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The Ultimate Muslim Men’s Guide to Grooming

Omar Usman

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Every time I solicit khutbah topic ideas from people, someone inevitably suggests istinjā (how to clean yourself after using the restroom). Although not the typical heart-stirring, faith-boosting, spiritually-uplifting, ready-to-change-the-world type of topic – it is a pressing need. It seems many people weren’t taught simple common sense. Beyond that, there are some unique challenges Muslim men face. For example, what kind of hair product will keep you looking sharp— but is able to survive repeated wiping from wet hands during wudu?

In this guide we’ll cover what you need to make sure you’re following the sunnah, and we’ll also cover how to take your game to the next level.

Foundation

Hadith of the fitra

Five are the acts of Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, cutting the nails, plucking the hair under the armpits and clipping the mustache [Muslim].

Keeping your hair and beard neat and clean-

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was in the mosque when a man came in with dishevelled hair and beard. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) motioned with his hand that he should be sent out to groom his hair and beard. The man did so and then returned. The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Isn’t this better than that one of you should come with his head dishevelled, as if he were a shaytan?” [Malik]

Personal hygiene is a habit-

“[The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)] fixed the time for us paring the mustache, trimming the fingernails, shaving the pubic hairs and plucking the underarm hairs – that we not leave it for more than forty days.” [Tirmidhi]

 

Deodorant

Normally a discussion on the importance of using deodorant and which brand to use happens around … 7th grade. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people missed out on that talk.

If you don’t use any, please do. If you don’t think you need it because you’ve never used it before, please start. The only real tip to add here would be to use deodorant and avoid antiperspirants (they clog you up).

Beard

The hardest part about a beard is learning to trim it yourself. Finding a barber who knows how to properly handle a long beard can be difficult. Although, as hipster beards become more commonplace it is hoped that some hipster barbershops will help serve the ummah in this regards.

Trimming

I prefer the scissor method. Automatic clippers work so well for up to a certain length, after that you have to get all artisanal with your facial hair. If you opt for the clipper route, any run of the mill clipper will do fine.

I recommend grabbing a Philips Norelco 7300 – This will help you clean up the mustache area and around the lip. The major bonus of this item is that it has a vacuum so you don’t get hair all over the sink.

Soft

There’s now a whole industry around beard care products. Make sure you are shampooing/conditioning your beard. A couple of products to try.

Shampoo and Conditioners

Oils

Beard creams / balms

Beard Brush

*Be careful here. Most brushes use boar hair (i.e. swine). This is the only one I was able to find that uses horse hair.

On the Go

Make sure you keep a pocket comb handy at all times.

Body Hair

We have 3 areas to cover here: armpits, down there, and – for certain ethnicities amongst us – probably your back. Compared to getting a beard trim, getting help here could get a little awkward. Luckily there is something that lets you handle your business on your own – The MANGROOMER.

Next Level

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. If you need it, get it.

  • Balla Powder – The name should give away what it’s for. Stay dry, combat odor, and so on.
  • Dude Wipes – Istinjaa on the go.

MANicure

Simple and straightforward from the hadith above – cut your nails. This also includes your feet.

Invest in a nail file. Jagged edges can cut people when you shake hands. You don’t need to go get a bunch of girly stuff, something simple like this will do what you need.

Hair

The greatest challenge to hair is putting product in your hair that can survive wudu. The problem is you can put something in your hair, but after you pray dhuhr it’s undone and you’re suddenly having a bad hair day. After extensive personal testing, I recommend the following two products as the best to use in your hair –

So there you have it. Hopefully these will help take you from the man you are to the man you could be. Feel free to share your favorite tips and products in the comments.

 

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow him on Twitter @ibnabeeomar. Check out his latest project at Fiqh of Social Media.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ibrahim Farrier

    December 31, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    I enjoyed the article! I learned quite a bit. I will be getting some Dude wipes with my next internet purchase. Excellent idea! I would like to say though, in my research on beard-care I might change a bit. It is generally not a good idea to shampoo your beard regularly. Yes wash it, and even use a conditioner, but a general concensus amongst beard enthusiasts is no more than 1 time a week for shampoo. To keep it soft and healthy looking, use a beard oil every day after you shower. It’s good through rinsing for wudu, as well. Lastly, I always strongly recommend to people that they use a soft bristle brush, and NEVER a comb. A comb rips tangles out and excessive hair. Ouch! Since switching from comb to beard brush I have even seen a noticeable difference to my beard. Making it thicker, softer and subsequently easier to manage throughout the day.

