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We Are All Being Tested

Umm Zakiyyah

Published

“Do you believe that your struggle is more severe than the personal trials of every other Muslim? Why then do you say yours is “unfair”? Is it unfair because you are facing it, or is it unfair because you believe no other trial is at least as severe?”

— from the journal of Umm Zakiyyah

During the most difficult and confusing times of our lives, our faith is often shaken. We begin to question who we are and what we believe. Sometimes when there is no one around to hear us but the walls of our room and God above the heavens, we cry out, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?”

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Our despair can be due to the death of a loved one, to a terminal illness diagnosis, or even the loss of a coveted career or educational opportunity. But regardless of the details of our individual trials, beneath each episode is the excruciating feeling of helplessness because we have lost—or we are at risk of losing—something that is dear to us or something that we believe is essential to our sense of self or the meaning of our lives.

No one is exempt from life’s trials, not even prophets and righteous people.

Allah says,

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When [will come] the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is [always] near.”

—Al-Baqarah (2:214)

UZ Corner

Can You Help Me?

Being in a position where I’m regularly contacted by people seeking advice during some of the most difficult and trying times of their lives is very humbling. Emails, phone calls, and whispered stories in which someone seeks help and guidance are parts of my daily life, as it is for many public figures, community leaders, and respected members in the Muslim community.

Though the details of each story are unique, many of those seeking advice have very similar (and sometimes identical) struggles. But not every narrative is shared for the purpose of receiving spiritual direction. Some people need only a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen with empathy and without judgment to their pain and confusion. For most of us, both are essential to getting through a difficult trial. Thus, it is a combination of both religious honesty and nonjudgmental compassion that we all need when we reach out to someone and say, “Can you help me?”

When We Don’t Care What’s Right

In facing the inevitable trials of life, there are times when we don’t care what is right or wrong and we merely want what we want even if it means displeasing Allah. In these circumstances, our reaching out and seeking advice is usually for the purpose of eliciting from someone affirmation that, in response to our trial, we don’t actually have to do what we know full well Allah has required us to do.

What makes this spiritual trauma both crippling and self-destructive is that we are not always conscious of our illicit intentions. It often takes an outsider looking in to point out the sometimes obvious inconsistencies in our words and actions, inconsistencies that go far beyond the natural, inevitable inconsistency that we are all riddled with as humans. Destructive spiritual trauma occurs when our trials exacerbate the darkness of our souls, when we are effectively throwing ourselves headlong into sin and, more tragically, disbelief.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “The believer is the mirror of the believer.” Thus, during these times, our entire perception of reality hinges on someone holding up a mirror in front of us and showing us our reflections, no matter how repulsive our image might be.

Spiritual Destruction

When our trial involves open disobedience to Allah, it is excruciatingly difficult to face ourselves, so we often lash out at others and blame them for holding up a mirror in front of us. We often become meticulously critical of and ultra sensitive to everything that is said to us or to even how people behave around us. In this way, we project our guilty conscience on others and interpret nearly every word of advice as a personal attack. Sometimes we become, quite frankly, pretty nasty people to be around. Loved ones may even tiptoe around us, afraid that even the innocent “How are you?” will be interpreted negatively.

Sometimes we even provoke discord so that we can accuse someone of being mean to us, especially those who are reminding us of Allah and pleading with us to repent and change our ways. We might rush to social media so that we can play victim behind our Facebook or Twitter accounts, cushioned by the multitude of “likes” and “followers” who will nearly always support our pity parties…because we craftily frame our posts such that we evoke the most sympathy and the least scrutiny, sometimes even hiding behind someone else’s words or blog that we share on our page.

Some of us make the spiritually tragic choice to use social media to not only publicize our sin, but also to openly promote it. This promotion is often carried out under the guise of some greater cause or “spreading awareness” about an issue that we claim is close to our hearts (an issue that conveniently allows us to continue our sin guilt-free while painting others as harassers and aggressors if they, publicly or privately, tell us that we are wrong).

If we are promoting our un-Islamic lifestyle of drinking alcohol or interacting inappropriately with the opposite sex, our “greater cause” will likely be “Don’t judge.” If we are promoting our non-hijabi status, we will likely—in addition to championing the “Don’t judge” cause—criticize and shame movements that praise or support successful hijabis who are athletes, journalists, or public figures. “So are the only real Muslim women those who wear hijab?” we might cry out indignantly, even as the pro-hijab movements claimed nothing of this sort.

Thus, when our response to our test is so spiritually destructive that we have moved from feeling shame for our sin to openly bragging about it or even promoting it, it’s not good enough to merely have multitudes of people being kind and empathetic due to our struggles in the faith. We feel the need to go a step further and tear down those who are being positively recognized for their strengths in the areas that we have refused to work on spiritually.

Whose Trial Is More Difficult? Mine or Yours?

In the short story, “The Invitation,” we learn the trials of two best friends, Faith and Paula. Faith is struggling with her attachment to her high school boyfriend, John, as she comes to terms with her spiritual obligations after becoming Muslim. And Paula is struggling with her faith and sexuality after she decides to come out as gay—and convert to Islam.

