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10 Muslim Athletes To Watch At The Track And Field World Championships

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Ummah Sports

Despite the fame and accomplishments of Muslim athletes like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mesut Ozil, to name a few, there is still a surprisingly high percentage of both Muslims and non-Muslims who are not quite sure if playing sports is encouraged or even allowed in Islam.

Short answer: It is.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has made halal for mankind that which is beneficial to our physical, mental and spiritual health, and has made haram that which is harmful. While there are certain things about the culture humans have cultivated around sports that would fall into the latter category — idolatry, alcohol, steroids, greed, violence, obsession, escapism, etc. — the sports themselves are acceptable as long as we participate without falling into those traps.

The most obvious benefit of playing sports is physical fitness, which benefits a Muslim in at least three of Islam’s five pillars: performing daily prayers, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and completing the rigors of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was an athlete in his own right, reportedly participating in running, swimming, archery and horseback riding. And then there is the famous story in which the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted a challenge from Rukaana, a wrestling champion in Mecca, and defeated the renowned strongman — after which Rukaana converted to Islam.

In many ways, track and field is the simplest and more pure of modern sports. To paraphrase the USA Track and Field “You’re Welcome” television ad, track and field forms the foundation for almost all other sports. If you want to go deeper, you could use track as a metaphor for life: Getting to the finish line matters, but how you do it — attention to detail, relentless practice, commitment to excellence, learning from mistakes, staying in the right lane — ultimately proves the difference between success and failure.

From August 22-30, more than 2,000 track and field athletes representing more than 200 countries will compete for gold, silver and bronze medals at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Beijing, China.

The biennial meeting of the world’s best runners, throwers and jumpers will not be without a Muslim presence. Here are 10 Muslim athletes to watch at the World Championships:

***** *****

Mo Farah

Mo Farah

Mo Farah

5,000 meters
10,000 meters
Great Britain

One of the world’s most recognizable and decorated athletes has been in something of an experimental phase since his back-to-back, double-gold performances at the 2012 Olympics (in London) and 2013 World Championships. Set for life as a British national hero and set for a while as the man to beat in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races, Farah has spent the past year and change trying out the marathon, half-marathon, indoor two-mile (setting a world record) and 1,500 meters. In Beijing, the 32-year-old Farah will get back to his bread and butter, however he will have to overcome off-the-track distractions both good (his wife, Tania Nell, recently gave birth to the couple’s third child) and bad (his coach, Alberto Salazar, was recently accused of providing steroids to athletes).

Abdul Hakim Sani Brown

200m
4 x 100m relay
Japan

Just 16 years old, Sani Brown is one of the youngest competitors in the World Championship field. He earned his spot among the big boys with a double-gold effort at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Colombia, where he won the 100- and 200-meter sprints with personal-best and meet-record times of 10.28 and 20.34 seconds, respectively. Sani Brown’s time in the 200 is actually the second-fastest in history at the youth level, behind Usain Bolt’s 20.13 seconds.

No Japanese sprinter has ever broken the 10-second barrier in the 100 or the 20-second barrier in the 200, something Sani Brown is expected to do before his 18th birthday and before he finishes high school. With the Olympics coming to Tokyo in 2020 — when Sani Brown will be approaching his athletic prime at 20 years old — he is to Japanese track and field right now what LeBron James was to American basketball when he was in high school: the future.

Tirfi Tsegaye

Marathon
Ethiophia

Just like New York City is called a hotbed for NBA point guards, and South Florida produces many NFL wide receivers, the central Ethiopian town of Bekoji is known as the birthplace of elite distance runners. Tsegaye’s resume includes victories at the Paris Marathon, Tokyo Marathon, Dubai Marathon and Berlin Marathon — with course records in Tokyo and Paris — as well as second-place finishes in Shanghai, Berlin, Turin, Paris and Toronto. And yet at best, she could only be considered the third-most accomplished runner from her hometown. That’s because Bekoji has also produced Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, both three-time Olympic gold medalists and five-time World Champions.

Tsegaye, 30, has yet to win an Olympic or World Championship medal, but she is one of the top marathoners in the world and she is still in her prime; last year she set her personal-best time by covering the 26.2-mile Berlin course in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 18 seconds.

