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Mental Illness and Ramadan

Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim

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“Yahya, I can see the angels.”

Hearing that, on the fifth night of Taraweeh, by a prominent member of my community, was astonishing. The brother was a gentle soul, always helpful, studious and had taught himself to read with Tajweed and always volunteered around the Masjid. He had a wife and a couple of beautiful children, whom he loved and adored. His voice, however, that night, was a bit louder, laughter more intense and moments of quietude unsettling. By the tenth night, the brother was no longer attending the Tarweeh. It then dawned on me that something preventable, not spiritually supernatural, had occurred.

Although mental health care has improved significantly over the last decades, many Muslims still choose not to seek treatment or quit prematurely. Stigma is perhaps the most significant cause of this. Simply, a person is made to feel that they are disqualified from full social acceptance.

Public stigma, in particular within ones’ community, is the prejudice and discrimination that blocks individuals’ access to spiritual fulfillment, avenues to employment, enriching educational opportunities, health care, and secure housing. Public stigma occurs when members of the public endorse stereotypes about mental illness and act on the basis of these stereotypes.

Anas ibn Malik narrates that: A woman, who had a defect in her brain, said: Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), I want to talk to you. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: Mother of so and so, choose on which side of the road you would like to stand and talk, so that I may fulfill your need. He stood with her on the sidewalk until she spoke to her heart’s content. Muslim 1081

To me, one of the greatest injustice is that a person living with manageable mental illness begins to have a self-induced stigma. Self-stigma occurs when individuals belonging to a stigmatized group internalize public prejudice and direct it toward themselves. Suffering in silence, many of those needing our support, isolate themselves and find little to no help from the broader community. This self-stigma occurs when they think that everyone around them knows of their condition and will not treat them, as “normal” people should.

The Challenge of Ramadan

With the arrival of Ramadan a sharp increase of public cases of imbalance within our community begin to emerge, whereby, previously manageable psychiatric symptoms become exacerbation.

During Ramadan, even persons without mental disorders have reported irritability, decreased sleep, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety.[1] In patients with bipolar disorder, one study described a high rate (45%) of breakthrough manic or depressive episodes during Ramadan, despite stable lithium levels.[2] Fasting-related changes in circadian rhythms and insomnia are thought to contribute to psychiatric symptom exacerbation.

For many, Ramadan poses the challenge of the inability to take medications during the day, dehydration and other somatic changes that necessitate dosing modification changes. Doctors must be consulted and informed of the commencement date of Ramadan and they are best placed in deciding whether one is capable of the fast or not. This is particularly important in localities where the fast will exceed twelve hours.

Making a unilateral decision to fast, without doctor approval is irresponsible and religiously unacceptable. Medicine and healing are Islamic functions. There is no shame or sin in not fasting due to medical prohibition. Allah, the Al-Mighty, Knows His creation best and it is He who said:

“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.” Al-Baqarah 2:185

Commentators explain that Allah simply refers to illness in its broadest sense. It

Many Ahadith (traditions of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) encourage the Muslims to seek medical treatment and as a prevention of ailment.

Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.”

Bukhari 7.582

Usamah ibn Shuraik narrated:

“… ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Should we seek medical treatment for our illnesses?’ He replied: ‘Yes, you should seek medical treatment, because Allah, the Exalted, has let no disease exist without providing for its cure, except for one ailment, namely, old age.’” Tirmidhi, Accepted

In fact, taking proper care of one’s health is considered by the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to be the right of the body. Bukhari as-Sawm 55, an-Nikah 89, Muslim as-siyyam 183, 193, Nisai

The Prophet not only instructed sick people to take medicine, but he himself invited expert physicians for this purpose, as Imam As-Suyuti and Ibnul Qayyim both relay in their, Medicine of the Prophet.

Should I fast Ramadan, or Not?

Illness, of course, is a relative term. In the Shari’ah there are two scenarios:

(i)               The illness or the circumstances it causes, is one from which there is hope of recovery from. The fast should be suspended until a different period in time, when the illness has subside or the essential medical treatment has been altered. The individual is required to make up the missed days, or entire month, if need be when they are cleared medically to do so.

(ii)             The illness is one from which there is no prognosis of gainful recovery wherein fasting could be sustained without harm. In this case, one is not obliged to make up the fast; rather they should feed one poor person for each day of Ramadan.