Whose trial is more difficult? Faith’s or Paula’s? Oftentimes, when pondering the answer to this, we use our opinions, experiences, and selfish perceptions to come to a conclusion. However, we have no way of knowing whose test is more difficult because, ultimately, the most excruciatingly difficult tests are faced by those with the most emaan (faith) in their hearts.

Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who are the people who are most severely tried?” He replied, “The people who are tested the most severely are the Prophets, then the righteous, then the next best and the next best, and a man will be tested in accordance with his level of faith; the stronger his faith, the more severe will be his test” (sahih, Ahmad).

Thus, the level of difficulty a person faces through his or her tests is a matter of the unseen, as we have no way of knowing the level of righteousness in a person’s heart.

This Is So Unfair!

It’s difficult not to look at someone else’s life and think that they have it easier than we do. After all, we experience firsthand only our own trials, not anyone else’s. As such, we have intimate knowledge of the painful nuances and visceral realities of whatever trial we’re facing. We have no way of having that same level of knowledge regarding someone else’s life, no matter how close they are to us, in our hearts or circumstance.

“This is so unfair. This is so f—ing unfair.”

These are Faith’s angry words from “The Invitation” in response to her difficult trial—and they mirror how so many of us feel about the tests Allah gives us, even if we don’t speak these words aloud.

None of us is immune to the degeneration of the human spirit. We can all fall victim to the darkness of sin that mars our souls. And we can all fall victim to imagining that Allah is being unjust or “unfair” by giving us a trial that no one else has to face.

But ultimately, we are all being tested…and we can all pass our tests, with the help of Allah.

And, unquestionably, the help of Allah is always near.

 

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy. Her latest novel Muslim Girl is now available.

To learn more about the author, visit ummzakiyyah.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

Copyright © 2014 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.

WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG

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Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah writes about the interfaith struggles of Muslims and Christians, and the intercultural, spiritual, and moral struggles of Muslims in America. She is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, behavioral therapist. Her books have been used in universities in America and abroad including Indiana University-Bloomington, Howard University, University of D.C. and Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. To learn more about the author, visit uzauthor.com.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Hadi

    January 6, 2015 at 1:27 AM

    Dear Sis, Asalaam a laikum wrwb,
    Masha allah very well written, very inspiring!
    Barak Allahu feekum.

  2. Avatar

    p4rv3zkh4n

    January 6, 2015 at 8:08 PM

    The intellectual richness of Islamic Theology provides us with many reasons for having trials, some of which include:

    1. The primary purpose of the human being is not enjoying luxuries but rather it is to know and worship God.

    The main purpose of the human being in this life is to submit to the will and decree of Allah and worship Him, revere Him and know Him.
    “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Quran 51:56]

    2. God also created us for a test, and part of this test is to be tested with suffering to see how we act. The Qur’an mentions “The One Who created death and life, so that He may put you to test, to find out which of you is best in deeds: He is the all-Almighty, the all-Forgiving” [Qur’an 67: 2]

    3. Having hardship and suffering enables us to realise and know God’s attributes such as ‘the Victorious’, The granter of security, The Responsive, The Helper, and ‘the Healer’.

    4. God has given us free will, and limited free will includes choosing between good and evil acts. Thus sometimes human sufferings are the divine legislated consequences of their own actions.

    5. Struggling through hardships can be a means of tawassul.

    When Musa alaihissalam was in Midyan alone and away from his family, he cried out to Allah;

    “O my Lord, indeed I am for whatever good You would send down to me, in need.” [Quran 28:24]

  3. Avatar

    Zane Khan

    October 22, 2015 at 5:34 PM

    Being gay is definitely harder. Faith can eventually overcome her boyfriend and find another muslim to love and marry. Paula can never get married because she is gay. Paula also probably feels constant shame and guilt like all of us gays who do not act on our desire. To be gay is such a hard test, one of the most severe. The people who acted on it were punished the worst, as mentioned in the Quran in Surah Lut. Muslims who are gay either leave Islam or commit suicide. This speaks volumes about the severity of this test.. On top of being hard, it’s just so confusing. Why am I gay if Allah hates it? Did Allah make me gay? I didn’t choose to be gay. How do I become un-gay? It’s virtually impossible. How do I even imagine the joys and spouses of Jannah if I don’t even swing that way? Am I supposed to live my life all alone? People will start to suspect my homosexuality if they see I chose not to get married….

    May Allah SWT give all the gays who don’t act on their desires the highest level of Jannah.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Umm Zakiyyah

      October 22, 2015 at 7:22 PM

      Zane, thank you for your comment. Ameen. May Allah give all believers who strive against their desires and hold on to their faith Jannah without account.

      I agree with you 100% that the test of being gay is definitely harder than not being gay, if we are looking at the lens of life through sexuality alone. However, life is much more nuanced than this. If we pick any trial and look at life through that lens alone, then whoever has the obviously more difficult challenge will have the harder test. Sexuality is not a small matter, but neither is hearing, seeing, communicating, having good health, not living in poverty, living in a war-free region, not being physically tortured everyday, not being imprisoned, and the list goes on.