Amel Tuka

800m
Bosnia-Herzegovina

Still looking for its first World Championship medal of any color, one of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s best hopes just happens to be in one of this meet’s deepest and most competitive events. The men’s 800 final should be a star-studded affair that includes world record holder David Rudisha (Kenya), reigning world outdoor champion Mohammed Aman (Ethiopia), reigning world indoor champ Ayanleh Soulemain (Djibouti) and 2015 Diamond League leader Nijel Amos (Botswana).

But the man with the fastest 800 time in the world this year is Tuka, the 24-year-old who ran 1:42.51 in Monaco on July 17, a race in which he beat Aman and Amos. That two-lap performance was the third time this year Tuka has set his country’s national record in the 800. He also owns Bosnian-Herzegovina’s national record in the 400, with a time of 47.19 seconds.

Mohammed Aman

800m
Ethiopia

While Tuka taking the title in the men’s 800 would be something of a surprise, a win for Aman would not. The 21-year-old has claimed World Championship gold in each of the last three years: 2012 World Indoor Championships, 2013 World Championships (outdoor), and 2014 World Indoor Championships.

Aman is considered the toughest challenger to Rudisha, having already beaten him head-to-head when Rudisha was arguably the most dominant athlete on the planet. And ever since Rudisha set the world record (1:40.91) at the 2012 London Olympics, Aman’s best times per year have been better than Rudisha’s in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In other words, Rudisha may hold the unofficial title as the fastest 800-meter runner in the world, but Aman has been consistently faster than the fastest for three years running.

Leyla Rajabi

Leyla Rajabi

Leyla Rajabi

Shot Put
Iran

Born in Belarus, Rajabi converted to Islam and decided to represent Iran in athletic competition after marrying Iranian sprinter Payman Rajabi. With the latter decision she immediately became the best female shot putter in Iran, breaking the national record in her first meet by more than three meters.

Rajabi, 32, owns gold medals from the 2009 Asian Indoor Games, 2010 Asian Indoor Championships and 2013 Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia. At last year’s Asian Games she took home the silver medal. Rajabi’s best throw so far this year measured 18.04 meters (over 59 feet), making her one of the top 30 shot putters in the world and coming up just shy of her personal best of 18.13m.

Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed

Javelin
Egypt

In an event that has traditionally been dominated by athletes from European and Scandinavian countries, there is a revolution of African and Caribbean javelin throwers challenging the status quo. Kenya’s Julius Yego has the world’s best throw this year at 91.39 meters, while Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott ranks No. 2 with a 90.16-meter toss. A bit further down the list is 26-year-old El Sayed. His best throw of the year, 85.50 meters (over 280 feet), is tied for 10th-best in the world and puts him in legit medal contention at the World Championships. A year ago, El Sayed set a personal best with an 89.21-meter throw, a mark that would’ve been good enough to win a gold medal at the last World Championships in 2013.

Tugba Guvenc

3,000m Steeplechase
Turkey

The steeplechase is the oddball obstacle course of track and field; a blend of traditional distance running, cross country, and a child’s fun summer day of jumping over stuff and splashing in a wade pool. At 21 years old, Guvenc is one of the rising stars in the event, and the World Championships could be the stage on which she makes her name among the steeplechase elite and becomes known to a legion of track fans outside of Turkey.

This summer, Guvenc won a gold medal at the European Under-23 Championships in Estonia, setting a meet record by finishing in 9:36.16. Earlier this year she also established her personal best time of 9:33.34, putting her among the top 25 female steeplechasers in the world going into the biggest meet of her nascent career so far.

Kariem Hussein

400m Hurdles
Switzerland

Only six 400-meter hurdlers — five Americans and one Kenyan — have posted faster times this year than the 26-year-old Hussein, whose 48.45-second season’s best is better than that of 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Javier Culson, 2015 Pan Am Games gold medalist Jeffery Gibson, and three-time African Championships gold medalist L.J. Van Zyl, among others. Hussein is the reigning European champion in an event that a lot of people who follow track believe is the toughest in the sport; one that requires equal parts speed, strength, endurance, technique and strategy.