The decision as to which one of the two scenarios one finds themselves in is to be made with the direct advice of the treating medical doctor and a frank discussion with a trusted Imam familiar with the patient.

I pray that Allah gives strength to all who are suffering and that their ailment is cause for their admission to Allah’s Mercy and Eternal Jannah.

I pray for those supporting those suffering with illness. I ask the Al-Mighty to strengthen them, honor them and grant them patience and wisdom.

 

 

 

[1] Toda M, Morimoto K. Ramadan fasting—effect on healthy Muslims. Soc Beh Pers 2004;32:13-18.

[2] Kadri N, Mouchtaq N, Hakkou F, Moussaoui D. Relapses in bipolar patients: changes in social rhythm? Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2000;3:45-9.

Ustadh Yahya Ibrahim is Canadian by birth & education, Egyptian through a rich ancestry, Turkish via the blessing of marriage to Songul and Australian by Choice of residence and migration. Since his early teens, in the 90's, Ustadh Yahya has been talking about Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. He was blessed with numerous opportunities to meet, translate, study and teach alongside some of the Islamic worlds top scholars. Ustadh Yahya is blessed now to be living in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and three wonderful children – Shireen, Omar and Adam. He is a regular lecturer to Muslim and non-Muslim audiences their and around the world. Recently, Ustadh Yahya was awarded by the West Australian State Government the "Individual Excellence in Community Service Award." Ustadh Yahya is a passionate educator with a decades experience in school leadership as an Asst. Principal & registered Teacher. He, also, serves the Muslim community at Curtin University and the University of Western Australia as the Islamic Chaplain and teaches Islamic Ethics & Theology,internationally, with al-Kauthar Institute www.alkauthar.org .

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Avatar

    OJ

    July 3, 2015 at 4:06 PM

    Where is that hadith in Sahih Muslim? I looked up 1081, but it’s not there. Could you clarify which book it is in? Just curious, I have never seen it before and would like to read the arabic

  2. Pingback: MENTAL ILLNESS AND RAMADAN

  3. Avatar

    R

    July 3, 2015 at 8:42 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Jazakallahu khair. Thank you for mentioning this. I am trying to help someone to overcome this stigma about mental health so they seek medical treatment. The family has lived in the Middle East their entire lives, and the stigma is a very strong one. Sadly, i just don’t know if he will ever see a doctor. The symptoms have only increased over time and his family is extremely unsupportive. Please make du’a for him and all of our brothers and sisters facing this.
    May Allah reward you for your article.

  4. Avatar

    Maya Salam

    July 3, 2015 at 10:37 PM

    I like to thank you for raising this issue for the Muslim community. I work with mental health patients and witnessed Muslims suffering in silence without recognition by the family or community. Some even say there are no such thing as mental illness if you a true Muslim. This kind of ignorance very unhelpful to the patients and their family. There needs to be more awareness within our community to be able to support those who are in need of support. JazackAllahu khairan.
    Psychotherapy with Islamic values.

  5. Avatar

    Salmaan

    July 3, 2015 at 10:44 PM

    Fantastic article. Stigma is alive and well. Not just the mental health stigma but also the religious stigma aka not being pious enough. Thank you for writing this article.

    Salmaan Toor
    clincial psychologist

  6. Avatar

    Sabrina Begum

    July 3, 2015 at 11:59 PM

    Aswrwb, Jzkk for writing about this Ustadh. Sadly the stigma and self stigma is a huge problem within our communities. More needs to be done at a grassroots level to educate our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, uni and school students about mental illness and how it can be easily prevented. This article is an excellent starting point. Jzkk
    Sabrina Begum
    Mental Health First Aid Instructor

  7. Avatar

    Yasser al-Hajjam

    July 4, 2015 at 12:15 AM

    As salaamu alaikum
    Jazakallah Khair akhi Yahya for shedding light on this topic.

    Wr are conducting research in our Toronto-based Hijamah clinic, to see if hijamah can assist the body in reaching homeostasis of the neurochemicals and hormones that contribute to mental illnesses.

    We alhumdulillah have seen improvements in patients who experience social anxiety, attention deficit, and mild depression.

