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The Gift of Iddah

Na'ima B Robert

Published

A part of me died four months and ten days ago.

But, alhamdulillah, it wasn’t hope. It wasn’t courage. And it definitely wasn’t faith and trust in my Lord’s perfect plan.

 The call that changed everything

The call woke me before Fajr. My heart stopped as I tried to recognize the number on the screen. A blank. But when I answered the phone and heard the familiar voice of the doctor on the other side, I prepared myself for the worst.

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And the worst came: heart stopped beating, CPR attempted for 30 minutes, no hope.

‘JazakAllahu khairan,’ I whispered hoarsely before cutting off the call. Then I immediately rose from the bed and fell into sujood of shukr. Alhamdulillah.

It was the moment I had dreaded but also a moment I had been preparing myself for, ever since a sister, who had come to visit me at the hospital, had told me the story of a husband and wife whose daughter was desperately ill. Every time they came to the hospital, the doctors would tell them more reasons why she was not going to make it. And, at every visit, the father would turn to his wife and said, ‘Don’t forget.’

This continued for several days, the doctors predicting the worst, and the husband reminding his wife not to forget, until the day they arrived and were given the news that would break any parent’s heart: their daughter had died.

Upon hearing the news, the husband turned to his wife and said to her, ‘Now,’ and they both fell into sujood of shukr.

The hospital staff were amazed, some of them even horrified. Surely this was a terribly sad event, one to be wept over, to be mourned, not to be celebrated with sujood?

They asked the couple why, why had they done this?

And the couple told the staff at that hospital how they had taken the decision to give thanks for their daughter’s life, for the joy she had brought them, for the love they had shared with her. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had allowed them to love and care for her for all those years: should they not give thanks for this?

And, when I heard this story, I decided that that was what I was going to do, if it ever came to that.

Because, you see, I had no right to bemoan losing my husband, after being gifted with more happiness in 16 years than many taste in a several lifetimes. Alhamdulillah, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guided us both to Islam and, a few short years later, to each other. My husband’s understanding and patient attitude brought out the best in me, in deen and dunyah. His way was not to command or force, but rather guide and, even, let me make my own mistakes and learn from them. As with those he worked with, his aim was always to support me in fulfilling my potential, because it was that quality that had drawn him to me in the first place (his words, not mine!). Quite simply, we understood each other, we supported each other, we were best friends and allies, as well as husband and wife. It is no exaggeration to say that, without him, I would not be the woman I am today. It was for this reason that I dedicated From My Sisters’ Lips to him, all those years ago: ‘For the wind beneath my wings’. I always prayed that any good I had done would be counted in the scale of his good deeds.

As it was, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) took him after a bout of illness, after completing the Hajj twice (the last time, with me) and having recently taken all his children for ‘Umrah. He died a Muslim, on tawheed, in the land of the Muslims, well-loved by his family, friends and colleagues. Alhamdulillah, some things are indeed a comfort.

A deep and terrible loss

In the days that followed his passing, I was on autopilot. There is no time for breaking down when you are a foreign national, trying to complete paperwork for a burial, on the day the British Embassy is closed for a UK holiday. I went through the motions: I Whatsapped everyone to give them the news, I sat on the phone to try to get an appointment to allow his body to be buried in Egypt, as he would have wanted; I stood in crowded offices while my papers were shuffled back and forth, collecting stamps and signatures along the way. By the time we had finally got permission to bury him, we were late: the Dhuhr prayer was in less than an hour. My phone was dead. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to let people know about the Janazah in time. But, by that time, I was past caring.

I observed the Janazah salah from the steps of the masjid and I said my last salaam to him in the courtyard before they took him on the long drive to the graveyard.

Surrounded by my children, my family, my in-laws, sisters, brothers, colleagues and well-wishers on every side, I felt like I was watching a scene in a movie. I played my part well: I was the gracious widow, receiving condolences, comforting others, maintaining my composure, but, in truth, my heart was aching. And yet, through it all, my faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was undaunted, alhamdulillah.

I wrote at the time: I feel so incredibly blessed. Even in the midst of the trial, as the tears fall, I am surrounded by His Mercy. The du’as, the support, the love, the sense of strength and serenity, are all signs of His Mercy. Alhamdulillah, I accept. Alhamdulillah, I am at peace. Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah is the balm for my aching heart.

The next challenge, after burying him, would be mourning him, observing the ‘iddah.

Observing the ‘iddah

There is a delicate tension in the state of iddah, the mourning period for a widow.

On the one hand, life continues, particularly if you have children or have to work to support your family. Contrary to popular belief, it is permitted for the widow in ‘iddah to go out during the day to fulfil her needs*. The pressures, demands and responsibilities of the world are real and they won’t wait for four months and ten days to be over. Some widows find that family members take over these tasks but, in many cases, you are forced to plan, to look forward, to move on, to face the world. It can be an exquisite distraction from the pain that lies buried deep under the school run, bedtime stories and endless paperwork and deadlines. But it is still a distraction.

On the other hand, your state of ‘iddah restricts you; you cannot fully embrace life, even if you want to. You are not supposed to wear beautiful clothes or adorn yourself in any way. Although you may have visitors and spend time with family and friends, you are expected to shun social gatherings. You are not to entertain proposals. You should observe your period of mourning in your marital home. All this means that you must pause. You must reflect. You must withdraw. You must face the reality, brave the darkness: the ache, the loneliness, the anger, the fear, that feeling of being utterly bereft. You must face it because it will break you down, bring you to your knees, make you feel once again that vulnerability of his last days when you would have given anything for one last apology, one last kiss, one last promise. You must face the reality that this is Allah’s plan for you. And that, if this is so, there must be khair in it for you. It’s there. It’s there in the chance to ask for forgiveness, to pour your heart out, to cleanse, to rectify your soul, to purify your habits, to be ready to emerge from your ‘iddah like a butterfly from a chrysalis: reborn, refashioned, beautiful.

