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Redoing My Duas – Mental Illness and Worship

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By Ethar Hamid

I feel genuinely uncomfortable at the beginning and ending of every supplication. Ever since I was told that I should begin and end my du’a by praising Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and sending peace upon the Prophet, I have had a gnawing at my mind before and after the prayer.

Praise be to Allah, praise be to Allah, praise be to Allah, I would repeat in a murmur (or in a thought, of course). Then, I would reflect on what I had just expressed, just to make sure that it was solid. You know—to make sure the words were really there. Then, I would pray. That part was usually ok. At the end, though, I always felt somewhat imprisoned by the mantra that was supposed to give me relief; praise be to Allah, and may peace be upon the noblest of the Prophets and messengers…

I had no clue that OCD symptoms can manifest themselves in religious practices, before I experienced the illness, myself. I had always thought of religion as a peace-granting institution, shielded from any worldly pain or discomfort. The idea that negativities present in life can intermingle with and taint Islamic rituals we carry out is…distressing, to say the least.

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That being said, mental illness is a formidable opponent…it can ruin life to an unimaginable point. And it doesn’t mind if you are a pious, God-fearing Muslim, or not. (Sometimes, being firm in faith is actually the driving force behind its strike; it tries to shake your faith in Allah through its blows.) Mental disorder will clutch you in a most painful grasp, and will refuse to let go until either you give up, or it sees that your sabr is stronger than its hold.

My own disorder and I have wrestled some rough brawls. I have suffered through psychosis, depression, and OCD at the hands of mental illness. And yes — I have wondered such thoughts as “why me?” and “when will this end?” in the midst of the battles. But I have learned through my war with mental illness that a good Muslim is not one who never distresses, or who doesn’t ever waver in her faith (for, if there was such a Muslim where would Allah’s test be in the life of that person?); a good Muslim is one who, after falling down in spirit, rises back up, again, and again.

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“Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: “When will the help of Allah come?” Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near!” the Qur’an teaches us (Qur’an, 2:214).

~

I have the painful fear of my prayerful words fading away into oblivion, when I make du’a. The fact that words do not fade away into oblivion (what does that mean, anyway?) does not help me, while I’m in the moment. While I’m in the moment of making du’a, I am afraid that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). will not answer me, because I may not begin (or end) the supplication with “praise be to Allah, and peace be upon His prophet” sincerely enough…hard enough. So, I repeat the words, over and over, concentrating, firmly, on them. I know that this is irrational, but this is part of my illness. It’s a part of my test. And Allah loves those who endure their tests, patiently. Alhamdulillah, for that.

 

Writer Ethar Hamid is a Sudani-American who finds inspiration in her mental illness and says “the issue of mental wellness is not one of being forever free from mental distress, but one of coping with and thriving despite of mental health issues”. She writes creatively about her mental health struggles on www.muslimbipolar.com.

 

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Aminu ibrahim yusuf

    October 1, 2015 at 11:00 PM

    My Allah bless all Muslim brothers on this work amin

    • Avatar

      Ethar Hamid

      October 3, 2015 at 5:58 PM

      Ameen, ya Allah!*
      jAk for the lovely comment…

  2. Avatar

    anna

    October 1, 2015 at 11:41 PM

    I don’t understand.. how did you link your regular prayers with OCD ? are all people who pray all prayers eligible for OCD? it’s very intriguing and would appreciate if you tell more about it.

    • Avatar

      Z K

      November 12, 2015 at 11:29 PM

      The constellation of OCD symptoms relating to religion are called scrupulosity.

      OCD has been called “the doubting disease”. One of the symptoms which this article describes is doubting if the prayer has been done correctly. That’s the O in OCD. Then the person feels forced to repeat things to make sure to do it correctly. That’s the C part.

      It doesn’t have to be about prayers. OCD can manifest in many ways.

      Also important to note that the OCD sufferer may recognize that the fears and doubts are irrational but still feel compelled to act on them.

  3. Avatar

    Nuraini

    October 2, 2015 at 12:26 AM

    Assalamualaikum, sister, beautifully written. As a person battling with major depressive disorder, I can relate to you in this sense. At times when it struck, the only thing I could say for my du’a was “Please Allah, forgive me! forgive me! help me!”. I felt that if I don’t ask for forgiveness hard enough, Allah will not listen.. It is illogical, and I know it… yet it terrifies me so much.
    Hugs, sister.. may Allah swt make it ease for you and I, and all that suffers the same.