Mutaz Essa Barshim

High Jump
Qatar

This is either a sign of how good Barshim has become, or a sign of how how high expectations are for him: In 2015, he owns the two best high jumps in the world (2.41 meters on May 30 in Oregon; 2.38m on May 17 in Shanghai), and he currently sits atop the Diamond League standings — and yet this has been considered a down year for the 24-year-old human pogo stick.

Barshim finished third at the Asian Championships, and despite his overall No. 1 Diamond League ranking (think of the Diamond League like track’s version of the UEFA Champions League), he hasn’t won in four straight Diamond League meets.

In 2014, Barshim won the Diamond League title and gold medals at the World Indoor Championships, the Asian Games (outdoor) and the Asian Indoor Championships. He also turned in a personal-best jump of 2.43 meters (over 7 feet, 11 inches) that is the second-best in history. Maybe it’s because it seemed a foregone conclusion that this would be the year Barshim breaks Javier Sotomayor’s world record of 2.45 meters that has stood since 1993, but the book on Barshim going into the World Championships is that he’s struggling. It will take only one giant leap in Beijing to change that narrative, but it’s a leap that has eluded him all year.

Mutaz Essa Barshim

Mutaz Essa Barshim

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

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Salman Vasilev

    August 19, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    I like this genre of stories. Perhaps a preview is in order of Muslim athletes at the World Championships in Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling styles, where Muslims from Russian Caucasus regions, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt and throughout Western Europe dominate the sport. The competition will be held in Las Vegas, NV this year. Also, the World Weightlifting Championships, where Muslims from Iran, the Russian Caucasus, Turkey, Egypt and North Africa, et al., are expected to win many medals.

  2. Avatar

    Sulaiman

    August 24, 2015 at 10:45 PM

    Interesting!

    When are the championships?

  3. Pingback: Comment on 10 Muslim Athletes To Watch At The Track And Field World Championships by Salman Vasilev | Souqhub | Blog

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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Do Muslims Plan for Disability

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Families with children with disability have an extraordinary set of challenges and blessings.  Disability (or special needs) is a broad term.

Many disabilities will prevent what we often think of as “normal.”  It may hinder or prevent educational opportunities, and employment. Many people with “special needs” can get educated, get married and live long and productive lives.  The problem for many parents of younger children with special needs is that they typically have no certainty about their children’s future needs. Even if the situation looks dire, it may not stay that way.  

How do parents plan for a world where they may not be around to see how things will end up for their special needs children?  What can they do to help their children in a way that does not violate Islamic Inheritance rules?

Certain types of disability, especially the loss of executive decision-making ability, could also happen well into adulthood.  This can be a threat to a family’s wealth and be the cause of internal conflicts. This is the kind of thing every adult needs to think about before it happens.  

The Problem

The issues are not just that parents believe their special needs child will need more inheritance than other children. Muslim parents usually don’t think that. Some parents don’t want their special needs child to get any inheritance at all.  Not because of any ill-will against their special needs child; just the opposite, but because they are afraid inheritance will result in sabotaging their child’s needs-based government benefits.    

Many, perhaps most special needs children do not have any use for needs-based benefits (benefits for the poor).  But many do, or many parents might figure that it is a distinct possibility. This article is a brief explanation of some of the options available for parents of special needs children.  It won’t go over every option, but rather those that are usually incorporated as part of any Islamic Estate Planning.

Please Stand By

Example:  Salma has three daughters and two sons.  One of her children, Khalida, 3, has Down Syndrome.  At this point, Salma knows that raising Khalida is going to be an immense challenge for herself, her husband Rashid and all the older siblings.  What she does not know, however, is what specific care Khalida is going to need through her life or how her disability will continue to be relevant. She does not know a lot about Khalida’s future marriage prospects, ability to be employed and be independent, though obviously like any parent she has nothing but positive hopes for her child’s life.   

In the event of her death, Salma wants to make sure her daughter gets her Islamic right to inheritance.  However, if Khalida needs public benefits, Salma does not want her daughter disqualified because she has her own money.