The gift of ‘iddah

For me, my ‘iddah has been a time of discovery, full of challenges, but, equally, full of triumphs. So far, I have weathered the storm. We all have, alhamdulillah.

During my ‘iddah, I have tasted grief, a grief unlike any I have felt before. At times, I have felt a crushing and desperate loneliness, a longing for my love that threatens to suffocate me. But then I breathe, one beat, two beats, and it is soothed: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sends me relief in the form of an ayah, or a poem, or a phone call or a sister dropping by out of the blue to listen and hold my hand and let me know that it is ok to feel.

I have also felt, as many widows do, the weight of new responsibilities, too numerous to name. The realisation that it is all down to you now, that you are a single parent, that there is no escape from the responsibility, is a terrifying one.

I have also felt the confusion, the anger, the sadness that all widows must feel.

But, equally, with every test, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has shown me the truth of His words: ‘Verily with every difficulty, there is ease.’ I have held onto those words; they have kept me from drowning many, many times.

By His grace, I have felt the love of so many kind and goodhearted souls who have been there for me, sometimes traveling great distances, to take the kids, to make me a cup of tea, to listen to me, to let me cry and to let me sleep for two days straight. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reward them with Jannat-ul-Firdaws; they have taught me the true meaning of sisterhood. I have felt the love that radiates from my children, my family and from those I do not know a thousand miles away; I have felt the thrill of strength and determination as I continue to walk forward and achieve the goals I have set for myself, for our family; and I have felt the healing balm of gratitude that continues to sustain me.

If it is not improper to say so, I would say that I eventually found my ‘iddah period empowering. By Allah’s grace, I have been able to come to terms with and accept that my husband is no longer with us. I have come to accept and embrace the challenges that this new journey will bring. I am at peace with the decree of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises that He will never burden a soul more than it can bear – that alone gives me the courage and confidence I need to meet the numerous challenges head-on. I know in my heart of hearts, with full yaqeen, that He did not test us with this to break us, but rather, to purify us, to lift us up. He has been my solace throughout this test and I have never once despaired of His Mercy. Alhamdulillah, He has never failed to come to my aid in my time of need. He has never failed to ‘catch me’. And He never will, bi’idhnillah.

Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli haal.

 

Sweet stoicism

Stifles the screams,

Silences the sighs,

Sinks the soul

To numbness.

My heart is too hard to hurt.

My hands, too full to face the sky.

My eyes, too focused to tear up

With wild, wilful tears.

Forgive me, Lord.

Forgive me

And catch me

When my back finally breaks

When my heart finally cracks

When the tears finally fall

And fall

And fall,

Drowning me

And all my patience,

Strength

And fortitude.

When the agony of loss

Threatens to throw me from the cliff,

Catch me, Lord.

Catch me.


Na’ima B. Robert is the acclaimed author of From My Sisters’ Lips and founding Editor of SISTERS www.sisters-magazine.com , the Magazine for Fabulous Muslim Women. Her new book of poetry, ‘Catch Me’, is available on Amazon,  Amazon.co.uk, now. Her support website for widows www.my-iddah.com goes live this week, insha Allah. To find out more about her work, visit www.naimabrobert.co.uk

[Editor’s Note] A free preview of Catch Me for our readers, please use this link: http://sistersawakening.com/catchme_preview

 

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Na’ima B. Robert is the acclaimed author of From My Sisters’ Lips and founding Editor of SISTERS www.sisters-magazine.com , the Magazine for Fabulous Muslim Women. Her new book of poetry, ‘Catch Me’, is available on Amazon, Amazon.co.uk

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Add

    August 14, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Please fix the Amazon link for her book.

  2. Avatar

    Mummyjaan

    August 14, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    I’m very sorry for your loss, Naima. May Allah grant Jannat ul Firdaus to hour husband Ameen.

  3. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    August 14, 2015 at 2:37 PM

    Asalaam Alaikum

    Such a wonderfully powerful essay. JazakAllah khairun for sharing this.

    May you all be reunited in Jannah.

  4. Avatar

    Umm Abdillah

    August 15, 2015 at 4:43 AM

    Goosebumps reading this. May Allah always cushion your Ieman and be your constant Wali. May Allah grant your husband Jannatul Firdaus.

  5. Avatar

    Aaminah

    August 15, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    I have read ,followed your write up for almost 7 years now and I have loved you all for Allah’s sake. May Allah ease your task,grant you the best in this life and hereafter and accept all your deeds as an act of Ibadah.

    • Avatar

      UmmA

      August 15, 2015 at 9:15 PM

      Aameen ya Rabb al aalameen

  6. Avatar

    Diary of a British Algerian

    August 15, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    I am deeply sorry for your loss, sister.
    This post is amazingly written and has left me in tears. You are strong mashallah & so inspiring. I can’t imagine going through what you went through. Alhamdulileh you have found some strength to cope with your unimaginable loss. May Allah help you raise your children & keep you strong for them. May Allah help you deal & cope with your loss. May Allah reunite you all in Jannah. May Allah forgive your husband & have mercy on his soul. Ameen ya rab.

    • Avatar

      Amina Moyo

      November 8, 2015 at 4:00 AM

      May Allah continue to strengthen you. Ameen.