    Thanks for the link for the mustache trimmer. I need that little vacuum! I think i’my getting that, as well.

    • Omar Usman

      Omar Usman

      December 31, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      will have to try the bristle brush. any that you recommend?

      • Avatar

        Adrian

        April 27, 2015 at 12:00 PM

        I use http://detroitgrooming.com/products/firm-military-boar-bristle-brush and also http://detroitgrooming.com/products/soft-boar-bristle-long-handled-brush

        It’s a great company- I use a lot of their products. Worth giving a try for sure!

      • Avatar

        AA

        July 11, 2015 at 6:32 AM

        Please note that “boar” or any other swine products are a definite no no for muslims.

        Beware!

      • Avatar

        Ibrahim

        January 26, 2016 at 5:29 PM

        I’ve been using the tangle teezer elite for years for my beard. The pain of a comb and the ripping out of hair made for a bad beard day, every day. As a Household Manager i also take care of 3 girls. After getting desperate to end the daily tears i ordered a few more and tried on the kids hair. No more tears or even complaints at all! The youngest even likes to walk around the house with hers brushing her own and everyone else’s hair.

    • Avatar

      Nasir

      January 2, 2015 at 4:07 AM

      I agree. We shouldn’t shampoo/condition the beard regularly as it takes out the natural oils. I read an article from the guy who won the beard of the year and he said to shampoo the beard once a month.

    • Avatar

      DustonB

      January 5, 2015 at 11:59 AM

      I’ve been advised by a long-time barber to use a de-tangling comb which has alternating long and short bristles for the beard since it does not rip beard hairs out and will allow for a luxurious distribution of both natural and applied oils.

      Overall I really love this article, it’s one that I feel is long overdue and addresses practical information that we men desperately need but are often too shy to seek out.

      Kufis off to you! :D

    • Avatar

      Muhammad Usman Sheikh

      August 26, 2016 at 1:34 PM

      Trimming is not done by Prophet pbuh dnt promote trimming

  2. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    December 31, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    • Omar Usman

      Omar Usman

      December 31, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      i tried beardbrand’s oil.. liked the ones i mentioned in the article better

  3. Avatar

    Hassan

    December 31, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Did not know that shaving back was also needed islamically? Although I may definitely use MANGROOMER to scratch the back.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad

      January 2, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      I don’t think he mentioned that shaving the back was part of Islam. Take it as a good suggestion from your brother. If your lady likes it, then keep it for her.

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        January 3, 2015 at 2:23 PM

        I must have misread it then, it certainly came in flow.

  4. Avatar

    Ibn Adnan Al-Yutaawi

    December 31, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    Which hair product do you think is better out of the two you mentioned.

    • Omar Usman

      Omar Usman

      December 31, 2014 at 8:40 PM

      ive switched over permanently to the hanz de fuko spongewax for daily, and hanz de fuko claymation when i need a long lasting *firm* hold

      • Avatar

        megat

        May 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM

        Salam.

        Hanz de fuko is halal isnt it? I need some clarification on this. TQ brotha

  5. Avatar

    Ibn Adnan Al-Yutaawi

    December 31, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    WHich of the two products you mentioned do you think is better?

  6. Avatar

    Umm hadi

    January 1, 2015 at 9:23 PM

    Masha Allah well written and useful.
    https://alkalaamblog.wordpress.com/

  7. Avatar

    NikahExplorer

    January 2, 2015 at 3:09 AM

    JazakAllah Omar brother for sharing very good information about guide to grooming. MashaAllah.

  8. Avatar

    adam

    January 3, 2015 at 1:59 AM

    Is the anus considered Pubic hair that needs to be shaved?

    • Avatar

      Ismail

      January 4, 2015 at 12:37 AM

      Yes, from what I’ve learned. It is easier to clean ourselves after defecating when the hair in that region is shaved.

  9. Avatar

    Rahat

    January 4, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    I think you forgot to add on one more item… the miswak.

  10. Avatar

    Bahram

    May 1, 2015 at 7:53 PM

    Assalamo alaikom brother,
    I have tried to open a link on your web site relating to the halal mortgage (http://muslimmatters.org/2012/03/26/halal-mortgages-misuse-of-taqi-usmani-fatwa-and-other-important-questions/) and it does not open. I can open/access other links on your web site. Could you email me back privately or respond to this.
    JAZAK,
    Bahram

  11. Avatar

    Aasim

    May 22, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    Asa, is it better for us to comb or pick our beard ?

