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The Gift of Iddah

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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.

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

 

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. Avatar

    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

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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan

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Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.

If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.

The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.

Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?

The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence.  For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.

For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.

Come Prepared

Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.

Stock it with as many things applicable:

  • A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
  • A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
  • A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
  • A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
  • Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.

Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.

Do not pack:

Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.

Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.

Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.

Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.

Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there. 

Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…

I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.

Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.

Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.

Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device. 

Reward for Success, in this life and the next

You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.

Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.

Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.

“Here the icecream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of icecream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”

Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.

Reinforce the rules – but define them first.

“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.

Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.

Avoid saying this:

Try saying this instead:

Stay out of my purse Please use the toys in your bag
Don’t draw on the walls Crayons only on the paper
No yelling Please use your “inside” voice
No food on the carpet Please have your snack in the hallway
Don’t run off Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]
No peeing the carpet We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.
No hitting Hands nicely to yourself.

While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.

Plan for Failure

Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.

  • How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
  • Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
  • For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
  • Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
  • If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.

Don’t Give up

If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:

Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.

When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.

Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.

May Allah make it easy for you and bless your children with love for the masjid in this life and love for Allah that will guide them through the next. Aaaaaaaameeeeeeeeen

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

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

Reem Shaikh

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

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

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

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

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

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

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

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

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

Forty Days:

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Excuse Required:

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

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

Only Under Extreme Risks:

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

Other Views:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.

A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.

So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!

I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need  – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!

Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.

Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.

I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.

To catch Laylatul Qadr with MyTenNights, visit their website MyTenNights.com

Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.

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