    Dear reader: If you are in or know someone in the Toronto area suffering bipolar or related challenges, we would be humbled if you could provide our reference and assist in gatgering case studies in this area. JazakumAllah khair – info hijamahworks.com

  8. Avatar

    Shamsun

    July 5, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    Wonderful article

  9. Avatar

    Kulsoom

    July 5, 2015 at 9:35 AM

    Really good article. There is a definite need to raise awareness in the Muslim community about mental illness. Espcially appreciate the link with Ramadan. It’s something so obvious I haven’t considered.

  10. Avatar

    Sr Jenni

    July 5, 2015 at 10:12 PM

    As salaam alaikom. The link I want to share is a point in a lecture about layat’l qadr (forgive me for misspellings, I am a new muslima), when it mentions about the number of angels coming down is almost unimaginable. Yes, there is such a thing as mental illness – but also we mustn’t rule out someone else’s reality might just be a blessing we don’t understand. See link: https://youtu.be/38dgobJ_IhE?t=37m45s

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      Yahya Ibrahim

      July 5, 2015 at 10:20 PM

      Thank you for your comment Sr Jenni.

      The angels are from the world of the unseen. They do not appear to us in their angelic form.

      The Quran mentions in Chapter 19 the visit of Jibreel to Mary in the form of a man. Also to Abraham & Lot they appeared,but were NOT known to be angels by those pious souls until informed.
      So it is not correct to accept someone claiming that they see or hear angels.
      That claim is either delusion or dishonesty.

  11. Avatar

    Sister

    July 5, 2015 at 11:32 PM

    Asalamu Alaykum,

    I suffer from chronic anxiety issues, OCD, and depression, and I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to write this article in order to shed light on such a pertinent issue which impacts all humans, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. It took me years and years of suffering, denial, and failed experiences before I became open to taking medication to help treat my symptoms.

    Many Muslims attribute a lack of piety, black magic, evil eye, or jinn as the causes of our mental maladies. However, the truth is that mental ailments are just as real as physical ones, and they too, have viable treatment options like their physical counterparts.

    Articles like these and people like yourself are doing a great service to our community by shedding light on the importance of seeking medicinal treatment for our mental illnesses.

    May Allah reward you with a place in Jannah for taking the time to write this, and I pray that it reaches those who are in dire need of a proper Islamic view.

    Barak Allahu Feekum.

    • Avatar

      M

      June 9, 2018 at 6:27 PM

      I started having extreme anxiety and panic attacks fromstarting from the third day of my fasting this ramadan. Therefore, I stopped fasting afterwards. I still do gace anxiety but I control ot with diet. If I eat after ever 2 3 hours it stays controlled. However, I feel really guilty fpr not fasting. Also people say you can fast later. I fear what If im not able to fast? Please tell me what other ways can I makeup for my missed fasts?
      This is really bugging me. Please suggest me some possible solutions and remember me in your prayers.

  12. Avatar

    Nur

    July 6, 2015 at 4:22 AM

    Assalamualaikum,
    This article is timely.. i am on my 2nd week of antidepressant for my depression, obsessive disorder and anxiety disorder. It has been very trying time for me and my husband as we struggle with my illness and other issues..
    However, even when I had to take medication, I see this as Allah’s way of testing me, especially in Ramadhan.. I am much more aware of myself in terms of getting close to Him.. alhamdulillah… tho I am still afraid what my family would think of me.. I find comfort in my prayer to Him..
    I know I am not broken…

  13. Avatar

    nimra

    July 6, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    Thank you very much, there was a dire need to discuss such a thing. JazakaAllah!

  14. Avatar

    Brother

    July 9, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Salaam, thank you for sharing and writing this. My experience is that there are many Muslims suffering from common and treatable mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. There is no need to suffer in silence; there are plenty of therapists and treatment options out there, including both cognitive therapy as well as medication. Please, if you think you may be suffering from mental illness, do not hesitate to visit a trusted psychologist or psychiatrist in your area (but do your research before deciding on one to work with – finding the right therapist is a big part of the recovery process, as this person will work with you and get to know you very intimately). You want to find someone you are comfortable with.

  15. Avatar

    aneesa

    July 13, 2015 at 3:58 PM

    I cannot express how grateful i am for this article!