  7. Avatar

    Abu Fawzaan

    August 15, 2015 at 12:07 PM

    Hasbunallahu wa nimal wakeel
    Hasbunallahu wa nimal wakeel

  8. Avatar

    salma sambo

    August 15, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    May Allah continue to give you more strength in facing the challenges of life, nd may Jannatul Firdaus be his nd our final abode.

  9. Avatar

    Maryam Abdul

    August 15, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    Assalamu’alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. My dear Sister you have always been a source of inspiration to me and I’m certain so many other sisters. And even now with your loss you have the courage to share with us so we can learn from it. Your reward is with Allah SWT and may He bless you in abundance. May He grant your husband and other dead muslims comfort in the grave and jannatulfirdaus. Amin

  10. Avatar

    R.b.p

    August 15, 2015 at 2:35 PM

    Am currently sitting in iddat and can sooo relate to those feelings?..Allah make easy for you and remember my children and i in your duas…

  11. Avatar

    Ummu Ayeesha

    August 15, 2015 at 7:18 PM

    Sister Na’ima you have been a great source of inspiration to me and many more. May Allah reward you in your grieve and make Jannatul Firdaus his eternal dwelling.

  12. Avatar

    Fazeela Dulloo

    August 16, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    Being widowed recently I sympathize with you. In the grand scheme of life Allah knows and will reward you – patience my sister
    patience Allah knows,

  13. Avatar

    Bashirat Yusuf

    August 16, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    Reading through your memoir, I couldn’t help but stifle back the tears that were threatening to roll down my cheeks; tears not for your loss, but for the strength and courage you displayed, even in your loss; making me to realize that the strength of Islam displayed by the sahabah is very much alive and real. May Allah comfort you and continue to strengthen you my sister. Never look back please, a lot of sisters around the world are looking up to you. May Allah forgive your husband and Grant him aljannah firdaous. Amin.

  14. Avatar

    Fa'izah

    August 16, 2015 at 5:35 PM

    Masha Allah sister. I am a young(ish) widow in my Idah at the moment. I feel sometimes like I am going crazy for being so happy about the passing of my amazing wonderful husband. I miss him terribly yes, but he had such an amazing death one any Muslim would pray for. We all want to meet our Creator and I am happy for him for this test to be over.
    I feel like you’ve captured the essence of this time so beautifully. Someone else is sharing this path and this grief and this strength and doing it in a similar fashion to me. Maybe I am not so crazy after all.
    All my love sister for you and may we emerge from our Idah as you described- beautiful butterflies ready to take on what Allah has in store for us.

  15. Avatar

    Abdia

    August 17, 2015 at 6:42 AM

    May Allah ease yiurpain and grant your husband janatul firdaus ameen

  16. Avatar

    Nafisah

    August 17, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    May Allah (SWT) reward you and ease your affairs. May He grant your husband and other dead Muslims Jannatul firdaus. Ameen

  17. Avatar

    Femida

    August 17, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    Masha Allah sister naima
    Please carry on making dua for all of us for Allah taala to grant us sincerity and the strength to cope like you have in all your challenges

  18. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    August 18, 2015 at 2:33 AM

  19. Avatar

    Ayesha

    August 18, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    My dear sister , may Allah azzawajal grant you and your family Sabrun jameel , may he have mercy on your husband , grant him a highest abode in jannatul fidaus and unite you all with the same .Ameen ya Rab

  20. Avatar

    Alpha Bravo

    August 18, 2015 at 8:34 AM

    I just have a hard time understanding this… How can you love someone who gives you pain, grief and puts you into misery. It’s like Islam is the ultimate test of cognitive dissonance: it just doesn’t make sense.

    The reaction of the hospital staff is what any average human being will go through… that’s what human beings were born with: the natural instinct to be devastated at loss of one’s child. However Allah tells us to act against our basic operating procedures. It’s like we were created with these instincts but the test is that who can go against these instincts. No wonder why 99.9% of bani Adam will end up in Hellfire.

    • Avatar

      Abu Haazim

      August 18, 2015 at 12:21 PM

      I understand your predicament. The story of husband and wife making sajda shukr shows a clear lack of understanding of the faith. While people get really impressed after reading these stories, the true ‘Abd(bondsman) of Allah realizes that Islam is not following your sentiments and desires rather following the way of the Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him). If they really understood the spirit of Islam, they would naturally weep as did the Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him) when his son passed away. Allah Ta’ala has not demanded of us not to weep on such a great loss but the command is to not to complain like some people do by saying why me or this was untimely etc. etc. One can mourn but at the same time, know firmly in your heart that nothing happens without the will of Allah and that it has good in it, whether we understand it or not with our very limited intellectual is a different matter.

      I pray that Allah Ta’ala give the author peace and fulfill her needs from HIS vast treasures and grant us all sound understanding of Deen.

  21. Avatar

    Mohamed shiraz

    August 20, 2015 at 2:07 AM

    ASSALAMMUALIKUM KINDLY ADD ME TO TOUR MAILING LIST JAZAKALLAH

  22. Avatar

    zaneera v

    August 22, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Inspiring Sister Na’ima
    May Allah ease your grief, take you closer to Him and reunite you with your beloved in His eternal Jannah

  23. Avatar

    Mohammed

    August 22, 2015 at 5:05 PM

    May Allah grant him Jannat ul Firdaus Ameen.

  24. Avatar

    Sa'ada

    August 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    May Allah(SWT) make Jannatul Firdaus his final abode and may He(SWT) make it easy on you and other widows as well.
    May Allah(SWT) increase our faith and
    eeman in Him and His
    beloved prophet(SAW) and I pray we return to Him witout dirt and in full Faith.

