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Why I Could Have Joined ISIS Back Then – The Evil of “Cultish” Mindset

When I first heard about teenage girls in the West leaving their homes to join ISIS, I couldn’t begin to fathom how and why they would overlook the obvious evil of ISIS. But as I started reading their stories, their motivations and the baits thrown their way; I began recalling my own teen days as a member of The Ameer Club* nearly two decades ago.

Honestly, I know how it feels to be trapped in a cult mentality.  Although it has been almost eighteen years and I have totally moved on from it, I can still remember the appeal of belonging to something different, tasting the thrill of rebellion especially when it is guilt-free— because it is “for a higher purpose”.

Before causing any confusions, let me state very clearly: the only thing in common between The Ameer Club and ISIS is the cultish mindset and slow brainwashing. My sole purpose is to show how– knowingly or unknowingly– young girls can become targets of a cult. This similarity highlights the need of embracing non-typical parenting by our societies, and the need for female leadership within Muslim communities.

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I interviewed a 17 year old British Muslim who was almost swayed by the tactics of ISIS through Twitter last year but alhamdulillah pulled out before it was too late. (Editor’s Note: This interview will be published in a followup article). The journey she described and many ISIS strategies that she recalled showed patterns and effects on young girls, parallel to what happened with me as a teenager and to many teens who are affected by cults in various parts of the world

Some groups are more dangerous than others. But once trapped in a cult’s ideology mindset, one fails to see outside the box, and it is that state of mind that can deviate young, seemingly level headed, women into leaving their loved ones and joining ISIS, foolishly believing that they are serving a higher purpose of spirituality and religiosity; just as I did when I was stuck in such a mentality that caused a lot of harm not only to myself but also to my Muslim community as I had believed that I was establishing good and repelling evil.

TAC was an active organization led by young adults and very different from the rest of the community. It called to a unique methodology that most Islamic organizations at the time disputed. Many leading-members of TAC were fierce, outspoken and fearless. The rest of the Muslim community often sidelined them because TAC’s leading-members were unusually harsh and brash. But instead of being a cause of concern, this became our organization’s stamp of pride. It was thrilling and also fulfilling because the leadership gave us a sense of direction, laid out strong but precise goals in life and always gave specific black and white answers to all questions under an Islamic guise.

If I were to go through a list of characteristics associated with cult groups, I can easily check off more than 50% of the list of traits that were present in me and the in-crowd of TAC back then. For example, one of the signs of a cult-movement is the belief that we were the only ones steered in the “right” direction and every other sect else is misguided. Most of our lectures started with the reminder about the hadeeth of 73 sects, and we were brainwashed into firmly believing that every other sect of Islam was destined to hellfire. And that other Muslims who simply weren’t as conservative as us and didn’t 100% agree with us, were entirely another sect!

This was very different from how I was raised, without any specific guidance on how to practice the religion and without a passion for it. For the first time in my life, I learned about the evil of “innovations in acts of worship”. Along with this, we were taught about the necessity of eliminating it from our community. Members were lauded for openly calling out (in extreme and offensive ways) the innovative practices that occurred within our mosques. “Establishing good and forbidding evil” was taken to an extreme level by TAC’s leading members going to gatherings where ‘innovations’ took place, just to denounce the practice. One common tactic was to purposely attend lectures by “off the manhaj” speakers to openly rebuke them while they were speaking. Siraj Wahhaj, Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Jamal Badawi were some of the prime targets. We actually went through the phase of doing whatever we could within our power to “purify” our city from Hamza Yusuf and co.

A female TAC leader once wrote a refutation in the newsletter of the largest Islamic Society in the city simply because they had added a few more lines to the Eid-takbeerat. As Bidah-phobic as we were, she sardonically pointed out the “evil” that had been done by the addition of a few lines. I personally admired that girl for her courage and strength! Whether adding takbeerat to eid prayer is an act of bid’ah or not, but criticizing an organization in such a manner for a few mistakes while ignoring the tremendous good that the organization had done for the community was not a way of establishing good. Islam teaches us that causing fitnah is a greater sin than killing someone, but I justified causing fitnah in our communities, along with other members of our cadre in the organization, because it was for Islam.

