Connect with us


RBI: Reviving Baseball In The Islamic Community

Ummah Sports

A couple of months ago, I spent a few days in Arizona during Major League Baseball’s annual spring training.

If you’ve never been, spring training is like a month-long live music festival, with baseball replacing bass as the soundtrack. Half of the league’s teams convene in Arizona, the other half gather in Florida, and fans from all over the world descend upon these balmy locales to watch their favorite teams and players prepare for the upcoming season in a series of exhibition games.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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.

I made the trip to Arizona this year to see my favorite baseball team (the Seattle Mariners) and my favorite player (Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who actually announced his retirement during spring training) in what is becoming something of an annual get-together for some of my family.

Before my wife and I landed at Phoenix International Airport, however, I wasn’t sure what to expect as a Muslim in Arizona. I had my preconceived notions, considering that we were entering a politically “red” state that has a history of controversial anti-immigration legislation and once rescinded Martin Luther King Day. But a quick online search turned up a couple of masjids near our resort, as well as a link to the Arizona Muslim Voice, a community newspaper based in Phoenix. I also found an article from 2011 in which the Arizona Muslim Voice editor speculated that Phoenix’s Muslim population had grown by more than 100,000 in the previous decade.

So while it wasn’t quite Philadelphia or Dearborn, Mich., Phoenix did not appear to be a ghost town for Muslims, either. That was good enough for me.

Baseball + apple pie = America

Baseball + apple pie = America

And over the course of five days at spring training, I saw Muslim sisters admirably wearing headscarves and long black garments in the 80-degree desert heat. I saw Muslim brothers rocking kufis and tell-tale beards with whom I could exchange knowing nods of the head. I met one brother working at the airport whose face lit up at the sight of a fellow Muslim entering his city as a tourist. I saw quite a few Muslim baseball fans.

What I did not see were Muslim baseball players.

For a sport that embraces the label of “America’s pastime,” baseball — especially at its highest level — has not always represented the demographic diversity of the United States. While Major League Baseball earned an “A” grade in its racial hiring practices on the 2014 Racial and Gender Report Card, it had a less admirable “C+” in gender hiring practices. Almost 40 percent of major-league players are racial minorities, thanks to the sport’s strong grip in Latin American and Asian countries, but the number of Black players has been dropping for years and continued to drop in 2014. Only 8.2 percent of the league’s players are Black.

Diversity in baseball, like everything in baseball, comes with a backstory.

Jackie Robinson’s MLB debut in 1947 is canonized as the moment that paved the way for current Black stars like Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward and C.C. Sabathia, and MLB has made a point to retroactively adopt the old Negro Leagues into its own historical narrative. (Even though it was MLB’s own racism and discrimination against Blacks that made the Negro Leagues necessary.) In response to the recent downward trend of Black players, MLB invested in a program called Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) designed to foster interest in baseball among young athletes whose urban communities often lacked quality playing surfaces and organized youth leagues.

Latino players were allowed to play in the majors before Black players were allowed, and today there is not one MLB organization that does not have at least a handful of Latino stars on its main roster and/or in its developmental system.

The 1990s and early-2000s witnessed the beginning of an influx of MLB players from Asia, headlined by South Koreans like Chan Ho Park and Japanese standouts like Ichiro Suzuki.

And Jewish players have history in pro baseball going back some 150 years, with Hall of Fame talents like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax preceding modern stars like Ryan Braun and Ian Kinsler.


But to the best of anyone’s knowledge, there has been one — and only one — Muslim player in major league history: Sam Khalifa.

The No. 7 overall pick in the 1982 MLB draft, Khalifa played shortstop and second base for the Pittsburgh Pirates for parts of three seasons in the 1980s. Three years after he’d been named Arizona state high school player of the year at Sahuaro H.S. in Tucson, Khalifa made his major-league debut as a 21-year-old. At the time, he was the seventh-youngest player in the majors.

Khalifa was mostly a backup with the Pirates, never appearing in more than 95 games (out of a 162-game schedule) in any of his three MLB seasons. Khalifa had a .219 career batting average, hitting 20 doubles, three triples and two home runs with 37 runs batted in and a .964 fielding percentage.