  25. Avatar

    Aisha

    August 29, 2015 at 3:13 AM

    Allahumma baarik lakum. May Allah be your strength and grant your husband forgiveness and Jannatul Firdaws. Ameen

  26. Avatar

    Sumayyah

    November 10, 2015 at 2:39 AM

    May Allah bless you, my sister, and continue to make you a source of benefit wherever you are. <3

  27. Avatar

    Khadija patel

    November 20, 2015 at 3:08 AM

    I too recently lost my husband. I have had to put my mourning to one side and recollect my responsibilities. How to guide my sons in the best possible way that they benefit the deen and dunya. I sat at home for two months and had to return to work to support my financial needs. But shukr that the Almighty has given me strength and health to do this.

  28. Avatar

    Alabi rukayat

    April 21, 2016 at 1:04 PM

    may Allah (s.w.t) grant him aljanat Firdaous inshallah I’ve been reading ur books and u are such an amazing writer and u’ve impacted so many lives may Allah (s.w.t) reward u abundantly inshaallah.wish i could meet u one day.Jazakummullahu khaeran

  29. Pingback: my-iddah

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#Life

OpEd: Muslims Connect Over ImamConnect

Muddassar Ahmed, Guest Contributor

Published

How do you live a religious life when religion feels far away and inaccessible to you? For me, growing up in Britain, I came across plenty of Muslims like me. It wasn’t that we didn’t care about our faith or take Islam seriously. It’s that we had no idea how to integrate the Islam on offer with the realities of our lives. Many of my peers stopped attending the mosque not because they didn’t want to be Muslim, but because the Muslim life that existed around them was designed for another place and time.

While the picture has changed somewhat with a global pandemic, some of these original problems still remain.

I, for one, grew up within five minutes walk of a mosque, but felt unexpectedly disconnected when I moved to an area that didn’t have one. My desire to be connected to my faith traditions did not disappear – the gap just felt wider than ever before. And, I am not alone. For a variety of reasons, fewer than twenty per cent of British Muslims and fewer than ten per cent of American Muslims regularly attend a mosque. (That’s before the pandemic, by the way.)

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These lacklustre numbers, however, do not reflect a lack of religious enthusiasm or commitment on the part of many Muslims. It’s rather that mosques can often be unrelatable or inaccessible, whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally. In some cases, mosques can be downright unwelcoming.

The more I talk to family, friends, and fellow Muslims, the more I notice a worrying pattern. It’s not that Muslims don’t want their religion to be a vital part of their daily lives, but that their institutions don’t always work for them. And there’s apparently nowhere else to go for authentic, reliable, and trustworthy religious life services. And the modern reality is that, like many of you, I have friends and colleagues all over the world. When they ask me for help or a recommendation, sending them to a brick and mortar mosque down the road doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Meanwhile, the very people who can best provide the religious services Muslims long for don’t know how to reach the people they can serve.

The great crisis afflicting modern Muslim communities is one of connection.

Or rather, the lack of it.

I turned to technology to help solve this problem, creating a website that will be the “mosque” more Muslims wish they had. This simple gesture, of connecting Muslims looking for religious services with the Muslims who are best qualified to provide them, will revolutionize Muslim life across the world. It’s called ImamConnect. You might think of it as an ‘Uber for Imams’ but that doesn’t do justice to the service, the connection, or the vision we’re building.

“And help one another in goodness and piety”

– The Noble Qur’an (5:2)

ImamConnect is a digital platform that’s designed to be accessible to a wide range of users, with different backgrounds, needs, and priorities. It’s a one-stop-shop, a place where users can find qualified, vetted experts to meet their religious life needs, offering services like marriage ceremonies, advice on wills and guidance on inheritance laws, as well as religious classes, like Qur’an tutoring for the young and the old–and so much more.

Developed by a team of Muslim communications experts, entrepreneurs, technologists, and community leaders based in Brussels, London, Granada, Kuala Lumpur, and New York, ImamConnect launched with over 70 background-checked service providers offering their expertise from countries around the globe, like Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It works very simply.

Religious service providers create profiles with their relevant information, which we carefully background check. They list out what services they can provide and how much they charge. Users visit the website and simply enter what they’re searching for. ImamConnect presents them with a list of the experts who offer requested services.

Maybe it’s Islam 101. Maybe it’s marriage counselling. Maybe it’s tajweed classes.

Maybe they’re a junior scholar looking for more senior scholars to help them advance in their studies. Maybe they’re a parent looking for pastoral guidance amidst a crumbling relationship with their teenager. (All examples of bookings so far made on Imam Connect).

Whoever they are, we hope to help provide them with exactly what they need.

When booking a service provider, users have access not only to a service provider’s biography, available services, and rates of service, but reviews from other users too. This helps ensure user safety and access to high quality, professional services. For the religious service providers, then, ImamConnect means a source of new clients and students. For the users, ImamConnect is a religious lifeline–the services they need designed to meet them where they are.

They can find scholars, specialists, and experts who know their context, their local customs (‘urf), their realities and circumstances—people who have religious authority and nuance, who would be the right pick to provide, say, premarital counseling to a mixed-race couple, or a pair of new Muslims negotiating relationships with families that maybe aren’t fully onboard with their life choices yet. The kinds of challenges that, unfortunately, a lot of communities don’t have the on-the-ground resources to provide.

For now, of course, all services have to be virtual, but when circumstances permit, users will be allowed to book in-person services, too.

What makes us different from many community institutions, however, isn’t just our global reach or intuitive accessibility.