I can only thank Allah that although TAC-leadership made extreme demands of us to fit their particular worldview, it never posited or supported violent positions, nor did it call for any bloodshed. TAC was not pro-khilafah, nor was it interested in changing governments. We were told to never sign any petitions, and never participate in any protests because we were taught not to “beg the kuffaars”. In fact, we were taught to stay firm against politics and any political involvement, that’s why we opposed CAIR, MAS or any Muslim organization that showed support for civic engagement.

TAC was pro-Hijrah [migration for the sake of Allah] and “change via education”, not through khilafah, government or politics. We were taught to focus on educating “deviant” Muslims (which constituted majority of Muslims!) and calling non-Muslims to Islam.

Everything was “haram”, from voting to participating in on-campus food fairs, even bake sales were forbidden! We opposed local Muslim organizations, mosques, and we especially hated ICNA and ISNA. We were bent on importing “fatwas” from Saudi scholars and implemented them blindly without ever distinguishing the legitimate cultural differences, hence most western non-religious norms became wrong and any Muslim involved in those “norms” was “imitating kuffar”.

We weren’t allowed to “befriend” non-Muslims either because we were taught that it wasn’t allowed in Islam. We avoided befriending non-Muslim classmates, co-workers and even neighbors. There was a clear us vs. them mentality.

The verse often quoted to back up this claim forbids from taking non-Muslims as “Auliyah” which does not translate to ‘friends’ but has a specific meaning.  A Wali (singular of auliyah) is someone you take as your religious/spiritual guide, not a mere friend.

As I said, we were always given a very black and white answer. Every action was either right or wrong, there was no in between. So we lived in a bubble—a bubble guided by very selective “scholars”.

This phase incited me to rebel against the wider Muslim community, to unnecessarily become and act different from my parents and even to break long bonds of friendship. Although a straight-A student, I eventually dropped out of the university because I was made to believe that it was not allowed for a female to attend mixed classes (unless it was a necessity), and that necessity would be nullified by my marriage! So I gave up my life-long dream of pursuing a career in the medical field and to this day not completing a college degree in secular studies remains a source of regret.

A Little Knowledge is Dangerous

Little education of religion with the belief that “we know it all” is more dangerous than no education at all. At least with the later, a person acknowledges his/her ignorance, but to believe that one’s limited knowledge of religion that was learned over few months is most authentic and valid is a serious sign of concern.

Islam teaches us to obey our parents but I often disobeyed them because I looked down upon their understanding of Islam as rudimentary (while I ASSUMED mine had reached advanced levels by virtue of attending a few classes). So disobedience became cognitively justified as (ironically) a way to “please Allah”.

Knowledge without manners is like a cactus tree, though it’s a plant but is harmful when touched

A speaker taught us eating with three fingers was sunnah. In my zealousness of establishing sunnah, I started eating with three fingers. It wasn’t easy and often messy. My mother noticed once and asked me not as she was particular about table manners. I, on the other hand, was trying to “establish sunnah” and hence disobeying my mother was completely justified. I still remember the argument, my mother’s disappointment and my audacity of walking away from dinner table with pride because I had “obeyed the Prophet” over my mother.

Strange are the traps of shaytaan, every wrong seemed right and every right was wrong. Establishing sunnah wasn’t the issue but the manners in which it is established is the key to obeying the Prophet, but we weren’t taught the manners of our Prophet. Besides, whether eating with three fingers was a sunnah or not, obeying my mother was obligatory!

TAC was Our Life

For many of us, TAC wasn’t only an organization, it was our life. As one of the girls from that phase often says whenever we talk about our TAC-days, “We had gone totally crazy!” TAC dictated us how to eat, dress, interact with others, marry, and live our lives. Men with beards and women with hijabs had a “higher” ranking in the organization. The more “super-salafi-conservative” views one held, the more respect s/he earned.

Again, it is the similarity of cult behavior, narrow interpretation, and brainwashing young minds that made me think of my days in TAC when I read about young girls joining ISIS. Other than that, TAC of the 90s and ISIS share no common ground.