  12. Avatar

    Kirana

    July 8, 2015 at 6:14 PM

    Can I request that brothers please consider some styling in facial fair grooming? I mean, they can be so cool and “lumberjack chic” and yet Muslim men continue to grow them in an unkempt, “whatever” style which I think is unnecessarily unattractive. Please guys, while it’s bad to be vain, there’s a reason why the Propher pbuh put emphasis on care of appearance – people are drawn by, and want to be associate with, the group with physical charisma.

  13. Avatar

    farid

    July 22, 2015 at 1:38 AM

    Can I shave my anus ? I dont know it is really rights in islam or not ? please give me a good answer

  14. Avatar

    Sunnah Beards

    January 26, 2016 at 3:28 PM

    Salamualaikum Warahmatullah,

    We have recently launched (beginning of this month) Sunnahbeards.com a Toronto Based Beard Care company offering a variety of premium beard oils, and other grooming products. We’re also launching Beard balms and Shea butter soaps for each of our beard oil lines. We take pride in using 100% USDA Organic ingredients in our beard oils and phthalate free fragrance oils that are all natural. Best of all, all of it is handmade right here in Toronto, ON. Feel free to check out our website at http://www.sunnahbeards.com

    • Avatar

      Arshad

      March 24, 2016 at 5:29 AM

      Today, it’s my first day using sunnahbeards’ comb and Lion Den’s Beard oil. You should definitely try their products!

  15. Avatar

    Sunnah Beards

    March 10, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    Asalamualaikum Warahmatullah,

    I can recommend http://www.sunnahbeard.com for their amazing beard products! Please do give them a try inshaAllah. If you would like to create your own beard oil, have a look at http://www.sunnah-beard.com for a list of organic halal essential oils which can be mixed depending on what type of beard you have.

  16. Avatar

    Fattah M. Arif

    November 4, 2016 at 6:51 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum warahmatullahi waabarakatuh! I was wondering how necessary beard wash is. Currently, I use one of Bluebeard’s sets (beard wash, beard cream, and conditioner), but I cannot tell if it has had any positive effect (some brothers have said they noticed a change after I used it, but perhaps only because I mentioned it). I would reduce my product use to just oil (there are two Muslim companies that I’m considering: Elegance Beard and London Beard Company), but I also swim in my free time and worry about the effect of chlorine and saltwater on my head, facial, and body hair. I don’t know about the Muslim companies, but Bluebeard’s offers an extra-conditioning beard wash. What if I got that instead of separate washes and conditioners? Also, is it necessary to use body wash/soap when showering? Couldn’t a simple ghusl followed by deodorant and balla powder suffice? How about shampoo for head [hair]? I don’t use that more than twice a week but what if I just cut it out completely? My main goal is to minimize how much synthetic chemicals I expose my body to while remaining healthy/clean. Lastly, aftershave on armpits (in addition to deodorant)/pubic areas, Yay or nay? Jazak Allah Khayr!

  17. Avatar

    Mohammed

    March 16, 2017 at 6:25 AM

    Has anyone here tried the beard oil that comes with MuslimBox.Co’s sunnah pack?

    http://www.muslimbox.co

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#Life

Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Do Muslims Plan for Disability

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Families with children with disability have an extraordinary set of challenges and blessings.  Disability (or special needs) is a broad term.

Many disabilities will prevent what we often think of as “normal.”  It may hinder or prevent educational opportunities, and employment. Many people with “special needs” can get educated, get married and live long and productive lives.  The problem for many parents of younger children with special needs is that they typically have no certainty about their children’s future needs. Even if the situation looks dire, it may not stay that way.  

How do parents plan for a world where they may not be around to see how things will end up for their special needs children?  What can they do to help their children in a way that does not violate Islamic Inheritance rules?

Certain types of disability, especially the loss of executive decision-making ability, could also happen well into adulthood.  This can be a threat to a family’s wealth and be the cause of internal conflicts. This is the kind of thing every adult needs to think about before it happens.  

The Problem

The issues are not just that parents believe their special needs child will need more inheritance than other children. Muslim parents usually don’t think that. Some parents don’t want their special needs child to get any inheritance at all.  Not because of any ill-will against their special needs child; just the opposite, but because they are afraid inheritance will result in sabotaging their child’s needs-based government benefits.    