It’s the vetting and the variety.

“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. There truly are signs in this for those who know.”

– The Noble Qur’an (30:22) 

Background checks are critical components of the ImamConnect service, ensuring that the religious service providers on offer are free of any history of fraud and criminality. Vetting is intended to ensure users can feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe with their service provider.

On top of that, users have a menu of religious service options. We acknowledge and celebrate our communities’ diversities. Mindful of the amazing pluralism that characterizes modern Islam, ImamConnect welcomes religious service providers from a variety of backgrounds, from conservative to contemporary, liberal to traditional, and including Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, among others. This not only means that religious service providers from diverse traditions can connect to the individuals most in need of them, but also that users are no longer limited to the services available in their neighbourhoods.

“The whole Earth has been made a Mosque”

– Prophet Muhammad (Bukhari 335)

People have many questions, naturally. For one, people ask if we won’t just enable people to engage in fatwa-shopping, as opposed to the robust values they should aspire to. I think that’s an unfairly pessimistic characterization of our communities. People look for communities that help them grow and foster a sense of belonging. When they become disillusioned by institutions around them, it’s often because these institutions offer them no point of entry, no way to begin connecting. And a chief motivation of mine has been that I fear Muslims today are losing touch with our Islamic traditions due to this inaccessibility.

Indeed, as it turns out, ImamConnect is a valuable resource for scholars themselves, whether looking to increase their learning or find independent revenue streams, which would give them the autonomy and liberty to pursue research and studies they deem to be of value to the community. In the absence of well-endowed institutions that can offer research fellowships, ImamConnect has the ability not to undermine scholarship, but to enrich it and enable it.

Another concern people may have is whether we’re undermining mosques. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t received any pushbacks from mosques—because our model is not a combative or confrontational one. Where we can, we seek to be complementary and collaborative. Where there’s simply no alternative, then we present ourselves as the obvious choice, but by emphasizing what we can do, not what others do not.

It would be ideal, of course, if local mosques welcomed and embraced pluralism, and had the resources to meet the broad spiritual needs of their diverse communities, but this is not always or even frequently the case. Muslims should not be forced to go without religious life services because of no fault of their own. Excitingly, however, we have received offers of interest from community institutions like mosques, who see the potential in what it is we are trying to do.

Many mosques, for example, want to make themselves more accessible to their communities, but lack the know-how or the bandwidth. They recognise ImamConnect as a service that can bring their staff into better and easier contact with their local communities, and potentially, well beyond that in a tech-savvy way. During a time of pandemic, this is especially valuable.

The potential for applications is vast. And rightly so.

To those who argue that the failure of our communities to serve the needs of our people can be attributed to a fundamental flaw in our faith tradition, I beg to differ. This is a tempting and false narrative. I am an optimist. I believe that many of our problems can be solved by simple solutions, if only we have the wherewithal, wisdom and foresight to pursue them.

When the circumstances surrounding our religious life are holding us back, or holding us down, we need the tools to go around them. ImamConnect is that kind of technology. It’s an answer to an ongoing prayer, a way for Muslims of all backgrounds to connect with the resources they’ve been looking for but for too long have been unable to find–or avail themselves of. ImamConnect is like ‘Uber for Imams,’ yes. That’s an easy way to describe a service with transformative implications.

Instead of going to the mosque, which manifestly isn’t working for many Muslims in many parts of the world, why not bring the mosque or the imam to you?

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Tech

6 Phone Hacks to Stop Muslim Pro from Selling You Out to the Military

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Vice News has released an article stating the popular app Muslim Pro has been, perhaps unknowingly, selling location data to military contractors. Essentially, this means that your information ends up in the hands of the military itself.

Apps can be monetized a number of ways beyond the one-time app purchase or subscriptions.  Different types of data can be gathered from your phone by the app.  That data can then be sold to others who are interested in harvesting that data for different uses.

In the case of the Muslim Pro app, it’s been found they have been gathering location data from user phones and selling it to the company X-Mode, which in turn sells this to various entities, including military contractors.  Regarding X-Mode clients, the Vice article notes:

Those clients have also included U.S. military contractors, Motherboard found. Included in archived versions of the “Trusted Partners” section on its website, X-Mode lists Sierra Nevada Corporation and Systems & Technology Research as customers. Sierra Nevada Corporation builds combat aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, and supports contractor Northrop Grumman in the development of cyber and electronic warfare capabilities for the U.S. Army. Systems & Technology Research works with the Army, Navy, and Air Force according to procurement records, and offers “data analytics” support to intelligence analysts, according to its website.

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It’s important to note that the Muslim Pro app isn’t the only app that makes use of X-Mode. As well, many app developers who were available for comment stated that they did not realize their data was being resold for military purposes.  Muslim Pro has not yet responded to inquiries with Vice.

By no means is this problem limited to the Muslim Pro app, nor is selling our data to the military the only nefarious use of our data. It is troubling nonetheless to know that this practise is occurring.  Irrespective of whether this was or was not done with bad intentions, we should still understand how to protect ourselves from inadvertant breaches like this.

Location Services: Privacy Concerns and a Major Battery Drain

Many don’t realize that having location tracking constantly toggled on by default on one’s phone is a major drain on the device’s battery.  Add to that various apps that have asked you to opt in on gathering your location data (which they send to others), and you’re looking at multiple recharges daily, even on brand new phones.  Let’s review how you can increase your privacy and battery life.