  4. Avatar

    Amir

    October 2, 2015 at 5:26 AM

    May Almighty Allah gives health to all of us Muslims and forgive us. I also like to praise be to Allah after the Dua.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Avatar

    Umm Hadi

    October 2, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    Allahumma aafini fi badni, allahumma aafini fi saamii, allahumma aafini basari , la illaha illa anta
    O Allah, grant health in my body, O Allah, grant health in my hearing, O Allah, grant health in my sight.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah

      November 6, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      Is it aafini fi basari?

  6. Avatar

    Arjmand

    October 3, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Assalamu alaykum,

    Wow, I also have the same thought process when I am making duas but I never guessed that it could be some kind of a problem! Praise be to Allah who brought me to this page. Jazak Allah khair for sharing this!

    You didn’t mention how you cope with this? Any tips?

    • Avatar

      Cool_Guy141

      October 6, 2015 at 12:30 AM

      Assalamu ‘alaikum warahmatullahi,

      If one can internalize that no one will enter Jannah, including Rasulullah (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam), except if Allah bestows His Mercy upon that person, then religious OCD should go away. Thinking like this could convert the ‘ibaadah into something that is done out of love of Allah (swt) or out of submission to Him. Now the good news is that Allah has given us hope through verse 39:53 and 2:186.

      In other words, OCD partially stems from having if-only then thoughts. “IF I praise Allah and send the salawat to Rasulullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam before making dua, ONLY THEN my dua will be accepted.” We need to change that. Rather than thinking of thoughts as if-only then, it might help to think those thoughts as submission-acception. “I submit and I praise Allah and send the salawat to Rasulullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, so that my duas are accepted.” This is a shift in mindset that you are actually not in control, and rather depending on Allah’s Mercy.

      And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Cool_Guy141

      October 7, 2015 at 5:39 PM

      Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “The deeds of anyone of you will not save you (from the (Hell) Fire).” They said, “Even you (will not be saved by your deeds), O Allah’s Apostle?” He (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “No, even I (will not be saved) unless and until Allah bestows His Mercy on me. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target (Paradise).” (Bukhari)

  7. Avatar

    Saman

    October 3, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    To my surprise I came across this article right after I finished making a short dua with the same kind of anxiety. I’ve OCD as well. I’ve been through years of depression & isolation to the point where I wasn’t able to sleep at night because I hadn’t spoken to anyone besides my parents the whole day. Those nights were very depressing & never ending. At some point my mind became very limited, it was like the world only consisted of a few things.

    What really hurts the most is when you tell someone about your mental health and they deny it and say it’s all in your head. It’s the worst thing one can say to a person who already does not have control over their own mind.

    Alhumdulillah, I’ve observed that this topic has started to be discussed on some Islamic sites/blogs. It gives me hope and makes me realize that I’m not alone and that there are people in far more worse situations. Also, I had been living with the misconception that the level of my piety was a cause of this disorder to some extent, which was recently cleared because of an article on this website, Alhumdulillah this has allowed to embrace myself and motivated me.

    In the end, it feels really good to share my experience with those who are going / have been through a similar situation. May the Almighty, our Creator cure us & grant us a speedy recovery. Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Ethar Hamid

      October 3, 2015 at 5:55 PM

      Dear Saman,
      I’m really sorry that you’ve suffered so much with your own ocd and depression…It has been hard for me, too…but the hadith that says “Even if a believer is (only) pricked by a thorn, that will take away some of his/her sins, for him/her” comes to mind, here, for me! (As well as the hadith of the lady who came to the Prophet p.b.u.h. complaining about her epileptic seizures…the Prophet told her that he could make du’a for her that Allah cures/relieves her of her illness, or that she could be patient, and her patience will take her to Jannah. (The lady preferred to be patient and to go to Jannah, so she took the second option…) I like to think that this hadith pertains to anyone suffering any illness, too, like our own OCD and depression (*though it could be that the Prophet’s statements were specific for this lady, at that specific situation…–I’m not quite sure.)
      At any rate, Allah s.w.t. uses illnesses to get His servants closer to Him! So aH (in a way) for our conditions…
      also; I totally agree with you that it’s not good at all for someone to downplay someone’s mental illness, or brush it under the rug! Mental disorder is an illness like any other…but I think misunderstanding and stigma makes it hard for people to see that…
      Also; of course* you are not alone! I don’t think allah s.w.t. has ever given a person a test that no one else has experienced, before, in some way….and; know that you’re pain is also my (and every Muslim who reads your comment)’s pain…When a Muslim is suffering, the entire* Ummah (of righteous Muslims) is in pain, too. :(
      May Allah s.w.t. give you and every Muslim struggling with mental health issues (and me) a full and speedy recovery, like you said. ameen, ya Allah.
      also, ~thank you~ for commenting on this article and sharing your lovely thoughts.
      may allah bless you and make thinsg easy for you (aameen).
      -Ethar Hamid

  8. Avatar

    Zoya

    October 4, 2015 at 1:18 AM

    Jazakum Allahu khayran for this post! Mental illness is a real issue that many Muslims are struggling with, and it is one that needs to be addressed increasingly in our communities. Thank you for sharing your story. May Allah ease your struggles and reward you immensely for your patience.