  16. Avatar

    Nora

    July 17, 2015 at 2:54 AM

    As someone who’s mother had a mental illness, I find this article informative and helpful in letting others no that these people are not alone. My family comes from a culture that frowns upon mental illness and tries to keep it a secret from the world because ‘what will people say?’ It was very difficult and scary for a young child to see a mother go through such ordeals and at the same time having to keep a secret because it was shameful. I wish there was an accepting community of such illnesses and cases just like any other disease. I hated dealing with these circumstances and I always would wonder why can’t I have a normal mom? Anyhow, coming from first hand experience, it’s painful for the loved ones of the ill, I can only wonder how the ill persons themselves feel

  17. Avatar

    Sister

    July 20, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    Jazakumullahu khairun sheikh for bringing light to this very important topic that is often neglected in islamic circles. Another point that I wanted to add was that Ramadan in and of itself can also often serve as a trigger for many Muslims that have mental health issues (even in those individuals that may not be fasting). This is a commonly known occurrence for nonMuslims during nonMuslims holidays, example Christmas etc.

  18. Avatar

    umair

    August 1, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    I did not fast as i am recovering from anoerxia.
    not only is it a mental challenge, my body cannot, NOT eat for long
    may Allah forgive me

  19. Avatar

    Mujahidah

    May 14, 2016 at 11:48 PM

    Assalamualaikum wrh. Very helpful article for me. I just had panic attacks last two months but alhamdulillah I took no time to seek a psychiatrist for help. These attacks lead to anxiety disorder and agarophobia. Although my doctor told me it’s just a mild one, I still find it distracting especially when I am in public. I am still on medication and will only stop after 6 months. Ramadan is coming soon, please make dua that I can survive during fasting and have strong patience with this sickness. I pray that Allah will cure this sickness and I’ll pray the same duas for everyone. Stay strong and I know we will gain a lot of benefits from this test at the end of the day. Smile always and stay positive insyaAllah.

    P/s: if anyone knows any remedies for this kind of sickness, please drop a comment, I’d love to try. My Allah reward you. Jzk.

    • Avatar

      Fatimah

      December 5, 2016 at 4:12 AM

      Sister I have schizophrenia, and I am being treated with hijama. I used to hear voices both inside of my head and outside my body. I had anxiety attacks, depression, visual and auditory hallucinations. But alhamdulilah, I feel so much better now. I take my medicines and I do hijama (cupping therapy). Give hijama a chance. The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him instructed us to eat honey and to get treated with hijama. The virtues of hijama are so many, google it. May Allah heal us all and may He reward us for our patience.

      • Avatar

        Fatimah

        December 5, 2016 at 4:21 AM

        Chiquita is right. Pharmaceutical drugs have awful side effects. I started shaking, and half of my face got paralyzed. Hijama on the other hand does not have side effects. In sha Allah soon I will just use hijama and quit psychiatric drugs completely!

  20. Avatar

    Chiquita

    May 15, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    Bismillah…as someone who spent 11 years wading through the mental health industry and who has successfully made a full recovery by the grace of Allah SWT, I can tell you that mental health professionals are not equipped or trained to work with Muslims who have mental illness. Not even the Muslim therapists. They not only re-victimize and further stigmatize Muslim patients but they coerce them into taking expensive pharmaceutical products that are very harsh on the body. These products do little to reduce symptoms and are not even tested for long-term use before being approved by the FDA. I suffered reproductive and neurological damage from psychotropic drugs. I spent three years running hospital based support groups for the mentally ill and can say with confidence that the current system does not work. There is a dire need for culturally competent, community-driven solutions. Imams need to be trained to appropriately intervene in the lives of mentally ill Muslims. Every masjid should have a support group for members with mental health challenges. Families and friends need greater assistance in dealing with their loved ones and navigating complex health systems. Community members need to pool their resources to give charity to those struggling to pay for mental health treatment. And consumers need to be empowered. Contrary to popular belief, a person doesn’t have to experience a mental illness for forever. With patience, perseverance and reliance on Allah, one can recover just like I did alhamdullilah.

