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Should I Take A Quarter Of A Million Dollars On Interest For Medical School Or Live A Terrible Life With Crushed Dreams Forever?

Omar Usman

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Originally posted at DebtFreeMuslims.com, re-posted here with some slight edits and updates. 

It’s my dream to go to medical school, and the only way I can do that is by going $250,000 into debt. Yes, that’s a quarter of a million dollars.

There’s a number of problems with this assertion, but the primary one in my mind is that binary thinking is never good. You always have more than just two options. Limiting yourself to an either/or situation is pinning yourself into a corner that doesn’t exist. This is a terrible framework to make any kind of decision, much less a life altering decision – especially one with such a high price tag. If you get this decision wrong, that’s a pretty expensive mistake.

You can look for an MD-PhD program and get your full tuition covered. Don’t you dare apply for a student loan and not even bother applying to one of these programs.

Look for other scholarships, even small ones. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of scholarship go unclaimed every year. Consider it a full time job and spend 40 hours a week looking for and applying to scholarships.

Waiting a couple of years after finishing your Bachelor’s to start medical school is not a life-threatening situation. Most medical school students simply major in Biology or Chemistry. Why not major in a degree that has tangible job skills such as IT, and work for a year or 2 after graduating? If you sustain your college lifestyle/budget you can easily save close to $50k toward medical school costs. If you work 2 jobs during that time, you can save away even more. If you wait 3 years, and do a good job with scholarships, you might be able to save over half the $250k needed. Plus, if medical school doesn’t work out, at least you have a fall back.

Start a side business while you’re in school to make up costs. Design websites, tutor kids, mow lawns, paint fences, just do something to provide a service that people will pay you for. Check the help wanted section on Craigslist, there’s always someone hiring in your area.

Look into loan forgiveness through the NHSC. You can get a listing of scholarship programs by state, and some more information here.

I know of both Pharmacists and IT professionals who worked first, and then went back to medical school later in life. If it is truly your dream and passion, you can wait to do it later in life as well. Dreams don’t magically expire at the age of 30 and become useless.

Seek out non-interest based loans from your community. Speak to families who know you and agree to set up scholarships or financial aid with them. Create a proposal showing all the details – your anticipated costs, and how much you need to raise. Then show them your expected graduation dates and expected income. Map out exactly which month you will begin repaying them, and how much each month. This is only a little bit of legwork ahead of time, but it could go a long way. Unfortunately, most people are too lazy to do this and simply tell themselves “There is no way I’ll get anyone to go for this,” and give up before they start.

The sad truth is, most people will simply dismiss this advice and just get the loans. It’s the easy way out, and it’s the way everyone else does it.

Even with those options, there are still some truly tough questions to face.

What if you drop out of medical school?

Simply attending isn’t a guarantee that you’ll succeed. Some people will fail out, and others will realize that they simply don’t like it or don’t have the passion for it. I’ve met someone that dropped out of medical school and became a real-estate agent. Don’t you think when he started, that he and his family both assumed he’d be a doctor in a few years?

If you drop out, where are you going to get the income to be able to dig yourself out of a 6 figure hole? The advice from the law student we quoted in our eBook is pertinent here.

On top of this is a deeper question – what makes one entitled to attend medical school? People construct this problem as if they have only 2 options: Go a quarter million of dollars in debt, or be miserable for the rest of their lives. Really?

Just because something is your dream, does it make it ok to take on one of the biggest sins in our religion?

Let me get very real with this. I helped start DebtFreeMuslims, and one of our goals is to help provide counseling and education to Muslim families to get out of debt. Having dealt with debt myself, it’s a passion of mine. In fact, it’s my dream that we have financial counseling available at all different levels (children, high school, college, pre-marital, family, and future planning) at every single Islamic center in North America. One of the benchmarks to achieve this is take a financial counseling class. If I don’t have the cash, can I say that just because it’s my dream, it’s ok to go to the bank and borrow the money? It’s going to “help SO MANY PEOPLE” so it’s a NECESSITY, right? As much as I’d like to take that class, I’m waiting until saving up the funds inshallah and taking it. The same applies to almost any other type of course. There is a certain certification I’m chasing after at work. I can either plug away at it for months, or pay $4,000 for a one-week bootcamp and get certified. If I can’t afford it, does it make it ok to go to the bank and borrow it? What if it’s my dream?

The world in your 20′s (and especially early 20′s) is substantially different after you turn the corner at 30. It’s impossible to say at that age that you’ll be miserable if you don’t get to do this.