  9. Avatar

    Yusuf

    October 4, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    Blessings to you sister. I also struggle with mental illness and it affects my deen. I think the more we Muslims speak out about this, the more help we can get. We also should talk about addictions. I’m glad MM is bringing these topics up, since they can provide relief and insight for many.

    • Avatar

      Ethar Hamid

      October 6, 2015 at 5:41 PM

      Jazak Allah kheir, brother.
      I hope Allah s.w.t. gives you patience with your disorder, healing, and happiness in your life. (aameen.) It can really hard with mental illness–I know–but the person that Allah has decreed a happy and good life for–forget it. It will def. happen! May He write a life of blessings for both of us (and for everyone with mental illnesses-and everyone, in general).
      You’re absolutely right that the more we Muslims speak out about these things, the more help can come. I think it’s especially hard for Muslims to speak out about mental illnesses, because of the stigma that surrounds the topic (due to stagnation in scientific progress, and such)… But a few people can/should speak out, to get the ball rolling/to get the conversations started. ..
      Anyway, jAk again for your comment and kind words.
      May Allah write a full recovery for you,
      aameen,
      -Ethar Hamid

  10. Avatar

    Nicole MS

    October 6, 2015 at 3:05 AM

    Thank you SO MUCH sister Ethar for publishing this! I too suffer from an at times disabling mental illness which has the potential to disturb and at worst obliterate my ibada. I have recently come out of hospital (shortest ever alhumdolilah) and am back to work and determined to strive harder in the deen inshallah. I will definitely check out your Muslim bipolar site when I get home from work! I came across Muslim Matters via my workplace so alhumdolilah for that. Barakah to all and salaam allaikum.

    • Avatar

      Ethar Hamid

      October 6, 2015 at 5:17 PM

      Wa alaikum as salam, sr. Nicole :) Thanks so much for commenting on this!
      firstly, i’m really sorry that you are struggling with mental illness–I definitely feel your pain, and I pray that things go easy for you (may Allah s.w.t. help you in every way–aameen).
      Alhamdulillah you are out of the hospital, now…
      May allah s.w.t. alleviate any hardship/pain you face! and create a speedy recovery ] (and do the same for me, and for everyone else.)
      Thanks* for saying you can check out my site (although muslimbipolar is actually not my site… :P I know it looks kind of decieiving, where it says the name of that site, at the bottom… Although muslimbipolar.com is an amazing site, and I recommend it! (I just contribute stuff to that site). But here is my actual site: https://etharhamid.contently.com/
      ~
      May Allah reward you for sharing some of your experiences/thoughts!! Really appreciate your comments/thoughts/kind words… :)
      ~fee amaan illah

      -Sr. Ethar

  11. Avatar

    umabd

    October 7, 2015 at 1:37 AM

    Dear brothers and sisters who are struggling with this issue of mental illness, please consider what the deen has prescribed as cures: cupping by someone professional, 7 dates followed by honey mixed eith water first thing in the morning, surah baqarah recite/listen *daily*. Do lots of dua. Read this surah on water and drink daily. Do the same on olive oil and apply all over body and scalp daily. Use misk. And never lrave mornig and evening adhkar. By Allah’s permission, you may see a big difference in your condition.
    But besides this take every means possible to ensure mental health. If your self says to isolate then go against it. Keep fighting the good fight and choose your well being over your own inclinations.

  12. Avatar

    Amir

    October 10, 2015 at 2:26 PM

    It was nice to read this. Yes, ocd for sure can manifest in the religion. I think it’s probably the easiest thing to manifest in. Something that is the closest to your heart.

    I too have this ocd problem , and it escalated into a shaitanic influence, where it no longer became simple ocd, but something much different. They call it mass-al-shaitan, and waswaas al qahri. And the symptoms are clearly different, and much more confusing and difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, there’s a cure for all of it.