1. Toggle Location Setting to “Off”

The first is to simply toggle your Location setting to off.  This prevents the phone from gathering location data.  There’s usually no need for it to be on, and it’s a huge drain.  Google will try to sell you (well, they already do) on the possibility of losing your phone and better customization of services.  Ignore it.  Here’s how you turn it off:

2. Remove App Permissions’ Access to Your Location

There will come a time when you want to toggle Location on, such as when using a map-based app to travel.  You probably don’t want 100 apps sending out your location info while you make legitimate use of location tracking for your personal benefit.  You may also want to keep location tracking on your kids’ phones for tracking their whereabouts.  Here’s how to prevent specific apps from tracking you:

One caveat to keep in mind – many apps that give you the option of “Only while in use” are still in use even if you’re using another app – they’re sitting in the background until you truly close them out.

3. Turn off Location History Tracking

Google keeps track of where you’ve been if you’re signed into a Google account, have location history turned on, and you have location reporting turned on.  They do this on both Android and Apple Devices.  To turn off tracking, and to automatically have it deleted:

Apple doesn’t have a good support article describing how to disable Location History tracking under their Significant Locations settings, only delete.  Here’s a straightforward article on both deleting the history and disabling tracking:

4. Mask Your Online Activity with a VPN

A vpn (virtual private network) hides your online activity, identity, and location information while browsing or making use of streaming services.  Some commercial providers include:

To learn more about VPNs, read this article.  Please note that many use VPNs to perform illegal and unethical activity anonymously, such as downloading copyrighted material from torrenting sites – as Muslims, we do not and should not condone such behavior.

5. Turn off Ad Tracking and Location-Based Ads

Based on your online behavior and search history, ads will be targeted at you, and there are location-based ads shot your way as well.  Here’s how to turn them off:

Please note that this doesn’t prevent you from seeing ads.  This prevents advertisers from gathering your personal data and then retargeting ads specific to what they know about you.

6. Turn off Bluetooth

It’s not just for connecting AirPods and Beats headphones.  While GPS tracking can get your location over a wide range, its precision is limited.  Bluetooth beacons in stores can talk to your phone’s bluetooth and pinpoint your exact location and tell stores how long you’ve been in a particular area.  If you’re interested in learning if there’s a Bluetooth beacon in your store talking to your phone, try using the Beacon Scanner.

  • Disable bluetooth on Apple
  • Disable bluetooth on Google Android:
    Go to Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > Bluetooth
    – Toggle the button from On to Off

Conclusion

We hope that the makers of the Muslim Pro app are more careful with whom they sell our data to.  I would recommend they remove any SDK code that sends location data of users to them and others.  It can be lucrative to re-target customers by selling their data, but this shouldn’t be done unless the reseller’s partners are thoroughly vetted.

For the rest of us, it’s important to closely monitor how our phone data is used to make money from us.  It’s better to have a minimalist approach to phone and app usage and invasiveness.  This article isn’t exhaustive in covering all the ways one can truly secure themselves; however, these are some significant steps one can take to begin protecting themselves and their families.

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#Islam

Undisputed And Undefeated: 13 Ways Khabib Nurmagomedov Inspired Us To Win With Faith

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Many fans anxiously watched UFC 254 with bated breath as Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov went head-to-head with Justin “The human highlight reel” Gaethje. The latter had just come off a spectacular TKO win against a formidable and feared fighter in the form of Tony Ferguson, beating him over 5 nerve-wracking rounds by outstriking him with a combination damaging head shots and crippling low kicks.

We all knew what both would do – Khabib would go for the takedown, and Gaethje would try to keep the fight on the feet and opt for stand-up striking – which fighter’s strategy would prevail? Alhamdulillah, it was Khabib, in a mere 2 rounds.  We weren’t in the fight, but we are all nervous and supplicating, making du’a to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give him another victory.

And so it was that after the win, he collapsed in the middle of the ring to cry, as this was his first fight after the loss of his father due to complications with Covid-19. He cried, and many a man cried with him, feeling his pain. Gaethje revived from his triangle choked slumber and consoled his former foe, telling Khabib his father was proud of him.

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We were all sure when “The Eagle” got on the mic, he would say he wanted to fight GSP, George St Pierre, and then retire 30-0, as he had said in previous press conferences leading up to the fight.  Instead, he surprised us all by announcing his retirement at 29-0, and I couldn’t help but marvel that not only was he turning away from a lucrative final fight, but the way in which he announced his retirement reminded us of our faith, our deen, our religion, Islam.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an

“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”

Throughout his MMA career, Khabib has proudly worn his faith on his sleeve. As he has risen to become the current pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world and arguably the GOAT, the greatest of all time, his unwavering example as a practicing Muslim transformed him into a global phenomenon and role model for many of us by reminding us to be better worshippers, to be closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Let’s look at a few of the ways he did this:

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

The announcer at UFC 254 began by congratulating Khabib on a job well-done yet again by praising him, stating, “The world is in awe of your greatness once again…your thoughts on an epic championship performance, congratulations.” Khabib didn’t immediately begin talking about himself. Instead, he said:

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

After stating this, he went on to announce his retirement, his reasons for retiring, and thanked everyone who supported his professional MMA journey.

The Reminder

Alhamdulillah is literally translated into “All Praise Belongs to God”. Khabib begins by thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), pointing out that his talents and abilities are a gift, a blessing from the Most High. When we have any blessing from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we must remember that whatever our own effort, our abilities, our support, and our achieved outcomes ultimately tie back to support from our Rabb, our Lord, who controls all.

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

If you’ve ever seen Khabib point at himself, shake his finger back and forth as if to say, “No” and then point up to the sky, this is a nonverbal way of him saying, don’t think all these great things you see are from me – they’re from Allah above.