      The point of my post was to point out that the trials of life touch everyone, and the extent that those trials try that person to the very core is a matter of the ghayb (unseen) about which only Allah knows. Yes, being gay is technically a harder trial than not being gay. However, this doesn’t mean that every gay person has a more difficult life than every non-gay person.

      The Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, taught us that those with the most difficult trials are the prophets and messengers, then those with the most emaan accordingly. Thus, can anyone argue that a gay person today has a harder life than Allah’s prophets, or the Companions, and the most faithful of the believers?

      I definitely believe the suicide rate amongst gays and their rate of leaving Islam points to a very trying test. However, the truth is, it is the minority of all of humankind who will die as believers. So the trial of holding on to one’s faith, like the trials of life itself, is not merely about sexuality. In fact, some trials are so severe that some people lose their appetite for physical pleasures altogether.

      The goal of anyone who is striving with any personal trial should not be to question Allah, but to focus on the Hereafter, as Allah decrees trials in ways we do not understand. In Surah Al-Baqarah (2:102), Allah tells us about the Angels Harut and Marut who taught the people sihr (magic): “But neither of these two [angels] taught anyone [such things] till they had said [to them]: ‘We are only for trial, so disbelieve not [by learning magic from us]…”

      Why send these angels with something that would only cause people to disbelieve? we might ask. Yet Allah says, “He (Allah) cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they (humans) will be questioned” (21:23).

      Thus, for any of us to go astray or commit suicide due to frustration with the tests Allah has given us is something we’ll be questioned about, and if this is combined with disbelief, we will not be pardoned or forgiven for it. In light of the severity of life itself, it is of little benefit to argue who’s test is harder, as we already know that emaan comes with the greatest trials, regardless of any other trial that comes along with it.

      May Allah make our affairs easy for us, and may He give us tawfeeq upon His religion. And may He protect us from the whispers of Shaytaan, the evil of ourselves, and all forms of misguidance and kufr. And may He forgive our sins, have mercy on us, and take our souls in the best way and grant us the highest success in this world and in the Hereafter, though we could never deserve this great blessing.

      • Avatar

        Zane Khan

        October 27, 2015 at 7:31 AM

        Assalamu alaikum Umm Zakiyyah,

        May Allah SWT continue to grant you immense wisdom, clarity, and strength. I don’t want to compliment you for I know you won’t want that, but I will say this: Allah SWT has given you a lot of understanding.

        I was wondering if there was a way I could reach out to you and if I could ask your advice?

        • Umm Zakiyyah

          Umm Zakiyyah

          October 27, 2015 at 11:07 PM

          Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Zane

          Ameen, and may Allah (SWT) increase you in righteous knowledge and may He write you down amongst those whom He loves and grant you Jannah without account.

          You may contact me at ummzakiyyah@yahoo.com

          BarakAllaahufeek.

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Tech

6 Phone Hacks to Stop Muslim Pro from Selling You Out to the Military

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Vice News has released an article stating the popular app Muslim Pro has been, perhaps unknowingly, selling location data to military contractors. Essentially, this means that your information ends up in the hands of the military itself.

Apps can be monetized a number of ways beyond the one-time app purchase or subscriptions.  Different types of data can be gathered from your phone by the app.  That data can then be sold to others who are interested in harvesting that data for different uses.

In the case of the Muslim Pro app, it’s been found they have been gathering location data from user phones and selling it to the company X-Mode, which in turn sells this to various entities, including military contractors.  Regarding X-Mode clients, the Vice article notes:

Those clients have also included U.S. military contractors, Motherboard found. Included in archived versions of the “Trusted Partners” section on its website, X-Mode lists Sierra Nevada Corporation and Systems & Technology Research as customers. Sierra Nevada Corporation builds combat aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, and supports contractor Northrop Grumman in the development of cyber and electronic warfare capabilities for the U.S. Army. Systems & Technology Research works with the Army, Navy, and Air Force according to procurement records, and offers “data analytics” support to intelligence analysts, according to its website.

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It’s important to note that the Muslim Pro app isn’t the only app that makes use of X-Mode. As well, many app developers who were available for comment stated that they did not realize their data was being resold for military purposes.  Muslim Pro has not yet responded to inquiries with Vice.

By no means is this problem limited to the Muslim Pro app, nor is selling our data to the military the only nefarious use of our data. It is troubling nonetheless to know that this practise is occurring.  Irrespective of whether this was or was not done with bad intentions, we should still understand how to protect ourselves from inadvertant breaches like this.

Location Services: Privacy Concerns and a Major Battery Drain

Many don’t realize that having location tracking constantly toggled on by default on one’s phone is a major drain on the device’s battery.  Add to that various apps that have asked you to opt in on gathering your location data (which they send to others), and you’re looking at multiple recharges daily, even on brand new phones.  Let’s review how you can increase your privacy and battery life.