    Anyways, come join me at what I like to call the official anxiety community from a muslim perspective. http://www.EducatedAnxiety.com
    I hope to see you all there.

  13. Avatar

    Frederik

    October 10, 2015 at 2:35 PM

    Isolation is a feature of modern society coupled with intense pressure for getting consuming and achieving externally. Along with a pollutant environment, people affected in different ways.

    In addition, lack of nurturing parenting and failure to instill trust in children especially results in a lot of “mental illness” which often stems from a combination of above factors and also especially lack of connect with parents. This is an issue if cannot be solved with parents then to continue connecting with others and other role models.

    Without healthy social circle and a rope to hold onto one becomes immersed in their core beliefs of themselves being weak and insufficient (parenting).
    Schizophrenia for example from Islamic perspective is seen as jinn from western as chemical imbalance and irrational thoughts. In common though, schizophrenic patients often talk about spirituality and often have in common delusions to do with “dark forces”, paranoia, as well as often people struggling with this often have severe issues with their mothers.

    Muslim community needs to have local friendship circles and groups for those without social support to stay together and make friends. Mosques fail at this. Place of communal gathering a refuge to discuss ideas without fear of judgment and to seek help. Maybe more special circles for those struggling with various mental health issues.

    For op, I find two things helpful. One thing – this is just in my head. There is a whole world out there it just happens so I am one person struggling with one pain. Second thing look at those worse off than you and just be thankful you don’t have their problems. Try see positives from ur OCD. Do you maybe even benefit from having it because u get secondary reward from having it? For me, realized gave me an ” outlet” when I was lonely or wanted reassurance from someone. Back to having bsocial circle important.

    Most importantly try not to fight it. Try focus on the meta of ur pain without judging urself for it. Where is the pain (in my head) how does it feel?(running speed) how does it make me feel “obsessive with pain in the head” how can I feel better? Maybe even start meditating on how your toes feel. Of course this wouldn’t work for serious cases but techniques could be used preventative or beginning.

    One other thing really really helps me. I think, this life is temporary and one day the pain will be over. Long as I’m not acting out my thoughts there’s nothing to worry about. God will help me band keep me on the right path.

    Be hopeful of God and He will give u what you need. I believ I read as well that ocd is a feature of an overdeveloped nafs but I’m not sure. Few books on how to tame the nafs.

  14. Avatar

    zaman

    October 11, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    Interesting that much misunderstood mental illnesses are discussed here with lot of empathy and from a religious perspective.

    I have known relatives who have different levels of OCD and other serious mental illnesses.These people are not freely admitted to family groups and events and kept isolated. Even advice from Doctors relevant to the patients are kept confidential and are filtered. Rarely did I see positive support from the family except for minimal understanding of the illness and adequate supply of medicines. Some cases of interference from close relatives look dangerous when they insist on alternative treatments which are actually harmful as the modern medicines from Allopathy are not given to the patient. Perhaps we, the immediate family, also develop some negative mindsets and need therapy as well.

    Though in the practice of Islam, many exceptions and waivers are available for mentally ill Muslims, it is surely beneficial to encourage such patients to take up Salaat, Zikr and Fasting in small doses which do not burden them, Best perhaps is short Duas.

  15. Avatar

    Aisha

    October 12, 2015 at 1:20 AM

    Thank you so much for writing this. I was actually diagnosed with OCD, but mine was with wudu. I just got to the point where I stopped praying completely because it was affecting not just my eman but my career, family and social life. I do take medication but I was afraid to even go back to prayer because I was scared of relapsing. Yes I know many people think Oh you’re just being lazy, but, unless you’ve experienced OCD you have no clue. After having spiritual counseling with an amazing Imam; I now feel I am on the path to getting back to my prayers. I am taking baby steps and am so happy that I can at least do Isha now with no panic attacks. Yay!!!

    • Avatar

      Zaina

      November 12, 2015 at 11:36 PM

      Hugs. My mom banned me from praying when I was 10 years old for the same reasons. Being a doctor, she was concerned about giving strong psych meds to a child. So she treated the symptoms. I’d been spending hours wuduing.. For each prayer.

      Even now as an adult, I can go months without praying when things are bad and not praying makes me feel guilty on top of sick.

      I think I may start praying without wuduing to start because not praying is surely worse.

      I also only do the absolute minimum wudu now. When u was younger no one told me the three times thing was optional.

