A woman in her 30s in a headscarf hails the worshipers as they leave Eid salah. Feeling a curious mix of guilt and joy, most don’t hesitate in handing over some money. They have cash in their pockets and purses today, expecting to give it as gifts to the children in their own families.
Some have not paid their Sadaqah Fitr [charity due before Eid Salah] and jump at the chance to give it in person. The woman looks like she is in need, she also knows the right things to say.
From New Orleans to London, beggars have become a part of the Eid and often Jumuah prayers. A set of seven or eight were outside a large East Coast masjid, says Sarah S., who was visiting family. Some are visibly Middle Eastern or from the Indian subcontinent, and many are supposedly Romani, often holding index cards asking for money.
The worshipers at a local Islamic Center were also targeted by a group of women and children, who would be dropped off by a man in a white van. They had been coming for years.
In the past the board of the center politely requested that they stop begging and fill a zakat form. They refused and eventually admitted that they were not Muslim. “[This Ramadan] I chased them out,” says Ibrahim Zuberi, Director of Communications at the center. He told them that they have to leave immediately or the center will call the police to report trespassing.
According to a documentary made by the BBC, in the United Kingdom gangs dress women and children in modest clothes and headscarves, despite not being Muslim. [Update: Read Qristina’s comment below on Romani culture and dress which includes loose, long clothing and headscarves.] They know that giving to the poor is a religious tenet and that is why the beggars single out ‘wealthy’ Muslims, say the documentary makers. They target masajid and areas popular with rich tourists from the Gulf States and their minders collect all the funds at the end of the day.
Kimberly H. has encountered some beggars around the DC Metro area. “It burns me up that they’re likely just taking advantage of the generosity of certain brothers and sisters at Eid. Last year, a woman followed her into a store and asked her for money (after giving a perfect salaam),” she said. Hutchins did not fall for it as her suspicions were raised.
She saw the same woman at the area wide Eid salah last year, where she begged her for money. “I told her, game’s up, you asked me for money a few days ago. Not this time, either,” Kimberly chastised her.
Kimberly says she had a horrible feeling that the woman was working a ‘job’ and could be part of a human trafficking gang. “If I know what I know, and I could be wrong, this is their job, they are sent out by [a] pimp-like man to do this every day and they give him a cut [or] all of what they make begging,” she shares.
Kimberly’s hunch could be correct. Malika Bey-Rushdan, Director of ICNA Relief Boston, sent a warning in an email to ICNA donors during Ramadan, “Many of you have seen the Romani women outside your masjids begging for money – this is a network of Romani people (gypsies). They are not in need!! They are dropped off at the masjids and picked back up after the prayers; often by [men] in very nice cars. Beware. They are taking advantage of your generosity.”
Bey-Rushdan suggests people educate themselves about beggars, as many of the women and children are victims of trafficking. “The best thing to do is contact the authorities,” writes Bey-Rushdan.
Young children in hijab are used to wheedle hearts and then all the money collected is taken away by their minders. The manipulation of using babies and kids on the corner on the occasion of Eid also offends Hutchins, a mother of young children. “Everything about it screams ‘wrong’.” She felt uncomfortable that they find Muslim places of worship and have acquainted themselves enough so that they can “blend”.
Myths and Tropes about Romanis
There are many myths and tropes about Romanis that further complicate matters. Needless to say, not all Romanis are criminals or beggars and some are Muslims. They have a horrific history of persecution in Europe; many were enslaved until the mid-1800s in Romania after they left the Punjab region of India as early as the 11th century. More than half a million were murdered by the Nazis during World War II.
They distrust governments that persecuted and forcibly assimilated them, took away their children and sterilized them, and forced them to adopt a nomadic lifestyle that is considered unconventional, partly to preserve their heritage. Even though there are roughly one million Romani Americans, many who are non-nomadic, anti-Gypsy laws have been in effect in the United States until 1998. You read that right.
Historically, they have been banned from owning property in the countries they settled in, barred from many professions, and not given the opportunity to get an education. Because of this, they end up in marginal professions.
They are seen as callous trouble-makers, who don’t care for their children, leading to severe racial prejudice. According to writer Isabel Fonseca, who spent four years researching Gypsies, “Gypsy women, whatever the earnings of their husbands, are ultimately charged with supporting and feeding their children.” They do not let anyone take care of their children, except family and friends. So to think that all Roma would willingly give up their children to become beggars— or worse sell them —is simply dehumanizing them.
‘Gypsy’ kidnappers are also a myth that has been used for centuries to other this oppressed minority.
Many Romani think the term gypsy itself is an ethnic slur and do not wish to be called by it (the term ‘I got gypped’ also stems from this same racial bias). Their entire race is looked upon as criminal and so they are treated as a ‘lower race’.
Just as there are criminals in every race, there may be in the Roma people too. Just like there are people in each community who take advantage of desperate people in their own community, there may be in the Roma community as well.
In general, begging or duping people is a universal phenomenon which cannot be confined to one race.
Many people wonder if the beggars, Roma or otherwise, are really in need, are doing this as a job or are being forced into panhandling. They feel bad for beggars in general and recall the hadith:
“Do not turn away a poor man…even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near you…God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376.
