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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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#Current Affairs

The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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Reflection On The Legacy of Mufti Umer Esmail | Imam Azhar Subedar

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“An ocean of knowledge which once resided on the seabed of humbleness has now submerged below it, forever.”

“Why didn’t you tell me!! You call me your younger brother, but you couldn’t even tell me you were ailing?!”

I could’ve called you or visited you so I could apologize for all the pain I caused you; thank you for all the good you did for me throughout my life despite all that pain. if nothing else, just so I could say goodbye to you.”

(My selfish mind continued to cry out as I stood in front of his grave— praying.)

As I sat down to compile my thoughts, upon returning home, I put my feelings of loss aside and tried to analyze your decision of not informing me about your illness from a different perspective.

Possibly, your own.

Why would you tell me?

This was just like you. You never wanted to hurt a soul; forget about making them worry about you, augmenting their own worries. For you were the sponge for our worries, the shock absorber of our concerns, and the solid wall that shouldered the pain of those around him.

You weren’t just a big brother, my big brother, you were a true human. A lesson on humanity.

You were always there for me.

“I GOT A QUESTION” sent at 2 AM.

“Sure” was your response.

We spoke for over 40 min.

That night.

Your strength reflected my weakness- always urging me to do better, be more like you.

I was told you were in hospital by a close family member early Friday morning before Jummah prayers. I was supposed to call you. That was my responsibility. However, the preparation of the Friday Sermon was my excuse not to do so.

As I exited from delivering the Friday services, I received a message from you, the one who was spending the last days of his life in a hospital, never to be seen outside of the confines of those walls ever again.

That message you wrote- you knew me so well.

“As-salaam alaikum, I thought you were already American?”

(You were catching up with me as I had become an American citizen the day before. You wanted to congratulate me, without complaining to me.)

“I heard you are in the hospital?! How are you? What’s going on?” I asked immediately.

“Getting some treatment done. Mubarak on your American citizenship” was your response.

Diversion. A stubborn man with a heart of gold. You wanted to celebrate people even at the cost of your own life.

Your last words to me were digital, even though your connection with me spans a lifetime. As much as I wish I had heard your voice one last time, I try to find the beauty in that communication too as I can save and cherish those last words.

We grew up together in Canada in the ’80s- Mufti Umer and I. Our fathers were tight- childhood buddies. He ended up becoming the inspiration for my family to trek towards a path devoted to Islam, beginning with my brother and then myself.

He was my support from the time when I came to England to study at the Dar Al Uloom and wanted to call it quits and go home, to when he hosted me when I visited him in Austin in 2002, all the way till 2019, after I was married and settled with kids he loved like his own.

He visited us here in Dallas and had met them in his unique way of showering them with love. And why wouldn’t he? My wife and I are here under one roof all because of his earnest desire to help people.

He introduced us to each other.

“I want you to marry my younger brother.” A message he sent to my wife over 17 years ago.

She was his student. He was her mentor, support beam, confidante, and best friend. (Well, we all feel like he was our best friend, only because he truly was.)

I am sharing my life story not only because he was an integral part of it, but throughout (he was also a major part of my wife’s life when she really needed him) but because that final text message wrapped it all up- the gift that he was to me and my family. It showed how much he was invested in us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

That message wrote:

“I thought you’ve been a citizen since marriage.”

(FRIDAY, AUGUST 30TH @ 3: 07 PM)

This is just my story featuring Mufti Umer Ismail.

I am confident that there are thousands more out there without exaggeration.

I’ll conclude with a word he corrected for me as I misspelled it on my Facebook page a few months ago when Molana Haaris Mirza, a dear colleague, passed away in New York. He didn’t do it publicly, he did it through that same Facebook text messenger that kept us in touch- with love and sincere care for me in his heart.

“As-salaam alaikum the word is Godspeed. Sorry for being [a] grammar freak.”

(MARCH 28TH, 2019 @6: 04 PM)

Godspeed, my dear brother. Godspeed.

Azhar Subedar

imamAzhar.com

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