However, and this is important, once fully inculcated, had “leadership” called for participation in violent movements abroad, I may have been “brave” (and foolish) enough to heed the call! I fear that under those brainwashed circumstances and “religious high”, I may not have been able to differentiate right from wrong.  Of course it would require the addition of poisonous political narrative, as we know that it is almost never piety but politics that drives violent radicalization.

At the same time it must be mentioned that not ALL TAC members fell into this cult mindset. The organization had earned a bad reputation within the extended Muslim community and many members, especially novices, were warned to keep away from core leadership.

The percentage of the girls affected severely by this were literally two or three out of hundreds of Muslim girls in TAC, just like how only a handful of girls are joining ISIS in comparison to the vast majority of Muslim girls who are denouncing ISIS.

Aunty Politics and Lack of Female Leadership

No teen goes to join a cult, they join a religious movement or a political organization that reaches out to the feelings of angst or isolation that many troubled teen’s experience. I was young, searching for spiritual guidance that should have been made available at home and within our masjids. Unfortunately typical parenting with “cultural religion” doesn’t attract or satisfy young, inquisitive minds; and “aunty politics” at masjids pushes teens away from the main Muslim community. This is basically what made me loyal to TAC.

In hindsight once I got married and moved away from the “cult”, my husband and I had an opportunity to break off from the cultish mindset. As I gained more knowledge of Islam through proper academic channels, and I opened myself to listening to other scholars and not just a handful “shaikhs” of TAC, I found room to grow. As time passed, I continued to learn more and more from a variety of scholars, moved from one community to another, traveled and most importantly I was lucky enough to find teachers who focused on ikhlaaq (manners) and character building. More so, I was no longer a 17 year old teenager rather I got space to mature under more broad and visible circumstances– outside the box!

I want to reiterate, becoming more religious and spiritual is not wrong or dangerous. However, Islam is supposed to make a person peaceful, not aggressive. Becoming a better Muslim is supposed to bring us closer to our families, more respectful towards parents, more patient with elders, and more involved within our mosques/communities. But, if someone starts taking an opposite route in the name of “Islam” then there must be something wrong with his/her understanding of this peaceful faith…

* Name changed of the organization for security reasons.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance."Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, 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, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

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                  Mental Health & COVID-19: Light, Guidance, & Much Love | Part 1

                  Insha’Allah, you and your loved ones are safe & healthy. May Allah swt protect us all from COVID-19, Ya Hafidh, and open the way for our spiritual growth, Ya Fattah Ya Rabb. No doubt, we are living in very challenges times, and many in our community are suffering. As such, my intention for this two-part series is to provide some beneficial perspectives and practical strategies that will make your emotional journey safer & easier, insha’Allah.

                  And a journey it surely is. We are on a very long hike up a very steep mountain. And we have only two choices about HOW we approach this challenge: unskillfully or skillfully. If we wear flip-flops, and fail to pack water and snacks, we will have a very difficult time reaching the summit. And if we do, we will be in very bad shape. If we wear good socks, sturdy hiking boots, and our backpack is well-stocked, not only are we likely to reach the summit, but reach it in great shape. This is what I want for our beloved community, insha’Allah.

                  As Muslims, it is crucial to remember that the ultimate summit is the hereafter. Truly, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our goal and pleasing Him is our aim. Truly, everything we do or fail to do here has an impact there. For many people, this haqq is much more difficult to remember and actualize when their day-to-day challenges are daunting. This is why historically and traditionally, in times of crisis, Muslims have always sought the nasiha of wise elders. Imam Muhasibi, the father of Islamic Psychology, developed this crucial, beautiful science in response to the human needs of his students. Sadly, the loss of these teachings as a widespread living tradition has contributed in large part to the widespread mental-health problems that have been plaguing our community for a very long time, which have now been exacerbated by COVID-19.