1. Toggle Location Setting to “Off”

The first is to simply toggle your Location setting to off.  This prevents the phone from gathering location data.  There’s usually no need for it to be on, and it’s a huge drain.  Google will try to sell you (well, they already do) on the possibility of losing your phone and better customization of services.  Ignore it.  Here’s how you turn it off:

2. Remove App Permissions’ Access to Your Location

There will come a time when you want to toggle Location on, such as when using a map-based app to travel.  You probably don’t want 100 apps sending out your location info while you make legitimate use of location tracking for your personal benefit.  You may also want to keep location tracking on your kids’ phones for tracking their whereabouts.  Here’s how to prevent specific apps from tracking you:

One caveat to keep in mind – many apps that give you the option of “Only while in use” are still in use even if you’re using another app – they’re sitting in the background until you truly close them out.

3. Turn off Location History Tracking

Google keeps track of where you’ve been if you’re signed into a Google account, have location history turned on, and you have location reporting turned on.  They do this on both Android and Apple Devices.  To turn off tracking, and to automatically have it deleted:

Apple doesn’t have a good support article describing how to disable Location History tracking under their Significant Locations settings, only delete.  Here’s a straightforward article on both deleting the history and disabling tracking:

4. Mask Your Online Activity with a VPN

A vpn (virtual private network) hides your online activity, identity, and location information while browsing or making use of streaming services.  Some commercial providers include:

To learn more about VPNs, read this article.  Please note that many use VPNs to perform illegal and unethical activity anonymously, such as downloading copyrighted material from torrenting sites – as Muslims, we do not and should not condone such behavior.

5. Turn off Ad Tracking and Location-Based Ads

Based on your online behavior and search history, ads will be targeted at you, and there are location-based ads shot your way as well.  Here’s how to turn them off:

Please note that this doesn’t prevent you from seeing ads.  This prevents advertisers from gathering your personal data and then retargeting ads specific to what they know about you.

6. Turn off Bluetooth

It’s not just for connecting AirPods and Beats headphones.  While GPS tracking can get your location over a wide range, its precision is limited.  Bluetooth beacons in stores can talk to your phone’s bluetooth and pinpoint your exact location and tell stores how long you’ve been in a particular area.  If you’re interested in learning if there’s a Bluetooth beacon in your store talking to your phone, try using the Beacon Scanner.

  • Disable bluetooth on Apple
  • Disable bluetooth on Google Android:
    Go to Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > Bluetooth
    – Toggle the button from On to Off

Conclusion

We hope that the makers of the Muslim Pro app are more careful with whom they sell our data to.  I would recommend they remove any SDK code that sends location data of users to them and others.  It can be lucrative to re-target customers by selling their data, but this shouldn’t be done unless the reseller’s partners are thoroughly vetted.

For the rest of us, it’s important to closely monitor how our phone data is used to make money from us.  It’s better to have a minimalist approach to phone and app usage and invasiveness.  This article isn’t exhaustive in covering all the ways one can truly secure themselves; however, these are some significant steps one can take to begin protecting themselves and their families.

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#Islam

Undisputed And Undefeated: 13 Ways Khabib Nurmagomedov Inspired Us To Win With Faith

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Many fans anxiously watched UFC 254 with bated breath as Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov went head-to-head with Justin “The human highlight reel” Gaethje. The latter had just come off a spectacular TKO win against a formidable and feared fighter in the form of Tony Ferguson, beating him over 5 nerve-wracking rounds by outstriking him with a combination damaging head shots and crippling low kicks.

We all knew what both would do – Khabib would go for the takedown, and Gaethje would try to keep the fight on the feet and opt for stand-up striking – which fighter’s strategy would prevail? Alhamdulillah, it was Khabib, in a mere 2 rounds.  We weren’t in the fight, but we are all nervous and supplicating, making du’a to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give him another victory.

And so it was that after the win, he collapsed in the middle of the ring to cry, as this was his first fight after the loss of his father due to complications with Covid-19. He cried, and many a man cried with him, feeling his pain. Gaethje revived from his triangle choked slumber and consoled his former foe, telling Khabib his father was proud of him.

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We were all sure when “The Eagle” got on the mic, he would say he wanted to fight GSP, George St Pierre, and then retire 30-0, as he had said in previous press conferences leading up to the fight.  Instead, he surprised us all by announcing his retirement at 29-0, and I couldn’t help but marvel that not only was he turning away from a lucrative final fight, but the way in which he announced his retirement reminded us of our faith, our deen, our religion, Islam.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an

“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”

Throughout his MMA career, Khabib has proudly worn his faith on his sleeve. As he has risen to become the current pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world and arguably the GOAT, the greatest of all time, his unwavering example as a practicing Muslim transformed him into a global phenomenon and role model for many of us by reminding us to be better worshippers, to be closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Let’s look at a few of the ways he did this:

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

The announcer at UFC 254 began by congratulating Khabib on a job well-done yet again by praising him, stating, “The world is in awe of your greatness once again…your thoughts on an epic championship performance, congratulations.” Khabib didn’t immediately begin talking about himself. Instead, he said:

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

After stating this, he went on to announce his retirement, his reasons for retiring, and thanked everyone who supported his professional MMA journey.