  16. Avatar

    tariq Aziz

    October 15, 2015 at 11:14 AM

    I am in some state don’t know what it is but its terrible to deal with now are clinical anti depressant helpful its tough for me to get help

    • Avatar

      Ethar Hamid

      October 15, 2015 at 7:48 PM

      ~
      As salam alaikum, brother Tariq. I’m so sorry to hear that :(
      I wanted to say that, yes, antidepressants and other psychiatric meds can be real lifesavers! (next to Allah, of course–He is the real grantor of shifaa, without doubt).
      Anyway, since you feel quite bad, maybe you can see a therapist (or a mental health counselor, or psychologist? Or a psychiatrist? (I see a psychiatrist and a social worker, myself…) the mental health specialist will provide you with the meds you may need.
      I just wanted to say that I know what it’s like to feel very bad—I suffer from psychotic depression, ocd, and anxiety, all of which were going untreated, when they first developed (of course). Even for four or five years after that all came upon me, I wasn’t receiving the correct treatment/taking the right meds, because doctors were still trying to figure out what was wrong with me.  so I lived in a very bad place…it was a nightmare. **But things get sooo much better. For everyone…I ask Allah to help you.
      so iA you can get a therapist/psychiatrist. If you decide to see a mental health specialist, I actually recommend seeing one who works in a public, government-funded practice, as opposed to one who works at a private practice. In my experience, mental health specialists who work in public, government-established clinics are more professional. Plus, the service (of treating you) will probably be a lot less, because they get most of their payment from the state/local government (as opposed to private practioners, who receive their payments from the clients/patients). For example, I pay only a small amount to see both my psychiatrist and social worker that I see, and I get my meds for free, too. (though I think my free meds are because of the patient-assistance that I receive through the medication company’s financial assistance program, and not the clinic.) I do all of this because who wants to pay a lot of money for necessities, like medication/doctors/psychiatrists/food/water, etc? A pool in my backyard—ok…I get why that would be expensive. But not the fundamental things, in life! :/
      ***by the way, sorry* if you already knew all of this. Consider it a reminder. 
      ~
      By the way, if you live in the U.S., this website is great for finding a therapist (if you choose to get a therapist, over a psychiatrist…though both can be helpful, too): goodtherapy.org

      Also, don’t forget to keep up with the Islamic acts of worship—iA that will comfort you and bring you a form of peace (though they might nor cure a mental health condition. But then again, allah is the ultimate giver of recovery and healing, so a du’a from a sincere heart will help you).
      I love the following du’a, and use it often:

      O Allah, I am Your slave, the child of Your male slave, and the child of your female slave. My forehead is in Your hand (i.e., You have control over me). Your judgment upon me is assured, and Your decree concerning me is just. I ask You by every Name that You have; that You have named Yourself with, revealed in Your Book, taught anyone of Your creation, or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You, to make the Qur’an the spring of my heart, the light of my chest, the banisher of my sadness, and the reliever of my distress.
      ~
      May allah give you a full and lasting recovery! I hope you feel better…please reach out for help from a professional (and family/friends) if you need support/help.
      ~*~*~
      ~fee amaan illah (I leave you in the care of Allah),
      Ethar

  17. Avatar

    Hashim

    November 12, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    Read this article and it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve also been going through something similar for a long time now. Everytime I start praying Salah, I feel that shaytan will grab a hold of me and ALLAH will not accept my prayers if I do not say “Bismillah” 16 times before the start of prayer and during prayer, if my thoughts go elsewhere, I feel obliged to repeat the rakah. I know it is irrational and I am quite aware that what I am doing is wrong but I cant seem to help myself, feeling that something terrible would happen if I dont succumb to these obsessive thoughts. I was diagnosed with OCD 5 years ago and it has been getting bad ever since, so much so that I have to repeat the ablution 3 times each time I pray. Even more depressing is that, being a final year medical student, I am aware that anti-depressants wont help me, I have tried but they dont improve my symptoms. Is there any dua to help me??

    • Avatar

      Zaina

      November 12, 2015 at 11:41 PM

      Have you tried ERP?

      I know scrupulosity is one of the toughest symptoms to treat.

      I find it really hard to pray too.

      One thing I do is the bare minimum wudu. Also talked to imam and even if its *Wrong*, do it once. Similar to say if you had anither issue that broke wudu. Finally, I do the extra sAjda at the end of the prayer to cover mistakes.

      Right now I actually haven’t been praying for a while, my next step will probably be to pray sans wudu. Because that’s probably better than not praying at all.