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                  The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

                  Here’s a good metaphor. The science of nutrition teaches us about our body, the properties of different foods, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum physical health. Likewise, the science of mental health teaches us about our heart and mind, the impact of specific activities, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital psychological nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum mental health. Lack of knowledge about Islamic Psychology and the absence of the vital psychological nutrients have taken a huge toll on our community. The stories I hear would probably shock you. They would certainly break your heart. Especially the stories of our young people, who are my top priority. Insha’Allah, the wake-up call of COVID-19 propels us to reclaim en masse this lost part of our spiritual heritage, so we can reclaim our vitality and nobility as the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

                  To continue with the metaphor. Working one-on-one with an experienced nutritionist is very different than reading a book about nutrition. With the former, your nutritional program is specifically tailored to your particular problems, challenges, habits, and temperament. The same is true when it comes to mental health. So I must manage your expectations honestly and honorably by saying that it is not possible for me to do in two articles for the general public what I do one-on-one in my private practice as a psychotherapist, life-coach, and spiritual mentor. Truly, there is a palpable, powerful, fitrah-based alchemy that can only happen when two human hearts link-up in real time. That said, in the same way that reading and learning about nutrition is very beneficial, so too reading and learning about mental health, especially now.

                  Working Skillfully with Difficult Emotions

                  No doubt, COVID-19 has unleashed a wide range of very difficult emotions. People are struggling with tremendous anxiety, uncertainty, fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, confusion, grief, despair, and in some cases, a full-blown crisis of faith. So let me explain a little bit about emotions and how to work with them skillfully  

                  One of the foundational principles of cognitive-behavioral psychology is called ‘reframing.’

                  It is the process of deliberately thinking differently about our situation. Reframing it. The fact is, the lens through which we view our circumstances makes all the difference in the world insofar as how we feel. Thoughts are like the front wheels of the car and feelings are like the back wheels. We must be in the driver seat, steering intentionally. Whichever way the front wheels turn, the back wheels follow. So paying attention to our thoughts moment by moment, and making sure they are aligned with the Qur’an and Sunnah, is crucial. The mind is a like a muscle that MUST be trained through specific exercises, and our tradition is rich in the techniques for doing so. Truly, we must hit the spiritual gym regularly. The heavy lifting of muhasiba (self-reckoning) and muraqaba (mindfulness/meditation) are not optional. If these are not already a consistent part of your spiritual practice, NOW is the time to take them up. You will be so happy you did!

                  Here’s a good metaphor. If you are a longtime couch potato, even a flight of stairs leaves you huffing and puffing. If you are in good shape, you’re able to jog around the block easily. If you’re in great shape, you’re able to leap over the hurdles like a gazelle. For many, COVID-19 has been like asking a couch potato to run a marathon. So we need to get in the best spiritual shape possible as quickly as possible. To that end:

                  The Centering Exercise 

                  Every time you notice that you are feeling sad, anxious, fearful, angry, hopeless, helpless, impatient, frustrated, confused, or depressed, here’s what to do.  

                  • Turn off your devices and put them in another room.
                  • Close your door and put a “Please do not disturb.” sign on the doorknob. Lay down.
                  • Close your eyes. Turn your attention to your heart. Remember the Hadith Qudsi, “Heaven and earth cannot contain me but the heart of my faithful believer is where I reside.” Truly, Allah is closer than our jugular vein. (50:16)
                  • Take some slow-deep breaths. On the out-breath, silently recite “La illaha.” On the in-breath, silently recite “il Allah.” After a few minutes, notice the shift in your state. Notice the deep connection between ‘self’ and ‘breath’, not just experientially, but also etymologically. They both derive from the same Arabic root, transliterated nfs.   
                  • When you are centered, mentally review what you had been thinking about that gave rise to the difficult emotions.  Then do a ‘search and replace,’ deliberately and intentionally replacing your dark thoughts with the Light of The Qur’an or Hadith. Here is one example: Search: “I’ll never get through this.” Replace: “Allah never burdens a person with more than he is well able to bear.” (2:286)

                  As individuals, we each have our own particular dark thoughts. NOW is the BEST time to fix them. I lovingly encourage you to get a blank journal, so that each time you do The Centering Exercise, you can make note of what you observed, what you learned about yourself. Write down each dark thought and then write down each Rx of Light from The Qur’an or Sunnah. Having a personal journal gives you a concrete means of reinforcing your new thought patterns. 