The Reminder

Alhamdulillah is literally translated into “All Praise Belongs to God”. Khabib begins by thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), pointing out that his talents and abilities are a gift, a blessing from the Most High. When we have any blessing from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we must remember that whatever our own effort, our abilities, our support, and our achieved outcomes ultimately tie back to support from our Rabb, our Lord, who controls all.

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

If you’ve ever seen Khabib point at himself, shake his finger back and forth as if to say, “No” and then point up to the sky, this is a nonverbal way of him saying, don’t think all these great things you see are from me – they’re from Allah above.

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

You may have noticed at the end of Khabib’s victory, when the announcer states that he’s the winner of the bout, he falls into a prostration known as Sajdat al-Shukr – the Prostration of Thankfulness (to Allah).

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

Performing this is recommended when someone receives something beneficial (eg good news, wealth, etc) or if they avoided something potentially harmful (e.g. job loss, healing from a disease, etc). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would do this when he received good news. The believer should remember to be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as much as they can.

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

Years ago (early 2018), Khabib visited my local masjid in Santa Clara, California (not far from where he was training in San Jose at the AKA gym). Many at the masjid didn’t know who he was, but we heard he was the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight championship belt, at that time held by Tony Ferguson.

He did a Q & A with the community, and someone asked him a general question about what he would recommend for the youth.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing:

Take care of your prayers, if you come to Day of Judgment not take care of your prayers, on that day you will be smashed.

The Reminder

The second pillar of Islam that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded us to follow is to pray to Him 5 times daily. Khabib was no doubt referencing the following statement of the Prophet (saw):

“The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost…”

 

 

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda notes that when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) first began his mission of da’wah and faced devastating rejection from family and community, Allah told the Prophet to stand and pray. The reason for this is because when we are weak and suffering, the place to turn to for strength is back to Allah in prayer. There is no doubt Khabib’s strength came from his connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which in turn came from his 5 daily prayers.

Praying multiple times daily, consistently, can be challenging; when it was legislated by Allah to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) kept telling him to go back and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a reduction, saying, “Your people will not be able to handle it.”

Khabib is a great reminder that no matter how high you climb in life and career, no matter how busy you think you are, worshipping Allah is the most important deed one can do, and this discipline is the most important habit to build.

4. Strong Wrestling Game

Some say Khabib is already 30-0 for wrestling a bear

In a sport that sees far more striking and kicking than it does wrestling, Khabib came to dominate the lightweight division of the UFC with a strong grappling style that is a combination of sambo (a Soviet martial art), judo, and wrestling. Famously, he outwrestled a bear when he was much younger.

During his fights, he doesn’t close out his bouts by pummeling his opponents and causing them damage as most strikers would. Most of his hits open up his opponents to being forced to tap out via submission. Even his last opponent, Justin Gaethje, noted that he was much happier to be choked out in a submission, as all he would get is a pleasant nap, as opposed to striking, which could have long-term health consequences.

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not only able to wrestle, he took down the strongest wrestler in Makkah. Rukanah, the famed Makkan wrestler, challenged RasulAllah because of his hatred for the da’wah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted his challenge and took him down multiple times, body slamming him again and again. It was said that after the conquest of Makkah, Rukanah accepted Islam.

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

During the post-fight press conference with UFC President Dana White, it was revealed that Khabib had broken one of his toes 3 weeks before the fight. Prior to that, he had taken two weeks off upon arriving at Fight Island having contracted mumps, according to AKA trainer and coach Javier Mendez. Khabib is quoted as having told Mendez, “My toe may be broken, but my mind is not.” In addition to this, his father had just passed away months earlier, and this would be his first fight without his father present.

Mumps, broken toes, and the emotional turmoil of family tragedy

The Reminder

In addition, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has told us, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone…” This strength includes strength of body, mind, and spirit; not just when conditions are perfect, but when trials surround you from every conceivable direction.

6. Relationship With His Father

After defeating Justin Gaethje, Khabib went to the center of the ring and cried, and everyone cried with him. We all knew his father’s death weighed heavily on his mind and his heart, and this was his first fight without him. His father was his mentor and trainer, whom everyone could obviously see he both loved and greatly respected.

In the post-fight question and answer with Dustin Poirier, Khabib was asked, “What’s your message for your young fans out there who look up to you so much?” he responded:

“Respect your parents, be close with your parents, this is very important. Parents everything, you know, your mother, your father, and that’s it, and everything in your life is going to be good, if you’re going to listen to your parents, mother, father, be very close with them, and other things come because your parents gonna teach what to do.”

The Reminder

There isn’t enough space in this article to go over how much emphasis our faith places on respecting our parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully. [17:23]

7. Relationship With His Mother

Our parents ultimately want us to succeed, but also want us to maintain our well-being. Without his father’s presence, it was clear that Khabib’s mother didn’t want him continuing in the Octagon (the UFC ring). After 3 days of discussion, Khabib gave his word to her that this would be his final fight. After beating Justin Gaethje in UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring because he promised his mother that he would retire and that he’s a man of his word.