    • Avatar

      Repenting Muslima

      July 1, 2016 at 1:48 PM

      I agree with you Chiquita so much. I am a sufferer who has jumped from one psychiatrist to another. They either make me feel like I should be ashamed and never mention my illnesses to anyone or they give me such heavy medication for years that I forget myself sometimes and all these chemicals alter behavior and motor skills. It is very scary. I was diagnosed at 17 and now 20 years later, due to poorly educated doctors I have become worse. I even travele overseas for treatment where I did gain some insight into my illnesses but I hit a plateau and stopped improving. I can’t stay in the same job for long because I fall so sick from being stressed out at work that most jobs land me in the ER. Every day I fear God’s wrath to an obsessive extent because I take so many pills throughout the day hence I cannot fast. The medications have rendered me diabetic. And severe panic attacks leave me paralyzed for days where I miss my prayers. And to top this off, I have sinned through words as well as action and the remorse I feel directly afterwards is almost too awful to bear. All I do is feel guilty and pray for God’s forgiveness day and night. Thank you for your time in reading my comment. Salam.

      • Avatar

        Fatimah

        December 5, 2016 at 4:26 AM

        May Allah forgive us all and heal us. May Allah bless us, protect us and guide us all. May Allah provide for us and help us every second of our lives. Oh Allah, have mercy upon us. Ameen!

        • Avatar

          Ahmed

          June 18, 2017 at 10:08 AM

          Dearest Sisters Fatimah and Muslima – I pray for you both to find peace and comfort in the knowledge and belief that Allah, Ta’alah, is Oft Returning, Oft Forgiving – that He is truly most compassionate, most merciful and truly full of love for His servants. May Allah, Ta’alah, bless you both with ever stronger iman in His strength, His patience, His great love for His servants and His abundant mercy. May you – and all Muslims suffering through any and all afflictions – be blessed with shifah – complete cure and goodness from our Creator. Know that He watches over you at every moment and, please, dear Sisters, trust Him to guide and help you through all your difficulties. Our holy Prophet, sa’allahu alehei wa salaam, tells us that Allah will never turn away from those who turn to Him. Blessings and warmest wishes to you both — and the entire ummah — of Ramadhan Mubarak. Ameen!

  21. Avatar

    Muhammad Siddique

    August 5, 2016 at 4:28 PM

    JazakAllah Khair for this article. I pray it reaches many and may Allah (swt) help them and guide them. I was most eagerly looking for something written on this topic that made sense and this article sure does.

  22. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    October 31, 2016 at 7:13 AM

  23. Avatar

    Hoda

    May 30, 2017 at 11:46 AM

    ASA, Thank you so much for posting this. As a muslim all my life I have struggled with Anxiety and PTSD for the last 5 years to a horrible degree. I have taken many meds and have found some help but the harm outweighed the good. I have stopped my meds and have found an older and natural form of medicine. I am talking about medical marijuana. I am a muslim mother of 2, married to a wonderful muslim man who supports me 100% after seeing me suffer for years and being my rock. I was very hesitant to try this of course with all stigma surrounding it but I felt it was truly my last and only option. You know the saying “Allah will find for you a solution in the most unexpected ways” well I truly believe he led me to this. This is a plant that he created for us, and I truly believe it’s a cure that is being hidden and held back from us. Regardless of that, the point of this is not to say I don’t fast and smoke all day. In fact I don’t smoke at all, I eat it! The effects are longer and much healthier for my body. The point of this is that I wanted to say every year I try fasting, every year I make it through a couple days then my anxiety gets so bad, and the guilt comes in and I just feel like an awful muslim. But enough! I can’t do that anymore, Allah has given us so much ease in religion. Only he knows the degree of ones pain though it may not be visible to the rest of the world. Only Allah knows what are are going through and what’s in our heart. I truly hope my reward will be as great as that who has fasted. I wanted to say badly fast but it really does hurt me more then anything. I hope someone reads and finds help in it! Allah loves us all, and wants only ease for us. May Allah bless us all and May you find easy in your suffering and inshallah we reunite together in a place where no pain no harm can ever affect us. Ameen.

  24. Avatar

    Muneeb

    May 7, 2018 at 8:12 AM

    As salam u alikum everyone. Ramdan is upon us. I have found a tiny app to help me keep track of Namaz timings and to listen to recitation of Holy Quran whenever I want to. I want to share it with everyone. I hope you all shall find it useful.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.teespire.islam

  25. Avatar

    Celia

    June 1, 2018 at 2:26 PM

    BarakAllahufik thank you for that.

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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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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