Her solution is something called a “stand-by special needs trust.” This type of trust is done in conjunction with an Islamic Inheritance Plan and is typically part of a living trust, though it could also be a trust drafted into the last will.  I will describe more about what a special needs trust is below. For Salma, she is the Trustee of her trust. After she dies, she names her husband (or someone else) the successor Trustee. The trust is drafted to prevent it from becoming an “available resource” used to determine eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits that go with that.

If it turns out that Salma passes away when Khalida is 5, and her assets are held in trust for her until she is 18 and her Trustee determines she does not need a special needs trust, she will get her inheritance precisely like everyone else based on their Islamic right.  If she does need benefits, the Trustee will only make distributions to Khalida that would not harm her eligibility.

This way, there is no need to deny Khalida her inheritance because of her disability, and she is also making sure giving her daughter inheritance would not harm her daughter’s healthcare or other necessary support.  

Munir Vohra is a special needs advocate and an athlete

The Shape of Special Needs Trusts

A stand-alone Special needs trusts, which is sometimes called a “supplemental needs trust” the kind without the “stand-by” variation I described above, are a standard device for families that have children with special needs. A trust is a property ownership device. A Grantor gives the property to a Trustee, who manages the property for the benefit of a beneficiary. In a revocable living trust, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary are typically the same person.  

When the trust is irrevocable, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary may all be different people. In a special needs trust, the person with a disability is the beneficiary. Sometimes, the person with a disability is also the Grantor, the person who created the trust.  This might happen if there is a settlement from a lawsuit for example and the person with special needs wants it to be paid to the trust.  

In many if not most cases, the goal may not be to protect the beneficiary’s ability to get public benefits at all. Many people with a disability don’t get special government benefits.  But they do want to protect the beneficiaries from having to manage the assets. Some people are just more susceptible to abuse.

The structure of the arrangement typically reflects the complexity of the family, the desire of siblings and extended family to continue to be involved in the care and attending to the needs of the person with a disability, even if they are not the person directly writing checks.   

Example: Care for Zayna

Example: Zayna is a 24-year-old woman with limited ability to communicate, take care of her needs and requires 24-hour care.  Zayna has three healthy siblings, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her father, Elias, earns about $70,000 per year and is divorced. Zayna’s mother Sameena cannot contribute, as she is on social security disability. However, Zayna’s adult brother and sisters, brother in laws, sister in law and several aunts, uncles want to help Zayna meet her needs E.lyas creates a third party special needs trust that would ensure Zayna has what she needs in the years to come.

Zayna receives need-based public benefits that are vital to her in living with her various disabilities and her struggle to gain increasing independence, knowledge and dignity.  So the trust needs to be set up and professionally administered to make sure that when Zayna gets any benefit from her trust, it does not end up disqualifying her ability to get any needs-based benefit.  

Contributions to the special needs trust will not go against Islamic Inheritance rules unless made after the death of the donor.

If Zayna dies, her assets from the special needs trust will be distributed based on the Islamic rules of inheritance as it applies to her.

When disability planning is not about Public Benefits

Perhaps most families with special needs children do not use any needs-based public assistance.  They are still concerned about special needs and planning for it.

Example:  Khadija, 16, is on the autism spectrum. For those familiar with the autism spectrum, that could mean a lot of things.  For her parents, Sarah and Yacoob, other than certain habits that are harmless and easy to get used to, it means Khadija is very trusting of people. Otherwise, she does well in school, and her parents don’t think she needs way more help than her siblings and she has just as good a chance of leading a healthy and productive life as any 16-year-old girl.  

The downside of being too trusting is that the outside world can exploit her.  If she ends up getting inheritance or gifts, she may lose it. The parents decide that when she gets her inheritance, it will be in a trust that would continue through her life.  There will be a trustee who will make sure she has what she needs from her trust, but that nobody can exploit her.

In some ways, what Khadija’s parents Sarah and Yacoob are doing is not so different from what parents might do if they have a child with a substance abuse problem.  They want to give their child her rights, but they don’t want to allow for exploitation and abuse.

Considering your own needs

There are many people who are easy marks for scammers, yet you would be unlikely to know this unless you are either a close friend or family member, or a scammer yourself.  While this often happens to the elderly, it can happen at just about any age. Everyone should consider developing an “incapacity plan” to preserve their wealth even if they lose their executive decision-making ability.   

