months and going through our process, they issued an audit report on our UNIQUE finance model based on Baiul Istithnaa. Their conclusion is LARIBA model is Shari’aa Compliant. We also AUDIT our finance operations annually by Raqaba.

    I am pleased to attach the Shari’aa Audit in Arabic and in English. Also, the Research Paper on our Model published by the TOP Islamic Finance Shari’aa Ressearch (can be found at https://www.lariba.com/Independent_Shari'a_Auditor_s_Report-English.pdf )

  30. Avatar

    M. Ali

    April 12, 2018 at 7:46 AM

    In my opinion there is no difference among all those So called Islamic Finance and average non Islamic bank, The matter fact I think getting a conventional loan with fixed interest rate from any Non Islamic Bank is much better an straight forward transaction….All these Islamic banks are non Islamic due to the matter fact their system built on twisting Islamic rules into their favor and very much they use interest but in different language, they change the terms of interest into utilization fee; that is insane and if you really want to help Muslim community you need to really help Muslim community by raising money for who is in needs and not make them pay THREE time the price of the house and call this murabaha, that is BS! if you want Murabaha dont balloon the price to make Muslim suffer more, where is the mercy and helping signs when you charge excessive rent and your profit is guaranteed, that is not sharing!, If you want to help I will suggest this Method of profit:
    If I find a house in the price for example $300k, here are the steps it should be taken:

    1- Since the Bank have all cash money, go and bargain with the seller to get the house for 10 to 20% cheaper and I am sure you can since you are going to be a cash buyer and this will make the purchase price about $250k.

    2- I as a buyer will agree to buy the house for the price from 300k to $350k it depends on how long will take me to pay the house, VS $700k when you use interest or rent to own excessive fees.
    Most of these Islamic banks are here for profit and not for helping Muslim community, they are out their to help them self for profit and nothing wrong with that, But the problem is when you use Islamic terminology as a selling tools, that is the problem and this what GOD prohibited.
    I dare those So called Islamic banks to show me what is the benefit of using them over non Islamic banks, ,,Just name one!

  31. Avatar

    Arjmand

    July 10, 2018 at 9:33 AM

    Assalamu alaykum,

    What about Ameen Housing? Are they the same?

  32. Avatar

    Bob Hannah

    February 28, 2019 at 8:01 PM

    The scholars forgot or chose to ignore the modernist Islamic view that riba was the exploitive moneylending to the poor as practiced at the time of the prophet. It is not the same as interest in modern regulated financial markets.

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#Life

7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health.  Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.

New Year's Resolutions
Who uses sticky notes on a cork board #stockimagefail
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It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

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#Life

I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator
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It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.

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