Many, perhaps most special needs children do not have any use for needs-based benefits (benefits for the poor).  But many do, or many parents might figure that it is a distinct possibility. This article is a brief explanation of some of the options available for parents of special needs children.  It won’t go over every option, but rather those that are usually incorporated as part of any Islamic Estate Planning.

Please Stand By

Example:  Salma has three daughters and two sons.  One of her children, Khalida, 3, has Down Syndrome.  At this point, Salma knows that raising Khalida is going to be an immense challenge for herself, her husband Rashid and all the older siblings.  What she does not know, however, is what specific care Khalida is going to need through her life or how her disability will continue to be relevant. She does not know a lot about Khalida’s future marriage prospects, ability to be employed and be independent, though obviously like any parent she has nothing but positive hopes for her child’s life.   

In the event of her death, Salma wants to make sure her daughter gets her Islamic right to inheritance.  However, if Khalida needs public benefits, Salma does not want her daughter disqualified because she has her own money.

Her solution is something called a “stand-by special needs trust.” This type of trust is done in conjunction with an Islamic Inheritance Plan and is typically part of a living trust, though it could also be a trust drafted into the last will.  I will describe more about what a special needs trust is below. For Salma, she is the Trustee of her trust. After she dies, she names her husband (or someone else) the successor Trustee. The trust is drafted to prevent it from becoming an “available resource” used to determine eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits that go with that.

If it turns out that Salma passes away when Khalida is 5, and her assets are held in trust for her until she is 18 and her Trustee determines she does not need a special needs trust, she will get her inheritance precisely like everyone else based on their Islamic right.  If she does need benefits, the Trustee will only make distributions to Khalida that would not harm her eligibility.

This way, there is no need to deny Khalida her inheritance because of her disability, and she is also making sure giving her daughter inheritance would not harm her daughter’s healthcare or other necessary support.  

Munir Vohra is a special needs advocate and an athlete

The Shape of Special Needs Trusts

A stand-alone Special needs trusts, which is sometimes called a “supplemental needs trust” the kind without the “stand-by” variation I described above, are a standard device for families that have children with special needs. A trust is a property ownership device. A Grantor gives the property to a Trustee, who manages the property for the benefit of a beneficiary. In a revocable living trust, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary are typically the same person.  

When the trust is irrevocable, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary may all be different people. In a special needs trust, the person with a disability is the beneficiary. Sometimes, the person with a disability is also the Grantor, the person who created the trust.  This might happen if there is a settlement from a lawsuit for example and the person with special needs wants it to be paid to the trust.  

In many if not most cases, the goal may not be to protect the beneficiary’s ability to get public benefits at all. Many people with a disability don’t get special government benefits.  But they do want to protect the beneficiaries from having to manage the assets. Some people are just more susceptible to abuse.

The structure of the arrangement typically reflects the complexity of the family, the desire of siblings and extended family to continue to be involved in the care and attending to the needs of the person with a disability, even if they are not the person directly writing checks.   

Example: Care for Zayna

Example: Zayna is a 24-year-old woman with limited ability to communicate, take care of her needs and requires 24-hour care.  Zayna has three healthy siblings, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her father, Elias, earns about $70,000 per year and is divorced. Zayna’s mother Sameena cannot contribute, as she is on social security disability. However, Zayna’s adult brother and sisters, brother in laws, sister in law and several aunts, uncles want to help Zayna meet her needs E.lyas creates a third party special needs trust that would ensure Zayna has what she needs in the years to come.

Zayna receives need-based public benefits that are vital to her in living with her various disabilities and her struggle to gain increasing independence, knowledge and dignity.  So the trust needs to be set up and professionally administered to make sure that when Zayna gets any benefit from her trust, it does not end up disqualifying her ability to get any needs-based benefit.  

Contributions to the special needs trust will not go against Islamic Inheritance rules unless made after the death of the donor.

If Zayna dies, her assets from the special needs trust will be distributed based on the Islamic rules of inheritance as it applies to her.

When disability planning is not about Public Benefits

Perhaps most families with special needs children do not use any needs-based public assistance.  They are still concerned about special needs and planning for it.

Example:  Khadija, 16, is on the autism spectrum. For those familiar with the autism spectrum, that could mean a lot of things.  For her parents, Sarah and Yacoob, other than certain habits that are harmless and easy to get used to, it means Khadija is very trusting of people. Otherwise, she does well in school, and her parents don’t think she needs way more help than her siblings and she has just as good a chance of leading a healthy and productive life as any 16-year-old girl.  