  18. Avatar

    Waqas Mansoor

    January 4, 2017 at 2:53 PM

    Recently diagnosed with memory and thought related ocd . :( I pray that I get better . I am a very big dinner and I ask for forgiveness .. I hope Allah helps me .. I would start praying no matter what

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#Life

Challenges of Identity & Conviction: The Need to Construct an Islamic Worldview

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islamic online high school

He squirmed in his seat as his Middle East history professor–yet again–made a subtle jab about Islam, this time about the jizyah.  This professor claimed to be pro-Arab and pro-Islam and was part of a university department that touted itself for presenting history and narratives that are typically left out of the West’s Eurocentric social studies sequence. Still, she would subjectively only present an Orientalist interpretation of Islam. Ahmad* sighed. He felt bad just thinking about what all his classmates at this esteemed university thought about Islam and Muslims. He was also worried about fellow Muslims in his class who had not grown up in a practicing household-what if they believed her? He hated how she was using her position as the “sage” in the room to present her bias as absolute truth. As for himself, he knew deep down in his bones that what his professor was alleging just could not be true. His fitrah was protesting her coy smile as she knowingly agitated the few Muslims in her class of one-hundred-fifty.  Yet, Ahmad had never studied such topics growing up and felt all his years of secondary education left him ill-equipped as a freshman in college.  He tried to search for answers to her false accusations after class and approached her later during office hours, but she just laughed him off as a backward, orthodox Muslim who had obviously been brainwashed into believing the “fairy tale version” of Islam. 

***

Asiyah* graduated as class valedictorian of her Islamic school. She loved Biology and Physics and planned to major in Engineering at a top-notch program. While both family, friends, and peers were proud of her (some maybe even wishing they were in her shoes), they had no idea of the bitter inner struggle that was eating away at her, tearing her up from the inside out. Her crisis of faith shook her to the core and her parents were at their wits’ end. While she prayed all her prayers and even properly donned her hijab, deep down she felt……..sort of….……atheist.  Physics was her life–her complete being. She loved how the numbers just added up and everything could be empirically proven. But this led to her greatest anguish: how could certain miraculous events during the time of the Blessed Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) have occurred? How could she believe in events that were physically and scientifically impossible?  She felt like an empty body performing the rituals of Islam.

*names changed

***

An Unwelcome Surprise

Islam is a way of life. Its principles operate in every avenue of one’s life. However, English, History, Science and Mathematics are often taught as if they are beyond the scope of Islam. It is commonly assumed that moral teaching happens, or should happen, only in the Islamic Studies class. Yet, if we compare what is being taught in the Islamic Studies class with what is being taught consciously or unconsciously in other classes, an unwelcome surprise awaits us. Examining typical reading material in English classes, for example, reveals that too much of the material is actually going against Islamic norms and principles. Some of the most prominent problems with traditional English literature (which directly clash with Islamic moral and ethical principles) include: the mockery of God and religion, the promotion of rebellion against parents and traditional family values, the normalization of immoral conduct such as lying and rude behavior, and the condoning of inappropriate cross-gender interactions. Additionally, positive references about Islamic culture are either nonexistent or rare. Toxic themes of secularism, atheism, materialism, liberalism, and agnosticism are constantly bombarding our young Muslim students, thus shaping the way in which they view and interact with the world.

Corrective Lens: The Worldview of Islam

We need our children to develop an Islamic worldview, one that provides a framework for Muslims to understand their world from the perspective of the Qur’an.  It is impossible for the Islamic Studies classes alone to successfully teach Islamic behavior and nurture moral commitment unless the other classes also reflect the Islamic worldview- an outlook that emphasizes the idea that all our actions should be focused on pleasing Allah and doing good for ourselves and others. Therefore, the majority of what is taught in all academic disciplines should be based on Islamic values, aiming to improve the life of the student by promoting sublime ethical conduct. The unfortunate reality is quite the opposite: a typical child in a school in the West spends a minimum of 576 periods (16 periods of core classes/week * 4 weeks/month * 9 months) of classroom instruction annually on academic subjects that are devoid of Islam and contain minimal teaching of morality that aligns with Islamic principles. How much Islam a child learns depends on whether their parents choose Sunday school, Islamic schools, and/or other forms of supplementation to provide religious knowledge. However, rarely does that supplemental instruction undo the thousands of hours of the atheistic worldview that children soak in by the time they finish high school through the study of secular subjects. By not having an Islamic worldview and not having Muslims’ heritage and contributions to humanity infused into the teaching of academic subjects, we witness the problems experienced by the likes of Ahmad* and Asiyah*–problems that plague modern Muslim youth.