The Reminder

This hearkens back to a statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about how much respect mothers deserve. A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He (saw) said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet finally said, “Your father.”

Khabib easily had millions more to make on a journey to hit 30-0 in his professional fighting career and decided to hang it all up to make his mother happy. This is true respect and obedience, and for that matter, the love of a mother for her son and his well-being over monetary gains.

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

When asked about the comparisons between himself and Muhammad Ali, Khabib stated that it was an inappropriate comparison. He noted that Muhammad Ali didn’t just face challenges in the ring, but challenges outside of it due to racism, and that he was an agent of change with respect to bringing about greater civil rights for African Americans.

The Reminder

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

From the 7th century until today, our faith recognizes that people are not judged by their race, but by their actions and the intentions behind those actions. In the video above, Khabib recognized both the wrongness of racism, and the challenge it posed along the way of Muhammad Ali’s own journey, and that his contributions to social justice transcended his involvement in sport.

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

With the exception of the fight with Conor McGregor, Khabib always dealt with his opponents with respect. He hugs them, shakes their hand, and says good things about their accomplishments and strengths both before and after fights. In a sport known for heavy trash talking and showboating to build hype, Khabib kept his cool and his manners.

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

Maintaining good character and conduct during press-conferences was Khabib’s calling card; even when trash talkers like Tony Ferguson tried to go after him, he would still recount Ferguson’s formidable stature as a fighter.

When reporters tried throwing him a softball opening to insult Ferguson’s mental health, Khabib responded that he didn’t want to talk about Tony Ferguson’s problems if he they were real; if Ferguson truly has a problem, then we should help him, as we all have problems.

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

As mentioned above, Khabib is known for being very respectful of his opponents during press conferences. He speaks well of their strengths, shakes their hands, hugs them; he even runs up to his opponent after a fight and hugs them, consoling them and wishing them well. After his win against Poirier, he traded shirts with him and donated $100k to Poirier’s charity.

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

The exception was the infamous UFC 229 which Muslim fans watched holding years, maybe decades of pent up anger at the type of crass secular arrogance represented by Conor. We desperately wanted Khabib to maul the mouthy McGregor. The latter had gone after his family, his faith, his nationality, anything and everything to hype up the fight and try to get under the champ’s skin. Some people lose their calm, and others, well, they eat you alive.

Khabib made it clear he wasn’t having any of that. He took the fight to Conor and choked him out with a neck crank. We then learned why he was called “The Eagle” as he hopped the cage and jumped into the audience to go after other members of Conor’s team who had spoken ill of him, giving birth to “Air Khabib”.

The Reminder

When our faith and family is spoken of in an ill fashion, it’s not appropriate that we sit there and take it. Khabib never cared when it was criticism against him, but once it went to others around him, he took flight. We as Muslims should never give anybody who tries to attack and dehumanize us a chance to rest on their laurels. We should strive ourselves to take the fight back to them by whatever legal means necessary, as Khabib did, whether it is cartoons of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or political pundits and satirists who monetize hatred against Muslims.

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

In numerous public instances, Khabib reminded us that our faith demands we don’t shake with the opposite gender. As one of my teachers taught us, the Qur’an instructs us to “lower our gaze” when dealing with women. If we shouldn’t even look at them out of respect for Allah’s command, how can we take it to the next level and touch them?

Extended to this is even more serious physical contact like training at the gym. Cynthia Calvillo, one of Khabib’s teammates at AKA gym, said the following about Khabib and his unit:

“It’s a little bit weird because of their religion and stuff…They don’t talk to women you know. I mean we say ‘hi’ to each other but we can’t train with them. They won’t train with women…I don’t think any other woman does.

The Reminder

Our faith places stricter physical and social interaction boundaries between men and women. Keeping matters professional and respectful with the opposite gender need not include physical contact. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was said to have never touched non-mahram women. It was narrated that he said,

“It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is impermissible to you.”

For this reason, the majority of scholars prohibited physical contact between men and women with some exceptions (e.g. old age). Watching Khabib maintain this practice, even in public where it could potentially embarrass him and cause undue negative attention, gives us all inspiration to deal with this issue in the workplace better. He encourages us to strive for better tolerance and awareness of our faith rather than forcing us to conform.

12. Not Making a Display of The “Trophy” Wife

If you follow Khabib’s Instagram, you won’t find lewd pics of him and a significant other. In fact, you won’t find any pictures at all of him and his wife. Who she is is a mystery to all. In an age and a sport where many post photos with their romantic partners, Khabib again is a standout with his gheerah, his honorable protectiveness for his significant other.

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

We are again reminded that a part of manhood is to have protective ghayrah, jealousy over one’s spouse. Ibn al-Qayyim also said, bringing in the concept of chivalry,

“The dayyuth / cuckold is the vilest of Allah’s creation, and Paradise is forbidden for him [because of his lack of ghayrah]. A man should be ‘jealous’ with regards to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general, but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in not allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.”

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

Finally, it should be noted there is no real scholarly disagreement on prohibiting striking the face. Recognizing this, Khabib stated when asked if “he thinks the AlMighty will be satisfied with him for taking part in haram fights for money,” he replied, “I don’t think so.”