The downside of being too trusting is that the outside world can exploit her.  If she ends up getting inheritance or gifts, she may lose it. The parents decide that when she gets her inheritance, it will be in a trust that would continue through her life.  There will be a trustee who will make sure she has what she needs from her trust, but that nobody can exploit her.

In some ways, what Khadija’s parents Sarah and Yacoob are doing is not so different from what parents might do if they have a child with a substance abuse problem.  They want to give their child her rights, but they don’t want to allow for exploitation and abuse.

Considering your own needs

There are many people who are easy marks for scammers, yet you would be unlikely to know this unless you are either a close friend or family member, or a scammer yourself.  While this often happens to the elderly, it can happen at just about any age. Everyone should consider developing an “incapacity plan” to preserve their wealth even if they lose their executive decision-making ability.   

There is this process in state courts known as “conservatorship.” Indeed, entire courtrooms dedicate themselves to conservatorships and other mental health-related issues.  It is a legal process that causes an individual to lose their financial or personal freedom because a court has essentially declared them not competent to handle their affairs. Conservatorships are a public process.  They can cause a lot of pain embarrassment and internal family strife.

One of the benefits of a well-drafted living trust is to protect privacy and dignity during difficult times.

Example: Haris Investing in Cambodian Rice Farms

Haris, 63, was eating lunch at a diner.  In the waiting area, he became fast friends with Mellissa; a thirty-something woman who was interested in talking about Haris’s grandchildren.  The conversation then turned Melissa and her desire to start a business selling long distance calling cards. Haris was fascinated by this and thought it made good business sense. Haris gave Mellissa $20,000.00. The two exchanged numbers. The next day, Mellissa’s number was disconnected.

Haris’s wife, Julie became alarmed by this.  It was out of character for her husband to just fork over $20,000 to anyone on the spur of the moment.  What was worse is that the business failed immediately.  

Three months later,  Haris meets Mellissa at the diner again.  She then convinces Haris to invest $50,000 in a Cambodian rice farm, which he does right away.   His wife Julie was pretty upset.

How living trusts helps

As it happened though, Haris, a few years before, created a living trust.  It has a provision that includes incapacity planning. There are two essential parts to this:  The first is a system to decide if someone has lost their executive decision-making ability. The second is to have a successor Trustee to look over the estate when the individual has lost this capacity.  This question is about Haris’s fundamental freedom: his ability to spend his own money.

If you asked Haris, he would say nothing is wrong with him.  He looks and sounds excellent. Tells the best dad jokes. He goes to the gym five times a week and can probably beat you at arm wrestling. Haris made some financial mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

Julie, and his adult children Haroon, Kulsum, Abdullah, and Rasheeda are not so sure it’s just a mistake.  The living trust created a “disability panel.” This panel gets to vote, privately, in if Haris should continue to act as Trustee of his own money.  If they vote that he should not manage his own money, his wife does it for him.

The family has a way to decide an important and sensitive issue while maintaining Haris’ dignity, privacy and wealth.   Haris’s friends don’t know anything about long distance calling cards or a Cambodian rice farm; they don’t know he lost his ability to act as Trustee of his trust.  Indeed the rest of the world is oblivious to all of this.

Planning for everyone

Islamic inheritance is fard and every Muslim should endeavor to incorporate it into their lives.  As it happens it is an obligation Muslims, at least those in the United States, routinely ignore or deal with inadequately.  However, there is more to planning than just what shares go to whom after death. Every family needs to create a system. There may or may not be problems with children or even with yourself (other than death, which will happen), but you should do whatever you can to protect your family’s wealth and dignity while also fulfilling your obligations to both yourself and your family.

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Should Spiritual Leaders Who Violate Our Trust Be Forgiven?

Some people want to move past the indiscretions of community leaders quickly as though they never occurred while others wish to permanently blacklist them. This article examines a third option between the two that can be a win-win for the fallen leader, the victims, and the community.

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In the past couple of years, a number of simmering scandals among spiritual leaders became public knowledge and the subject of vigorous and often painful public debate.  As someone who has worked in the community dawah space the past 15 years, often acting as a bridge between past and present microcelebrity as well as non-celeb teachers to the community at large, one question I’ve been asked repeatedly – should community leaders who violate our trust be forgiven?  I’m often asked by people who aren’t fanboys / fangirls taken by microcelebrity dawah culture or wearing spiritual blinders for non-celebs, and often don’t even understand what has occurred.  Below I share answers I have heard as well as what I believe is fair and pragmatic in many (not all) situations.