Give a little if you wish or don’t if you would rather not- but beware of dehumanizing people who maybe already going through harsh circumstances.
The best way to make sure your donations get to someone in real need is to give it person to person through trusted family, community workers, through international organizations, or to local Muslim charities.
Reported by Abu Hurairah : Messenger of Allah said, “It is better for anyone of you to carry a bundle of wood on his back and sell it than to beg of someone whether he gives him or refuses.”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age
I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.
While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.
Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!
- Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.
- Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
- Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.
A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.
Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!
In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.
Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #2: Do Women Desire Sex?
In this episode, we ask an obvious question with what seems like an obvious answer – do women need sex? Obviously, yes.
If that’s the case though, then why is expressing a sexual need, or seeking help for sexual issues such a taboo in Muslim cultures?
Loving Muslim Marriage | Is it Haraam to Talk About Sex?
Female sexual nature and female sexual desires are often misunderstood, especially among Muslims. There are some classes and seminars by Muslim speakers that offer advice to Muslim couples about intimacy but unfortunately, the advice is not exactly aligned with correct female sexual nature.
So we decided to come together to clarify these misunderstandings and explain the sexual nature of women and their desires, so we can help build healthy intimacy within Muslim marriages leading to happier Muslim marriages.
This is going to be a series of videos that we will release every week, inshaAllah.
What should be expected out of these videos?
Each video will address a specific myth or misconception about either female sexuality, or Muslim marriage to help men better understand women. We will also explore male sexuality and other subjects.
– to help better quality marriage
– to help couples- both men and women- get a more satisfying intimate life
– to help women navigate intimate life in a manner where they are fulfilled, paving the way for involvement and desiring of intimacy; breaking the cycle of unsatisfying intimate lives for both husband and wife
Please keep in mind that these videos are for people with normal sexual desires — they are not meant to address asexuality.
The content of these videos is a mean to provide marital advice based on mainstream orthodoxy as well as best practices and relationships.
Some experts joined us in these videos to offer their expertise from an Islamic and professional perspective:
Shaikh AbdulNasir Jangda: He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and at the age of 10 began the road to knowledge by moving to Karachi, Pakistan, and memorizing the entire Qur’an in less than one year. After graduating from high school, he continued his studies abroad at the renowned Jamia Binoria and graduated from its demanding seven-year program in 2002 at the top of his class with numerous licenses to teach in various Islamic Sciences. Along with the Alim Course he concurrently completed a B.A. and M.A. in Arabic from Karachi University. He also obtained a Masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Sindh. He taught Arabic at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2005 to 2007. He served as the Imam at the Colleyville Masjid in the Dallas area for three years. He is a founding member and chairman of Mansfield Islamic Center.
He is the founder of Qalam Institute and he has served as an instructor and curriculum advisor to various Islamic schools. His latest projects include Quran Intensive (a summer program focusing on Arabic grammar and Tafsir), Quranic analysis lectures, Khateeb Training, chronicling of the Prophetic Biography, and personally mentoring and teaching his students at the Qalam Seminary.
In these videos, Sh. Jangda helped present the Islamic rulings and corrections of various misconceptions regarding intimacy and female sexuality.
Dr. Basheer Ahmed: He is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with 18 years of teaching experience at various medical schools. He started off his career by teaching at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York as a Psychiatrist in 1971. Then he started his own private practice in 1984 till the present time. Meanwhile, he continued to teach at various universities around the U.S.
He is also the Chairman of MCC Human Services in North Texas.
In these videos, Dr. Basheer explained several psychological conditions that women may suffer through when they are sexually dissatisfied in a marriage.
Zeba Khan: She is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate.
She helped address the uncomfortable myths and misconceptions throughout these videos and helped provide the correct perspective of female and marital intimacy for Muslim couples to enjoy a better marriage.
Usman Mughni: He is a Marriage & Family Therapist and holds a Master’s of Science degree
Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, along with a degree in diagnostic medical imaging. He worked as a therapist at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in the Center for Addiction Medicine. Usman has experience providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families at Northern Illinois University’s Family Therapy Clinic along with experience working with individuals, couples, and families struggling with chemical dependency and mental health diagnoses and running psychoeducational group therapy at Centegra Specialty Hospital’s partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
Since Usman enjoys working with couples to help bring tranquility back into the marriage and providing premarital counseling to couples who hope to have a successful marriage at a time when divorce seems to be on the rise, he especially joined us in this series to offer his expertise. He highlighted the most common intimacy issues in Muslim marriages that he has observed throughout the years of his experience as a therapist. His insights and knowledge has helped us clarify many misconceptions not only regarding female sexual nature but also about men and marital intimacy.
Ustadha Saba Syed: She has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language and Literature at Qatar University and at the Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.
She’s been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage, family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas. SHe also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.
She took the initiative of putting together these videos because through her pastoral counseling experience she realized that there are many marital intimacy problems in Muslim marriages, mainly due to the misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding female sexuality and female sexual nature.
Hence, with the speakers above, and with these videos we hope to clarify and explain as many myths and misconceptions that we believe have become a hindrance to happiness and success in Muslim marriages. We welcome your comments and suggestions in order to make this series more successful.