Khalifa spent most of 1987 and all of 1988-89 in the minor leagues. In the 1990 offseason, still only 26 years old and receiving interest from the San Diego Padres, Khalifa retired from baseball following the assassination of his father, Rashad Khalifa, an Islamic scholar.

Sam Khalifa may have played the same position Jackie Robinson played on the diamond, but he was no Jackie Robinson. And I’m not talking about talent, but historical significance. After Khalifa, there was no flood of Muslim players entering Major League Baseball. There wasn’t even a trickle.

He remains the first and, as far as anyone I’ve talked to can tell, the only Muslim to play in the majors.

There have been no Muslim MLB managers, either. And current Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi isn’t just the first and only Muslim GM in MLB history, he’s the first and only Muslim GM in any American major sports league. Chicago Cubs assistant GM Shiraz Rehman is another Muslim in a prominent front-office position.

Why aren’t there more Muslims involved at the highest levels of baseball?

First things first, I don’t think this is at all like the “old days” of MLB, when White management deliberately collaborated to keep Black people entirely out of the game; and even well after Jackie Robinson, maintained unofficial limits on how many Blacks could be on one roster.

There is no ugly history of anti-Muslim attitudes in baseball — certainly nothing close to the vitriol hurled at Blacks and other minorities. Sam Khalifa wasn’t run out of the game. In a 1986 article in Aramco World magazine, he talked about how he was being treated.

“Sure, there’s always some clubhouse ribbing and I’ve been called ‘the shaikh,’ but it’s been in fun,” Khalifa said. “I never felt any prejudice in Arizona or anywhere else. People respect me for what I am and that’s good.”

I don’t think Muslims are being kept out of Major League Baseball today.

I don’t think many Muslims want in.

For one reason or another, baseball has not caught on in the Muslim American community.

Are there socioeconomic issues creating a divide between a sometimes expensive sport and a community that includes many immigrants who live at or below the poverty line?

Is it a matter of scheduling, with baseball suffering due to occupying the same part of the calendar as soccer?

Is there bound to be an awkward fit between the American pastime and a community whose roots are not in America, a community that is often made to feel rejected and unwelcome by many Americans?

Or is there something inherently, religiously un-Islamic about baseball?

Rany Jazayerli is one of today’s most influential Muslim figures in baseball. The full-time dermatologist is a part-time writer for ESPN who co-founded Baseball Prospectus and for years maintained Rany on the Royals, a blog dedicated to his favorite team, the Kansas City Royals.

I asked Jazayerli why baseball is not as popular with Muslim-Americans. Here is his theory:

Baseball, rather than football or basketball, is the sport most identified with traditional American culture, and I’m using “traditional” as a euphemism for “white.” This isn’t because of anything that Major League Baseball is doing per se — there is a long and storied history of African-Americans playing baseball, and while African-American participation has dropped in recent decades, their place has largely been taken by Latin American players. The sport on the field is not dominated by whites — but the fan base for MLB is mainly white, certainly far more so than the fan bases for the NFL and the NBA.

The NFL is so big that it simply dominates all walks of American culture, while the NBA, which is a league populated mostly by African-Americans, has been associated with American “counterculture” — which here I’m defining as simply the culture of minority groups — for decades. The rise in the NBA’s popularity over the years may be connected to the increasing popularity of countercultural entertainment in general.

And here’s the key point: American-born Muslims as a whole have, I believe, embraced American counterculture more than traditional American culture. I’m not saying this is right or wrong; I think it’s actually quite inevitable overall, because most immigrant Muslims to this country are not white, and white America continues to regard non-white immigrants with considerable suspicion. If you are the child of Pakistani parents who didn’t feel comfortable with your parents’ culture growing up in New Jersey, and you didn’t feel comfortable around the white majority in school who made you feel like an outsider growing up, who may have taunted you with racist taunts, then you’re going to start identifying with other ethnic minorities in America. You’re going to listen to hip-hop music, and you’re going to watch basketball. You’re unlikely to watch baseball, and you’re even less likely to watch hockey, and you’re *really* unlikely to listen to country music, which is not only dominated by whites but has legitimate issues with how welcoming it is of minorities in America.

It’s probably not a coincidence, then, that my family is from Syria and I pass as “white” by any reasonable definition of the term. I didn’t look like an outsider to white America growing up, and I never felt like an outsider, and I fell in love with baseball from an early age.