The real problems are entitlement and a lack of patience. There are some people who simply need to take a deep breath, and say in the mirror, “Maybe I’m not meant to become a doctor, and that’s ok.” For others, look at other options, even if it means delaying it a few years.

And if you do decide to ignore everything here, and go full steam ahead with your student loans – because it’s a life or death necessity for you to become a Nephrologist (because you’ve been dreaming about fixing kidney failures since you were 5 years old), then make it a necessity to pay it off.

Once you get that big income, then you need to still live like a college student. You shouldn’t even be allowed to upgrade your iphone, because that $200 needs to go toward paying off your debts and clearing the interest from your record even quicker than you filled out a FAFSA form. Because if you go and get a $500,000 mortgage, and a $75,000 BMW while still having a student loan balance – then it means you were not genuine in gauging your necessities from a religious perspective (forget how bad of a financial decision it may have been).

If you’ve made it this far, you probably feel this post was a bit harsh. I’m quite frustrated that the discourse in our community is still focused on this subject. I’m not against anyone going to medical school, but I am against people making rash decisions that carry financial implications that will put them behind for 10 years. I am against us taking such a major sin lightly, all in the name of assuming medical school is somehow a birthright necessity, and without it people will never know a life of a stable job, responsibility, or above-average income.

If you can become a doctor, go ahead, it is an honorable profession. Challenge yourself to outperform the status quo, find a way to do it without interest and by minimizing your debts.

At the least, we need to start coming up with more alternatives. When there’s a will, there’s a way – but the will to do it without interest (and hopefully without debt) must become stronger. Right now our community is enabling the entitlement attitude by allowing people to pin themselves in corners that do not exist and not doing the work to find other alternatives.

 

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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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Aasiyah

    January 29, 2015 at 2:04 PM

    Sound advice! Must read for anyone contemplating medical school and their parents/relatives. May Allah bless you brother and increase us all in sabr. Amin.

  2. Avatar

    Umm hadi

    January 30, 2015 at 2:56 AM

    Asalam a laikum.
    This article takes me back a few year ago while I was at the dilemma of taking a loan or dropping my MED seat. I dropped the seat.
    Very well written article.

    Taqabbal Allahu minna wa minkum.

  3. Avatar

    Ayesha

    October 21, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    Disagree completely. Getting into medical school is a blessing in itself. Some people dont have the time to wait until later in life since you have other responsibilities. Also scholors (real scholors) have allowed university under the circumstances. You have to do what you have to do and the intention is not to commit sin but to benefit your life as well as the muslim ummah. Its not about getting a job to simply survive but to build a stable life and career. This will also benefit your hereafter. I myslef have gotten into both medical and dental schools in the UK and am currently a dental student. There are only 66 places out of 2500 applicants. Allah chose me and decreed for me to go and so i am. Note of advice: follow what your parents say and listen to your OWN signs from God because what other peoples opionions are really dont matter. And scholors who allow this i respect them because seriously what are they going to get out of it? Nothing. So their advice is invaluable to me. Everyone i know of takes the loan. And my school was mainly muslims. my friends and i are all top A grade students, and getting the grades to get in was hard itself. You need more than grades to get into med/ dental school, you need Allah .

    • Avatar

      javaid

      January 8, 2016 at 9:55 PM

      I disagree. Even among sinners there is a category of people who fall for the sin after trying their best to avoid it. So if a person strives to avoid taking interest-based loan by delaying the studies or by even looking for medical studies in other countries then it would be a better option. If he takes the interest after trying his best then its still wrong but there is more hope that Allah(swt) will forgive him/her as compared to a person who goes for this type of loan in the first opportunity.

      As for your other point which is the greater good by disregarding the means. If we allow this option unrestrictedly then a person would be allowed to earn by haram and donate in charity. But I understand if some scholars would allow this in a “specific instance” that a person xyz comes and asks the scholar “Sheikh, I want to become a doctor and serve patients in Syria. Can I take the loan.” Its possible for the scholar to allow him in this specific instance. Another example could be if a person comes to a scholar “I have won a million dollar lottery, should I give it back or give in charity.” Its possible for the scholar to allow him to give the money in charity. However I doubt that credible scholars will allow this in general and without restriction.

      So if you are one of the person who has that good intention and a scholar allows you as an exceptional case then May Allah put Barakah in it. But please keep this to yourself instead of making this halal in general sense for every other person. This good intention would also be an Amanah and responsibility that you will have to fulfill once you become a doctor.

      Another point used could be Ikrah ; I don’t think that not being able to go to a med school falls in that category.

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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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