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

You may have noticed at the end of Khabib’s victory, when the announcer states that he’s the winner of the bout, he falls into a prostration known as Sajdat al-Shukr – the Prostration of Thankfulness (to Allah).

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

Performing this is recommended when someone receives something beneficial (eg good news, wealth, etc) or if they avoided something potentially harmful (e.g. job loss, healing from a disease, etc). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would do this when he received good news. The believer should remember to be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as much as they can.

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

Years ago (early 2018), Khabib visited my local masjid in Santa Clara, California (not far from where he was training in San Jose at the AKA gym). Many at the masjid didn’t know who he was, but we heard he was the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight championship belt, at that time held by Tony Ferguson.

He did a Q & A with the community, and someone asked him a general question about what he would recommend for the youth.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing:

Take care of your prayers, if you come to Day of Judgment not take care of your prayers, on that day you will be smashed.

The Reminder

The second pillar of Islam that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded us to follow is to pray to Him 5 times daily. Khabib was no doubt referencing the following statement of the Prophet (saw):

“The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost…”

 

 

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda notes that when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) first began his mission of da’wah and faced devastating rejection from family and community, Allah told the Prophet to stand and pray. The reason for this is because when we are weak and suffering, the place to turn to for strength is back to Allah in prayer. There is no doubt Khabib’s strength came from his connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which in turn came from his 5 daily prayers.

Praying multiple times daily, consistently, can be challenging; when it was legislated by Allah to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) kept telling him to go back and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a reduction, saying, “Your people will not be able to handle it.”

Khabib is a great reminder that no matter how high you climb in life and career, no matter how busy you think you are, worshipping Allah is the most important deed one can do, and this discipline is the most important habit to build.

4. Strong Wrestling Game

Some say Khabib is already 30-0 for wrestling a bear

In a sport that sees far more striking and kicking than it does wrestling, Khabib came to dominate the lightweight division of the UFC with a strong grappling style that is a combination of sambo (a Soviet martial art), judo, and wrestling. Famously, he outwrestled a bear when he was much younger.

During his fights, he doesn’t close out his bouts by pummeling his opponents and causing them damage as most strikers would. Most of his hits open up his opponents to being forced to tap out via submission. Even his last opponent, Justin Gaethje, noted that he was much happier to be choked out in a submission, as all he would get is a pleasant nap, as opposed to striking, which could have long-term health consequences.

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not only able to wrestle, he took down the strongest wrestler in Makkah. Rukanah, the famed Makkan wrestler, challenged RasulAllah because of his hatred for the da’wah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted his challenge and took him down multiple times, body slamming him again and again. It was said that after the conquest of Makkah, Rukanah accepted Islam.

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

During the post-fight press conference with UFC President Dana White, it was revealed that Khabib had broken one of his toes 3 weeks before the fight. Prior to that, he had taken two weeks off upon arriving at Fight Island having contracted mumps, according to AKA trainer and coach Javier Mendez. Khabib is quoted as having told Mendez, “My toe may be broken, but my mind is not.” In addition to this, his father had just passed away months earlier, and this would be his first fight without his father present.

Mumps, broken toes, and the emotional turmoil of family tragedy

The Reminder

In addition, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has told us, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone…” This strength includes strength of body, mind, and spirit; not just when conditions are perfect, but when trials surround you from every conceivable direction.

6. Relationship With His Father

After defeating Justin Gaethje, Khabib went to the center of the ring and cried, and everyone cried with him. We all knew his father’s death weighed heavily on his mind and his heart, and this was his first fight without him. His father was his mentor and trainer, whom everyone could obviously see he both loved and greatly respected.

In the post-fight question and answer with Dustin Poirier, Khabib was asked, “What’s your message for your young fans out there who look up to you so much?” he responded:

“Respect your parents, be close with your parents, this is very important. Parents everything, you know, your mother, your father, and that’s it, and everything in your life is going to be good, if you’re going to listen to your parents, mother, father, be very close with them, and other things come because your parents gonna teach what to do.”

The Reminder

There isn’t enough space in this article to go over how much emphasis our faith places on respecting our parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully. [17:23]

7. Relationship With His Mother

Our parents ultimately want us to succeed, but also want us to maintain our well-being. Without his father’s presence, it was clear that Khabib’s mother didn’t want him continuing in the Octagon (the UFC ring). After 3 days of discussion, Khabib gave his word to her that this would be his final fight. After beating Justin Gaethje in UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring because he promised his mother that he would retire and that he’s a man of his word.

The Reminder

This hearkens back to a statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about how much respect mothers deserve. A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He (saw) said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet finally said, “Your father.”

Khabib easily had millions more to make on a journey to hit 30-0 in his professional fighting career and decided to hang it all up to make his mother happy. This is true respect and obedience, and for that matter, the love of a mother for her son and his well-being over monetary gains.

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

When asked about the comparisons between himself and Muhammad Ali, Khabib stated that it was an inappropriate comparison. He noted that Muhammad Ali didn’t just face challenges in the ring, but challenges outside of it due to racism, and that he was an agent of change with respect to bringing about greater civil rights for African Americans.

The Reminder

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

From the 7th century until today, our faith recognizes that people are not judged by their race, but by their actions and the intentions behind those actions. In the video above, Khabib recognized both the wrongness of racism, and the challenge it posed along the way of Muhammad Ali’s own journey, and that his contributions to social justice transcended his involvement in sport.

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

With the exception of the fight with Conor McGregor, Khabib always dealt with his opponents with respect. He hugs them, shakes their hand, and says good things about their accomplishments and strengths both before and after fights. In a sport known for heavy trash talking and showboating to build hype, Khabib kept his cool and his manners.