I don’t want to overstate the correlation — there are plenty of brown Muslim Americans who are big baseball fans, and several who work within the game — Adnan Virk hosts ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, and Farhan Zaidi is the GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Disclaimer: both are actually Canadian.) But I also don’t want to ignore something which is pretty obvious: whereas 80 years ago, immigrants to America were usually European, and so could integrate into American society pretty seamlessly if they learned the mainstream culture — which meant baseball — today immigrants to American are not typically white, and so unless they come from cultures which have already embraced baseball, they are likely to gravitate to American sports which are the province of minorities, like basketball.

So in order for baseball to grow in popularity among Muslim Americans in the future, one of two things — preferably both — needs to happen. Major League Baseball can find a way to make inroads among minority communities, which they can start to do by de-emphasizing history and tradition when it comes to marketing the game. MLB is legitimately interested in connecting with the African-American fans that it has lost over the years, and the concerns raised by Chris Rock in this takedown of MLB will get attention from the Commissioner’s Office.

But the other thing that needs to happen is that Muslims in America need to better identify with being American, to accept that they can be fully American without compromising their faith one bit, and to make an active effort to not only integrate with mainstream American society but to be actively engaged with bettering American society, rather than cocooning themselves into their own insular societies. Note that this should be the actual goal regardless of what it has to do with baseball; I think seeing more Muslims become baseball fans would be a product of more active engagement with American society, not the other way around. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important whether more Muslims become baseball fans. But more Muslims becoming baseball fans is a likely by-product of more Muslims recognizing themselves as fully American, and not sensing any conflict between the two.

The problems facing baseball that Jazayerli and Rock bring up can possibly be fixed by concerted, long-term marketing and community outreach efforts. And even if they work, the results may not be plainly visible for a few years.

Or, baseball could get lucky like some other sports and have that one superstar emerge who Pied-Pipers a legion of young fans to follow in his footsteps.

The NBA became a hit in China on the back of Yao Ming. Boxing’s modern-day popularity among Filipino fans is tied mostly to the rise of Manny Pacquiao. Tiger Woods is viewed as golf’s liaison to Black America, while Danica Patrick has been credited with drawing more female interest in NASCAR.

If one Muslim baseball phenom gets to the major leagues and blows up, that could do more to endear the Muslim community to the sport than however-many millions MLB might be willing to throw into a marketing campaign.

But it’s kind of a chicken-vs.-egg thing, because baseball may not find that Muslim superstar without first doing its share of work to promote the game to Muslims — or less specifically, to counterculture America and young America.

“The first Muslim star is not going to be from a Muslim country,” ESPN’s Adnan Virk, a Muslim of Pakistani descent who grew up in Canada, was quoted in a 2013 article for Fan Graphs. “It’s going to be a guy like me.”

The first Muslim Major League Baseball star will also have to be ready for all that comes with being the Jackie Robinson of Muslim baseball. Although it’s been 30 years since Sam Khalifa played, the next Muslim MLB player will be navigating a whole new world and a whole new America with different attitudes regarding Muslims.

He will have to find his way in the quintessential American sport in an America that has turned his people into a dangerously marginalized minority.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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.

Amaar Abdul-Nasir was born and raised in Seattle, Wash., and received his B.A. in Journalism from Seattle University. A sports writer and editor by trade, Amaar founded, which focuses on Muslim athletes and health and fitness in the Muslim community, following his conversion to Islam in 2013.



  1. Pingback: Muslim players to watch this NFL season | Ummah Sports

  2. Pingback: » Muslim Players to Watch This NFL Season

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gender Relations

Loving Muslim Marriage Episode 10#: Do Angels Curse the Wife Who Refuses Sex?

It is often heard that the Prophet said that if a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses him, that the angels will curse her until the morning. There are a lot of ways that people understand this, but what is the right way of understanding this Hadith?

Join us with Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jandga to talk about this commonly mistranslated, misunderstood narration.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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.

Continue Reading

Gender Relations

Loving Muslim Marriage Episode 9#: Islamic Validation of the Female Orgasm

There is a cultural misconception that pious Muslim women are somehow disassociated from sex, that sex is a Muslim man’s right, but a Muslim woman’s obligation. Where does Islam actually stand on the sexual rights of women in marriage?

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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.

Continue Reading


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.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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!” 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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.

Continue Reading

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started