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

“You go to mosque because nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and we have to ask Allah to forgive us. This is very important mentally, to be clear with Allah. This is not about the UFC. There is nothing else more important to me than being clear with Allah. And being clear with Allah is the No. 1 most hard thing in life.”

The Reminder

We as human beings aren’t perfect – perfection is only for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We all make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes large, but in the end, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is ready to forgive us if we’re willing to recognize our failings and ask to be forgiven.  Allah says in the Qur’an in 2:222:

“Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”

There are no sins so great that redemption is beyond any of us. Whatever Khabib’s flaws, his value as a positive change maker and faith-based role model globally outweighs his negatives.

Part of seeking forgiveness is the process, and the first part of that process is acknowledging the mistake. This means not being in denial about it or not justifying it, just owning it. As Khabib has owned his mistake publicly, there is no need for us to try and justify it either.

We can own that there are problems with MMA and the industry, in participating as well as watching and supporting. At the same time, we can do as Dr Hatem al-Hajj said about Muhammad Ali:

Concluding Thoughts

While UFC pundits will forever debate over the greatest of all time, there is in doubt that Khabib Nurmogomedov, the first Muslim UFC champion, will always be our GOAT.

I ask that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepts the good from what Khabib has done, rewards him tremendously for the inspiration he’s given us all to better focused on the akhirah, the next life, and continues to make him a powerful sports icon who uses his platform as Muhammad Ali did to teach Islam and exemplify it in the best way for all of us to benefit and follow.

Ameen.

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#Life

The Khabib Halal/Haraam Ratio: Good Character, Bad Sports, And The Conundrum of Muslim Representation 

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Published

This The Muslim Ummah has spent the last several years celebrating the rise and success of MMA fighter Khabib Normagomedov, a Muslim Daghestanti fighter who emerged to become an undisputed victor. On the day of his 29th victory, he also announced his retirement from MMA, referencing a promise that he made to his mother.

Muslims went wild in their praises, showering him with adoration, expressing their admiration of his obedience to his mother, his public demonstrations of sajdah ash-shukr after every match, his humility and remembrance of Allah, and his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at public events. Undoubtedly, these are all praiseworthy behaviours and characteristics that should be encouraged in all Muslims, especially Muslim men. 

However, there has been a near-deafening silence on the underlying problematic foundations of the entire phenomenon of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his popularity amongst Muslim men. To begin with, his entire career as an MMA fighter is considered sinful and prohibited according to the Shari’ah. It is well-known that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

وَعَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-{ إِذَا قَاتَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ, فَلْيَتَجَنَّبِ اَلْوَجْهَ } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ.‏ 1‏ .‏

‏1 ‏- صحيح.‏ رواه البخاري (2559)‏، ومسلم (2612)‏ واللفظ لمسلم، ولتمام تخريج 

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“When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, al-Fath, 5/215).

Scholars have agreed that any sports which involve striking of the face, and in addition, those which involve several physical harm and injury to its participants, are haraam. As per the hadith, and established legal maxim, “laa darar wa laa diraar” (There is no harming of others nor reciprocation of harm), this prohibition extends to sports such as boxing, MMA, American football, and any other sport where the athletes deliberately and regularly inflict and receive physical injury. 

On The Ropes

This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Indeed, it is disturbing and unfortunate that this fact has been minimized to such an extent that many Muslims – including and especially the Muslim men who are such avid fans of these sports – are not even aware of this prohibition. Perhaps most alarming is that many of those who are considered scholars, imams, shuyookh, and leaders in the Muslim community, who are aware of this prohibition, have neglected to mention these rulings even as they publicly praise those such as Muhammad Ali or Khabib Nurmagomedov for their prowess in these arenas, and hold them to be role models to follow. When even religious authorities are publicly cheering on such athletes and celebrating their victories, how can the average layman be expected to know that these sports are detested by the Shari’ah? It is a grave shortcoming that so many religious teachers and leaders have failed their fellow Muslims on a matter that has been extremely public and popularized. 

It is also necessary for Muslims to consider that the way that professional boxing, wrestling, MMA, and similar prohibited sports are conducted is a far cry from the casual (and permissible) fighting-for-sport that existed at the time of RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Today, the sports industry boasts billions upon billions of dollars spent in promotional material and events that involve no small amount of music, alcohol, vulgarity, and nearly-naked women being used solely to titillate the male gaze; sponsors of teams and athletes include beer companies. 

Glutton For Punishment

Male and female ‘awrah alike is revealed, openly and blatantly, normalized as part of the sports environment. Concern over the male ‘awrah being revealed cannot be overstated when we have an Islamic tradition that emphasizes modesty for believers, male and female. The greatest of all human beings, the Messenger of Allah, was described as “… more modest than a virgin in seclusion”

(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5751, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2320). The Prophet Musa (‘alayhissalaam) was known to be so modest that he kept his body covered at all times (Sahih Tirmidhi); the Companion ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) was described as having such modesty that the Messenger of Allah himself said, “Should I not be shy of the one whom the angels are shy of?” (Sahih Muslim 2401)

Related to modesty is the reminder to Muslim women who have been watching his matches (or any other entertainment) to lower their gazes. Bluntly speaking, it does not behoove a believing woman to be enjoying the sight of half-naked men (especially the very fit, athletic, and often attractive type) to be grappling away at each other. Muslim women are certainly not immune to the fitnah caused by the flaunting of undressed men all over social media feeds and through other entertainment.