                  We know from our neuroscience that the human brain possesses ‘neuroplasticity’, which is the capacity to be shaped, molded, changed. As such, the more often you do The Centering Exercise, the more your thinking patterns will change. This is how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created us, mash’Allah! It’s really quite amazing to realize that the Qur’an we’ve been given provides Light upon Light from The Lord of The Worlds. And the Sunnah is that Light fully actualized to perfection, mash’Allah. The fact is, no matter how dark a room may be, if we light just one candle, it illuminates the space. Mash’Allah!

                  Parents, once you get the hang of The Centering Exercise, please please teach it to your children! Insha’Allah, make it the new normal in your household, transforming discord and upset into harmony and peace.

                  Say “Ameen!”

                  Divine Reminders

                  Insofar as reframing COVID-19 in the broader sense, I offer you this lens, this Divine Reminder, with much love. May it shift your state from embittered to empowered. My beloved sisters and brothers, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our Rabb, our Teacher, and COVID-19 is the Test we’ve all been given. Every single human being on the planet. We all woke up one day, walked into the classroom of Life, and got handed a pop quiz. The purpose of which is to show us the places where we weren’t prepared. This is great! Because the trumpet is absolutely going to sound, and we surely want to be ready. As long as we’re breathing, we have time to prepare. This is great!

                  Say “Ameen!” 

                  Beloved ones, we have the incredible privilege of being students of The One Who Knows Everything, including The Future and The Unseen.  It is very bad adab to question the teaching methods of our Teacher or to complain that we don’t like the Test.

                  This was the fatal mistake of Bani Israel that we are reminded 17x/day not to emulate. On the contrary, what we want to be asking ourselves is: “What must I do to pass this Test with flying colors, to ace this Exam?” Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between.” (38:27)  This pandemic is not some random event. It has a divine purpose. There is deep meaning in it. 

                  There is also enormous rahmah in it. Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “…My mercy embraces everything.” (7:156) The Divine Physician has dispensed this bitter medicine to heal us. To heal the whole world from its longstanding imbalances and injustices. Surely, it is no accident, the timing of COVID-19 vis-à-vis the murder of George Floyd and the global response it has galvanized.  Surely, every human being wants to and deserves to breathe.

                  COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the whole world. Ours to do as students is to be fully present in each moment, to practice mindfulness (muraqaba), so we can be deeply receptive to the Lessons we are meant to learn (muhasiba). Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) Beloved ones, NOW is the time for global tawbah (repentance). As the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), this is our Divine Assignment, individually, collectively, institutionally. 

                  My vision and personal commitment is that we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of this, insha’Allah. I can say this with great confidence because first and foremost, I know that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not out of business! The presence of The Presence, the power of the Names & Attributes, are as robust as ever. 

                  We are being summoned to recognize our hubris and turn our hearts in humility toward The One Who Is In Charge, The One Who Calls The Shots, to The One Whose Decree we surrender. Humbly. Readily. Insha’Allah, NOW is the time to actualize the last part of Hadith Jibreel about qadr. The fact is, what’s happening around us is what’s happening, and this is always in the hands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). HOW we respond to what’s happening is entirely up to us.

                  What I want for our community is the best possible response, the most skillful and beautiful response, the response that will be of maximum benefit here & hereafter, insha’Allah.

                  I can also say this with great confidence because time and again, working with Muslim refugees who have been through horrific trauma, I have seen with my own eyes how absolutely amazing human beings are. How resilient. How courageous. How creative. How capable of transforming sorrow into joy, lemons into lemonade, compost into roses. This is what I want for you, my beloved sisters and brothers.

                  No doubt, on any long and arduous journey, in addition to having the right equipment and supplies, having an experienced trail-guide makes all the difference. There is dangerous terrain you want to avoid, and beautiful vistas you don’t want to miss. In my experience over decades, I have observed that human beings thrive when we are given the right tools and the loving encouragement to master them.  So let me give you now some very practical guidelines to help you navigate skillfully, so you can extract from these precious days of your life what is meaningful & transformational. 

                  Practical Strategies

                  When it comes to protecting our physical health from the pandemic, there are certain steps we MUST take. Likewise with our mental health. As such, here are some practical strategies, culled from thousands of pages of research and decades of experience. My focus is on parents, whose job has never been more difficult. And with the new school year right around the corner, this guidance is extremely timely. 