Answer #1:  Yes, We Must Forgive Them

One group of people argue we should completely forgive them. No one is perfect, everyone is human and makes mistakes.  If we assume the mistake was truly made, then we should also forgive them and move on. Our faith is replete with statements about Allah’s Mercy, and if we want His Mercy, surely we should also give it to others. Oftentimes, members who fall into this group don’t actually believe the person in question is at fault and are trying to convince others either on the fence or against the individual to let it go. Of course, there are some who believe the violation occurred and not think it a big deal, while others may think the violation indeed was a big deal, and should still be forgiven. I can agree with some aspects of this, but not completely.

Answer #2:  No, They Should Never Be Forgiven

Another group believes that once a person commits a violation of trust, they are no longer to be trusted again. They should leave their positions and be ostracized from the community permanently. They are to be tarred and feathered and made an example of for life.  Members within this group oftentimes don’t need to wait for evidence to arrive at any conclusion – they were judge, jury, and executioner well before there was a trial.  Not all members are like this, of course – some waited for evidence and then reached their conclusions that the gravity of the charges was too much and therefore the person should never be forgiven.

Answer #3:  It Depends – Forgive Them If They Take Ownership and Make Amends

In my view, the problem with the first group is they don’t often see that the person did anything wrong, or if they did, it’s trivial relative to the khayr, the good and benefit they bring to the community. They keep citing that Allah is forgiving, so we should forgive automatically, but in their haste, they forget that part of the process of making restitution is first sincerely regretting what one has done.

To sincerely regret, one must also move out of denial and into acceptance that they made a mistake. Once one admits failure, they can then ask to be forgiven, and then the aggrieved party is in a position to grant it. The community forgiving and re-integrating a person who refuses to take responsibility for their wrongdoing does neither them, their victims, nor the community any good. We continue to distrust the person and they continue to believe they can get away with whatever they wish because they are “special”. Victims fear community integration, everyone becomes cynical about religion, and the cause of calling people to become better worshippers of Allah is harmed.

On the flip side, the second group is far too extreme in their view of justice. To ostracize that person and leave them no path of return means they have no means to redeem themselves, and de facto their families are casualties who must deal with the fallout of being pushed out of the community. I agree that none of us are perfect, and we all often make egregious mistakes. In my own experience, there are many instances where activists who advocate publicly for better are often involved privately in worse than those they go after.

That being the case, there is no person that can’t be forgiven, and I would say we shouldn’t leave aside this possibility in our dealings with those who fail us just as we expect it when we ourselves fall short, sometimes seriously so. I would add that we would lose the skills and talent of that person – if we believe in allowing people with criminal histories back into the general population and providing them with opportunities to become productive, reformed citizens, I don’t see why we wouldn’t offer the same to our community and religious leaders.

The key I believe is in following a process which includes the following for the individual:

  1. Taking ResponsibilityThey own responsibility for the mistake and acknowledge it was made.  No amount of denial, minimization, and spin will suffice.
  2. Make Restitution:  First and foremost, they apologize and make amends as best they can with the victims.  If the issue went public, then they should apologize to those they were serving as a leader for their mistake as well. This includes handling financial compensation.
  3. Remediating Oneself:  Enroll in counseling, therapy, mentorship, and / or group support programs to help them overcome their issues.
  4. Being Held Accountable:  Work with others on concrete milestones of both behavior and programs that demonstrate their commitment to change.  Be able to show the community that they take reformation seriously and are committed to coming out of their mistake a better person, one who can even advise others of the mistake and how not to repeat it.

As someone who has worked in dawah and supported the ascension of numerous modern-day microcelebrity spiritual scholars and teachers, I and others like me act as a bridge between them and the community.  I do not speak for all of them, certainly, but I know that any leader who tries to re-integrate into the community without taking responsibility will continue to find that many will not support them. Most, in this case, feel a sacred duty to oppose their elephant-in-the-room integration to protect the community at large.

Likewise, I know that many like myself would be willing to overlook and forgive such individuals if they took responsibility for their behavior and demonstrated they were taking concrete steps to make amends for their mistakes.  The month of Ramadan is upon us, and sometimes one just has to rip the band-aid off, go through the process of feeling the pain of scrutiny for owning up, and then moving forward to forgiveness.  I won’t promise it’s easy or that everyone will change, but I can at least say many of us would have an easier time accepting individuals back into the community.

What’s your view on these situations?

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