The warnings regarding zina of the eyes apply to Muslim women just as they do to men; the Qur’an has already said:

{And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their private parts…} (Qur’an 24:31) 

It is unfortunate that this has been forgotten about to such an extent that even scholars have neglected to address this particular issue.

Rolling With The Representation Punches

While Khabib himself has been praised for his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at events that he is present at, we should be cognizant of the fact that neither he nor any other Muslim man (or woman) should be putting themselves in the position of being at such events to begin with. The truth of the matter is that his presence at these events was a necessary part of his career; his income, derived from this haraam sport and this haraam environment, can bluntly be considered haraam rizq, and no different in legal ruling than those who make money from liquor stores or running brothels. That Muslims have been blithely ignoring the serious spiritual ramifications of this raises the question of just how seriously we take the issue of blessed rizq in the first place. 

It is clear that many Muslim men, and in particular the religiously observant, find in Khabib a type of Muslim representation that they crave: someone who is publicly and unapologetically Muslim, who has demonstrated impressive physical skills and capability (perhaps they’re living through him vicariously?), who has displayed exemplary conduct outside the ring, who has constantly held fast to publicly and unashamedly remembering Allah and speaking of Islam. 

In and of itself, this is admirable. The Muslim Ummah has had a dearth of heroic contemporary role models, and no one can be faulted for feeling love for someone who seems to embody such laudable character and conduct. However, we cannot simply stop there. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves the question of what kind of Muslim representation is the kind of Muslim representation worth having – and how, and where, that representation takes place. 

When Muslim women have entered the public space, providing “representation” in the form of a muhajjabah in Playboy magazine, a hijab wearing model in a beauty pageant and the modeling industry, a hijabi in Olympic sports, and plenty of non-hijabis in many other areas, there has been a great deal of valid, legitimate criticism regarding the concept of “Muslim representation” and what it entails. Amongst conservative Muslims, there is a shared belief that “representation” at the cost of upholding the halal and turning away from the haraam is not representation worth having. Indeed, such “representation” comes with a significant amount of damage to the collective social and spiritual health of the Ummah: there is normalization of platforms that are antithetical to Islamic values, of dressing and conduct that go against our Shari’ah, and encouraging younger generations to engage in those behaviours and to pursue those types of careers. 

Why, then, are we not holding our Muslim brothers to the same standard? No matter how inspiring Khabib’s conduct is, no matter how admirable his public representation of his Muslim identity, his career and all that comes with it cannot be considered permissible, acceptable, or encouraged in Islam. Unfortunately, we have had many Muslim men encouraging one another to watch his matches, to the extent of arranging watch parties in the masjid! (Someone, please, answer me truly: how would RasulAllah consider the enthusiastic watching of a haraam sport in the House of Allah?)

Blow-By Blow: Izzah of the Ummah?

Furthermore, the excuses made for Khabib’s career choice are, frankly, flimsy – he has not brought ‘izzah to this Ummah in any tangible way other than making Muslim men feel good about themselves (I mean, hey, I get it, but sorry, this ain’t it); he is not “intimidating the kuffaar” (let’s be real: the kuffaar at the UFC are making more money off of him than you could ever dream of having in a lifetime); his victories in the ring are not a victory for this Ummah (please, go ask the oppressed Muslims in Burma, Somalia, Yemen, East Turkestan, Palestine, Kashmir, and elsewhere how much of a victory his matches have been for their well-being). Indeed, questions have risen regarding his public appearances with Vladimir Putin and his possible political allegiances with Russia, which has a long history of brutalizing Muslims in their surrounding regions. 

At the end of the day, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a paid athlete, whose millions of dollars come from a prohibited sport, in an industry that reeks of filth from beginning to end. He is our Muslim brother, and what should be celebrated is that he has finally chosen to leave the industry. What we should not have done, nor continue to do, is to hold his career as an MMA fighter to be exemplary for Muslims in any way, shape or form. We should pray for his guidance as a Muslim, his forgiveness for his previous sins, and remind our Muslim brothers – no matter how emotionally swayed they may be – that true ‘izzah comes not from participating in prohibited sports or careers (despite how successful one may be at it!), but from obeying the Law of Allah and His Messenger and abstaining from transgressing the boundaries laid by the Shari’ah.

This article was reviewed by a scholar for religious content.

Further resources on rulings:

https://islamqa.info/en/answers/10427/ruling-on-boxing

https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/429082/boxing-is-forbidden-even-without-striking-the-face

https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/329518/going-to-gym-that-has-yoga-lessons-boxing-and-sauna

Is Watching Boxing Allowed in Islam?

Punching or Striking the Face

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