There is this process in state courts known as “conservatorship.” Indeed, entire courtrooms dedicate themselves to conservatorships and other mental health-related issues.  It is a legal process that causes an individual to lose their financial or personal freedom because a court has essentially declared them not competent to handle their affairs. Conservatorships are a public process.  They can cause a lot of pain embarrassment and internal family strife.

One of the benefits of a well-drafted living trust is to protect privacy and dignity during difficult times.

Example: Haris Investing in Cambodian Rice Farms

Haris, 63, was eating lunch at a diner.  In the waiting area, he became fast friends with Mellissa; a thirty-something woman who was interested in talking about Haris’s grandchildren.  The conversation then turned Melissa and her desire to start a business selling long distance calling cards. Haris was fascinated by this and thought it made good business sense. Haris gave Mellissa $20,000.00. The two exchanged numbers. The next day, Mellissa’s number was disconnected.

Haris’s wife, Julie became alarmed by this.  It was out of character for her husband to just fork over $20,000 to anyone on the spur of the moment.  What was worse is that the business failed immediately.  

Three months later,  Haris meets Mellissa at the diner again.  She then convinces Haris to invest $50,000 in a Cambodian rice farm, which he does right away.   His wife Julie was pretty upset.

How living trusts helps

As it happened though, Haris, a few years before, created a living trust.  It has a provision that includes incapacity planning. There are two essential parts to this:  The first is a system to decide if someone has lost their executive decision-making ability. The second is to have a successor Trustee to look over the estate when the individual has lost this capacity.  This question is about Haris’s fundamental freedom: his ability to spend his own money.

If you asked Haris, he would say nothing is wrong with him.  He looks and sounds excellent. Tells the best dad jokes. He goes to the gym five times a week and can probably beat you at arm wrestling. Haris made some financial mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

Julie, and his adult children Haroon, Kulsum, Abdullah, and Rasheeda are not so sure it’s just a mistake.  The living trust created a “disability panel.” This panel gets to vote, privately, in if Haris should continue to act as Trustee of his own money.  If they vote that he should not manage his own money, his wife does it for him.

The family has a way to decide an important and sensitive issue while maintaining Haris’ dignity, privacy and wealth.   Haris’s friends don’t know anything about long distance calling cards or a Cambodian rice farm; they don’t know he lost his ability to act as Trustee of his trust.  Indeed the rest of the world is oblivious to all of this.

Planning for everyone

Islamic inheritance is fard and every Muslim should endeavor to incorporate it into their lives.  As it happens it is an obligation Muslims, at least those in the United States, routinely ignore or deal with inadequately.  However, there is more to planning than just what shares go to whom after death. Every family needs to create a system. There may or may not be problems with children or even with yourself (other than death, which will happen), but you should do whatever you can to protect your family’s wealth and dignity while also fulfilling your obligations to both yourself and your family.

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Should Spiritual Leaders Who Violate Our Trust Be Forgiven?

Some people want to move past the indiscretions of community leaders quickly as though they never occurred while others wish to permanently blacklist them. This article examines a third option between the two that can be a win-win for the fallen leader, the victims, and the community.

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In the past couple of years, a number of simmering scandals among spiritual leaders became public knowledge and the subject of vigorous and often painful public debate.  As someone who has worked in the community dawah space the past 15 years, often acting as a bridge between past and present microcelebrity as well as non-celeb teachers to the community at large, one question I’ve been asked repeatedly – should community leaders who violate our trust be forgiven?  I’m often asked by people who aren’t fanboys / fangirls taken by microcelebrity dawah culture or wearing spiritual blinders for non-celebs, and often don’t even understand what has occurred.  Below I share answers I have heard as well as what I believe is fair and pragmatic in many (not all) situations.