Identifying the Unlikely Suspect

This realization is perhaps the missing piece in the puzzle when it comes to our bewilderment: how are large swaths of youth from some of the kindest, sweetest, practicing Muslim families going astray and getting confused? When we shepherd our flock and find one or more of our “sheep” lost and off the beaten path, we think of the likely suspects, which include negative influences from peers, family, movies, social media, etc. We may even blame the lack of inspiring role models. We are less likely to suspect that the very literature that our children are consuming day in and day out through our well-intentioned efforts to make them “educated” and “sophisticated” could cause them to question Islam or fall into moral abyss.

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible. Each of you is a shepherd and each is responsible for his flock.”

Islamic Infusion in Academic Study as a Solution

There have been efforts across the globe to infuse Islam into academic study of worldly subjects. Universities such as the International Islamic University of Malaysia(IIUM), which has a dedicated “Centre for Islamisation (CENTRIS),” is an example. At the secondary school level, most brick and mortar Islamic schools do offer Arabic, Qur’an, and Islamic studies; however, few Muslim teachers are trained in how to teach core academic subjects using principles of Islamic pedagogy.

How exactly can educators infuse an Islamic perspective into their teaching? And how can Muslim children have access to high quality education from the worldview of Islam, taught by talented and dynamic educators?

Infusing Islam & Muslim Heritage in Core Academic Subjects, According to the Experts:

  • Dr. Nadeem Memon, professor of Islamic pedagogy, states that for a pedagogy to be Islamic, it should not contradict the aims, objectives and ethics contained in revelation (Qur’an) and should closely reflect an Islamic ethos that is based on revelation, the sunnah of the Prophet(pbuh), and the intellectual and spiritual heritage of his followers. It should also effectively develop the student’s intelligence (`aql), faith (iman), morality and character (khuluq), knowledge and practice of personal religious obligations (fard ain) and knowledge, skills and physical abilities warranted by worldly responsibilities and duties (Ajem, Ramzy and Nadeem Memon, “Prophetic Pedagogy: Teaching ‘Islamically’ in our Classrooms”)
  • Dr. Susan Douglass, expert in Social Studies, promotes a panoramic study of the world by global eras–emphasizing the interdependence of nations–rather than an isolationist civilizations approach (which in Western societies focuses only on Western civilization). Such study includes Islamic history and Muslims’ contributions to humanity throughout the ages.
  • Dr. Freda Shamma, pioneer in promoting culturally inclusive and ethical literature, emphasizes that English classes should carefully select literature aligned with Islamic moral values and include works by both Western authors and those from other cultures, i.e. literature that 1-features Muslim main characters and 2- is authored by Muslims.
  • Dr. Nur Jannah Hassan at CENTRIS, stresses that Science classes should be designed to awaken the student’s mind, to inspire a complete awe of and servitude towards the Creator and Sustainer, to instill the purpose of creation, vicegerency and stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants, to enable students to decipher God’s Signs in nature and in the self, to infuse responsibility in sustaining balance and accountability, and should include Muslims’ legacy in the field.
  • Dr. Reema alNizami, specialist in Math Education, advocates that Math classes should instill creative thinking, systematic problem solving and an appreciation of balance; include a survey of Muslims’ contributions to the field; and utilize word problems that encourage charitable and ethical financial practices.

Technology Enables Access to Islamically Infused Schooling for grades 6-12

Technology has now enabled this Islamic infusion for middle schools and secondary schools to become a reality on a global scale, alhamdulillah. Legacy International Online High School, a college preparatory, online Islamic school serving grades 6-12, whose mission is “Cultivating Compassionate Global Leaders”, offers all academic subjects from the Islamic worldview. Pioneered by leading Muslim educators from around the globe with background in Islamic pedagogy and digital learning, Legacy is the first of its kind online platform that is accessible to:

  • homeschooling families seeking full-time, rigorous, Islamically infused classes
  • Public school families looking for a part-time Islamic studies or Arabic sequence
  • Islamic schools, evening programs, and Sunday schools that are short-staffed and would like to outsource certain courses from the Islamic worldview
  • Schools and entities needing training/workshops to empower Muslim educators on how to teach from the Islamic worldview

Alhamdulillah, Legacy IOHS is an accessible resource for families with children in grades 6-8 who are seeking curriculum and instruction that is Islamically infused.

Strengthening Faith & Identity in College and Beyond

For those seeking supplementary resources to address the most prevalent hot topic issues plaguing young Muslims of our times, Yaqeen Institute, whose initial publications were more targeted towards a university audience, is now working to make its research more accessible to the general public through both its Conviction Circles initiative and its short videos featuring infographics.