                  Boundaries: Set clear boundaries regarding where and when devices can be used. This applies to everyone in the household, kids and parents alike. Parents, as your elder who loves you, I am reminding you that YOU are the CEO of your home. YOU are the policy maker. YOU are in charge. NOT your kids or their devices. So take charge!

                  • No devices for kids 0-3. These guidelines are from the American Pediatric Association. 
                  • No devices at the dinner table* or in the bedrooms.
                  • No devices until after Fajr. Better yet, after breakfast.
                  • All devices put away 1-2 hours before bedtime. Plugged in in the kitchen to recharge.
                  • Limit on-line entertainment and socializing to 1 hour/day MAX.
                  • Schedule tech fasts ½ day weekly, and 1-2 full days monthly, on a weekend.
                  • An occasional family-time movie is fine on the weekend. Choose something meaningful, uplifting, thought-provoking, heart-opening. Pop some popcorn. Make tea. Engage in a special time afterward to really talk together about your experience. *Getting in the habit of real-time-face-to-face conversations is crucial. If you start when your kids are young, it will lay a strong foundation for their teenage years, when they desperately need wise, trustworthy, caring adults who really know how to listen from the heart.

                  Nature: Spending time in nature is the very best thing you can do for yourself and with your family. There are reams of data about the stress-reducing effects of being outdoors, especially in the woods. There are also reams of data about the benefits of exercise, not only for physical health, but for mental health. Given all the extra sitting everyone is doing during COVID-19, regular exercise is not optional. 

                  Furthermore, if your kids are schooling from home and you are working from home, everyone will surely need some breathing room, some physical and emotional space from one another, some time every day in solitude, unplugged from their devices. Spending alone-time in nature is the perfect solution. 

                  For family-time activities, unplug from your devices and enjoy these delightful experiences. They will engender tremendous awe (khushu’) and deepen your heart-connection with your Rabb, The One Who Created you and all the beauty around you. Subhan’Allah.

                  • Take a 15-30 minute family-walk every night after dinner before homework.
                  • Go hiking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, kite-flying, or camping on the weekend.   
                  • Set up bird feeders in your yard. Learn their names and identify their songs.
                  • Go out nightly to look at the stars. Learn the names of the constellations.
                  • Watch as many sunrises & sunsets, moonrises & moonsets as you can. 

                  As Muslims, our worship is guided by the natural cycles Allah put in place. The sun is our clock. It tells us when to pray. The moon is our calendar. It tells us when the new month begins. Sighting the moon is an act of worship, mash’Allah.

                  Divine Reminders

                  Our beautiful Qur’an teaches:“We will show them Our Signs (ayat) in the universe and in their own selves, until it becomes clear to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth.” (Fussilat 41:53)

                  In this ayah, we are taught the two beautiful gateways into the sacred: the macrocosm of the universe, and the microcosm of the self. Both of these gateways open into the direct experience of Allah’s presence. 

                  As Muslims, we have been invited to spend time in this dunya in the company of The One Who is Love (al-Wadud). The One Who is Strength (al-Aziz). The One Who is Peace (as-Salaam). And on & on. What could be more beneficial during this time of crisis? Alas, calling upon our Rabb by His most Beautiful Names, with urgency & sincerity, is one of the Lessons we must learn from COVID-19.  My prayer for our community is that people do not squander the opportunity to connect in a deep, meaningful, intimate way heart-to-heart with Allah because they can’t put their phone down or turn their computer off. Insha’Allah, I will address the subject of digital addiction in the second article, as it plays a huge role when it comes to mental health issues.

                  Closing Du’a

                  Ya Habibi Ya Allah. Please grant us oceans of fortitude and mountains of strength Ya Sabur Ya Aziz. May we be dutiful beautiful students who strive with all our might in jihad al akbar to pass this test with flying colors, to ace this exam. May we, the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), love one another like he loves us, and strengthen one another every step of the way. May we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of COVID-19, reclaiming the standard of Insan Kamil as the Index by which we measure our lives. Ya Dhal Jalali wal Ikram.

                  Say “Ameen!” 

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