Answer #1:  Yes, We Must Forgive Them

One group of people argue we should completely forgive them. No one is perfect, everyone is human and makes mistakes.  If we assume the mistake was truly made, then we should also forgive them and move on. Our faith is replete with statements about Allah’s Mercy, and if we want His Mercy, surely we should also give it to others. Oftentimes, members who fall into this group don’t actually believe the person in question is at fault and are trying to convince others either on the fence or against the individual to let it go. Of course, there are some who believe the violation occurred and not think it a big deal, while others may think the violation indeed was a big deal, and should still be forgiven. I can agree with some aspects of this, but not completely.

Answer #2:  No, They Should Never Be Forgiven

Another group believes that once a person commits a violation of trust, they are no longer to be trusted again. They should leave their positions and be ostracized from the community permanently. They are to be tarred and feathered and made an example of for life.  Members within this group oftentimes don’t need to wait for evidence to arrive at any conclusion – they were judge, jury, and executioner well before there was a trial.  Not all members are like this, of course – some waited for evidence and then reached their conclusions that the gravity of the charges was too much and therefore the person should never be forgiven.

Answer #3:  It Depends – Forgive Them If They Take Ownership and Make Amends

In my view, the problem with the first group is they don’t often see that the person did anything wrong, or if they did, it’s trivial relative to the khayr, the good and benefit they bring to the community. They keep citing that Allah is forgiving, so we should forgive automatically, but in their haste, they forget that part of the process of making restitution is first sincerely regretting what one has done.

To sincerely regret, one must also move out of denial and into acceptance that they made a mistake. Once one admits failure, they can then ask to be forgiven, and then the aggrieved party is in a position to grant it. The community forgiving and re-integrating a person who refuses to take responsibility for their wrongdoing does neither them, their victims, nor the community any good. We continue to distrust the person and they continue to believe they can get away with whatever they wish because they are “special”. Victims fear community integration, everyone becomes cynical about religion, and the cause of calling people to become better worshippers of Allah is harmed.

On the flip side, the second group is far too extreme in their view of justice. To ostracize that person and leave them no path of return means they have no means to redeem themselves, and de facto their families are casualties who must deal with the fallout of being pushed out of the community. I agree that none of us are perfect, and we all often make egregious mistakes. In my own experience, there are many instances where activists who advocate publicly for better are often involved privately in worse than those they go after.

That being the case, there is no person that can’t be forgiven, and I would say we shouldn’t leave aside this possibility in our dealings with those who fail us just as we expect it when we ourselves fall short, sometimes seriously so. I would add that we would lose the skills and talent of that person – if we believe in allowing people with criminal histories back into the general population and providing them with opportunities to become productive, reformed citizens, I don’t see why we wouldn’t offer the same to our community and religious leaders.

The key I believe is in following a process which includes the following for the individual:

  1. Taking ResponsibilityThey own responsibility for the mistake and acknowledge it was made.  No amount of denial, minimization, and spin will suffice.
  2. Make Restitution:  First and foremost, they apologize and make amends as best they can with the victims.  If the issue went public, then they should apologize to those they were serving as a leader for their mistake as well. This includes handling financial compensation.
  3. Remediating Oneself:  Enroll in counseling, therapy, mentorship, and / or group support programs to help them overcome their issues.
  4. Being Held Accountable:  Work with others on concrete milestones of both behavior and programs that demonstrate their commitment to change.  Be able to show the community that they take reformation seriously and are committed to coming out of their mistake a better person, one who can even advise others of the mistake and how not to repeat it.

As someone who has worked in dawah and supported the ascension of numerous modern-day microcelebrity spiritual scholars and teachers, I and others like me act as a bridge between them and the community.  I do not speak for all of them, certainly, but I know that any leader who tries to re-integrate into the community without taking responsibility will continue to find that many will not support them. Most, in this case, feel a sacred duty to oppose their elephant-in-the-room integration to protect the community at large.

Likewise, I know that many like myself would be willing to overlook and forgive such individuals if they took responsibility for their behavior and demonstrated they were taking concrete steps to make amends for their mistakes.  The month of Ramadan is upon us, and sometimes one just has to rip the band-aid off, go through the process of feeling the pain of scrutiny for owning up, and then moving forward to forgiveness.  I won’t promise it’s easy or that everyone will change, but I can at least say many of us would have an easier time accepting individuals back into the community.

What’s your view on these situations?

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