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

Maintaining good character and conduct during press-conferences was Khabib’s calling card; even when trash talkers like Tony Ferguson tried to go after him, he would still recount Ferguson’s formidable stature as a fighter.

When reporters tried throwing him a softball opening to insult Ferguson’s mental health, Khabib responded that he didn’t want to talk about Tony Ferguson’s problems if he they were real; if Ferguson truly has a problem, then we should help him, as we all have problems.

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

As mentioned above, Khabib is known for being very respectful of his opponents during press conferences. He speaks well of their strengths, shakes their hands, hugs them; he even runs up to his opponent after a fight and hugs them, consoling them and wishing them well. After his win against Poirier, he traded shirts with him and donated $100k to Poirier’s charity.

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

The exception was the infamous UFC 229 which Muslim fans watched holding years, maybe decades of pent up anger at the type of crass secular arrogance represented by Conor. We desperately wanted Khabib to maul the mouthy McGregor. The latter had gone after his family, his faith, his nationality, anything and everything to hype up the fight and try to get under the champ’s skin. Some people lose their calm, and others, well, they eat you alive.

Khabib made it clear he wasn’t having any of that. He took the fight to Conor and choked him out with a neck crank. We then learned why he was called “The Eagle” as he hopped the cage and jumped into the audience to go after other members of Conor’s team who had spoken ill of him, giving birth to “Air Khabib”.

The Reminder

When our faith and family is spoken of in an ill fashion, it’s not appropriate that we sit there and take it. Khabib never cared when it was criticism against him, but once it went to others around him, he took flight. We as Muslims should never give anybody who tries to attack and dehumanize us a chance to rest on their laurels. We should strive ourselves to take the fight back to them by whatever legal means necessary, as Khabib did, whether it is cartoons of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or political pundits and satirists who monetize hatred against Muslims.

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

In numerous public instances, Khabib reminded us that our faith demands we don’t shake with the opposite gender. As one of my teachers taught us, the Qur’an instructs us to “lower our gaze” when dealing with women. If we shouldn’t even look at them out of respect for Allah’s command, how can we take it to the next level and touch them?

Extended to this is even more serious physical contact like training at the gym. Cynthia Calvillo, one of Khabib’s teammates at AKA gym, said the following about Khabib and his unit:

“It’s a little bit weird because of their religion and stuff…They don’t talk to women you know. I mean we say ‘hi’ to each other but we can’t train with them. They won’t train with women…I don’t think any other woman does.

The Reminder

Our faith places stricter physical and social interaction boundaries between men and women. Keeping matters professional and respectful with the opposite gender need not include physical contact. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was said to have never touched non-mahram women. It was narrated that he said,

“It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is impermissible to you.”

For this reason, the majority of scholars prohibited physical contact between men and women with some exceptions (e.g. old age). Watching Khabib maintain this practice, even in public where it could potentially embarrass him and cause undue negative attention, gives us all inspiration to deal with this issue in the workplace better. He encourages us to strive for better tolerance and awareness of our faith rather than forcing us to conform.

12. Not Making a Display of The “Trophy” Wife

If you follow Khabib’s Instagram, you won’t find lewd pics of him and a significant other. In fact, you won’t find any pictures at all of him and his wife. Who she is is a mystery to all. In an age and a sport where many post photos with their romantic partners, Khabib again is a standout with his gheerah, his honorable protectiveness for his significant other.

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

We are again reminded that a part of manhood is to have protective ghayrah, jealousy over one’s spouse. Ibn al-Qayyim also said, bringing in the concept of chivalry,

“The dayyuth / cuckold is the vilest of Allah’s creation, and Paradise is forbidden for him [because of his lack of ghayrah]. A man should be ‘jealous’ with regards to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general, but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in not allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.”

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

Finally, it should be noted there is no real scholarly disagreement on prohibiting striking the face. Recognizing this, Khabib stated when asked if “he thinks the AlMighty will be satisfied with him for taking part in haram fights for money,” he replied, “I don’t think so.”

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

“You go to mosque because nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and we have to ask Allah to forgive us. This is very important mentally, to be clear with Allah. This is not about the UFC. There is nothing else more important to me than being clear with Allah. And being clear with Allah is the No. 1 most hard thing in life.”

The Reminder

We as human beings aren’t perfect – perfection is only for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We all make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes large, but in the end, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is ready to forgive us if we’re willing to recognize our failings and ask to be forgiven.  Allah says in the Qur’an in 2:222:

“Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”

There are no sins so great that redemption is beyond any of us. Whatever Khabib’s flaws, his value as a positive change maker and faith-based role model globally outweighs his negatives.

Part of seeking forgiveness is the process, and the first part of that process is acknowledging the mistake. This means not being in denial about it or not justifying it, just owning it. As Khabib has owned his mistake publicly, there is no need for us to try and justify it either.

We can own that there are problems with MMA and the industry, in participating as well as watching and supporting. At the same time, we can do as Dr Hatem al-Hajj said about Muhammad Ali:

Concluding Thoughts

While UFC pundits will forever debate over the greatest of all time, there is in doubt that Khabib Nurmogomedov, the first Muslim UFC champion, will always be our GOAT.

I ask that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepts the good from what Khabib has done, rewards him tremendously for the inspiration he’s given us all to better focused on the akhirah, the next life, and continues to make him a powerful sports icon who uses his platform as Muhammad Ali did to teach Islam and exemplify it in the best way for all of us to benefit and follow.

Ameen.

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