Another online platform, California Islamic University, offers a comprehensive course sequence which allows college students to graduate with a second degree in Islamic studies while simultaneously completing their undergraduate studies at any accredited community college or university in the United States. Qalam and AlMaghrib Institute also offer online coursework in Islamic studies.

What We Hope to Avoid

While volunteering at his son Sulayman’s* public school with ten student participants, Ibrahim* was saddened when he met a young boy named Chris*. When Chris met Ibrahim, he piped up and eagerly told Ibrahim, “my grandparents are Muslim!” Through the course of the conversation, Ibrahim realized that he knew Chris’ grandparents, a very sweet elderly couple (and currently very practicing) who had not made the Islamic worldview a priority early on in their children’s lives. A mere two generations later, Islam is completely eliminated from their family.  *names changed

Our Resolve

Legacy IOHS recommends the following to Muslim families/educators and Islamic schools:

  1. Instill in our children a strong grasp of the foundational sciences of Islam, while preparing them with the necessary contemporary knowledge and skills
  2. Teach our children in their formative years to view the world (including their “secular” academic study) through the lens of Islam
  3. Follow this up with relevant motivational programs that assist them in understanding challenging issues of today and coach them on how to respond to the issues in their teenage years.

We pray that with the above, we will have fulfilled our duty in shepherding our flock in a comprehensive way, with utmost care. It is Allah’s help we seek in these challenging times:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

‘Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us. Grant us Your mercy: You are the Ever Giving. [Qur’an 3:8]

 رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

‘Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring. Make us good examples to those who are aware of You’. [Qur’an 25:74]

يَا مُقَلِّبَ القُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِيْ عَلَى دِيْنِكْ

“O turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm on your religion.”

Freda Shamma has a M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Ed.D. from the University of Cincinnati in the area of Curriculum Development. A veteran educator, she has worked with educators from the United States, South Africa and all over the Muslim world to develop integrated curricula based on an Islamic worldview that meets the needs of modern Muslim youth. She serves as Curriculum Advisor for Legacy International Online High School.

An avid student of the Islamic sciences, Zaheer Arastu earned his M.Ed from The George Washington University and completed his training in Educational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. his experience in Islamic education spans over 15 years serving as both teacher, administrator, and dean of innovation and technology. He currently serves as the Head of School for Legacy International Online High School.

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Mass Shootings in America: All of the Above

Imam Zaid Shakir

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We express our deepest condolences to the families of those who have perished in the latest instances of mass slaughter in our public square, this time in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. We further pray that all of those wounded recover from their injuries. This violence, which can increasingly be described as American as apple pie, is a tragic example of a society wrestling with a debilitating spiritual disease.

Just as tragic as the violence are the narrow, mutually exclusive frames that seem to trap our pundits, polemicists, and politicians when attempting to meaningfully analyze what is happening. Liberals declare the problem is rooted in racism, aided and abetted in part by the President’s rhetoric and actions, along with a lack of any meaningful gun control. Conservatives say it is an issue whose root cause is found in mental health, video games, and the erosion of the family. Each side dismisses the arguments of the other. If we are fair, we must admit that all of the above-mentioned factors, and perhaps others, contribute to the problem.

Anyone who dismisses the rhetoric and actions of President Trump as a factor contributing to the climate of racial and anti-immigrant animosity growing in this country cannot be taken seriously. Certainly, not all of the now 251 mass shootings that have occurred in the country this year were racially motivated. For those that were, it is clear from the screeds left by the perpetrators of these atrocities, their online activity, the groups and individuals they identify with, as well as the warped ideology they espouse that there is an overlap between their words and ideas and many of those expressed by the President. That overlap is owed to a conscious policy pursued by President Trump.

The President understands that there are large numbers of radical White nationalists who, like many on the extreme left, have become disenchanted with mainstream politics as well as the two mainstream parties. He knows that they can be encouraged to become supporters of the Republican Party if the Republican Party supports them. Encouraged by the likes of Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, Trump sends messages to this growing constituency to ensure that issues concerning them will be represented by his administration. Hence, rhetoric and policy prescriptions formerly confined to the dark dungeons of the internet have become mainstreamed under the current administration.

It is not the least ironic that the very day of the El Paso shooting, President Trump retweeted a message from the fear-mongering, hate-inspiring, British anti-Muslim bigot, Katie Hopkins. Among other things, Hopkins, has called for a “final solution” for Muslims in the aftermath of the suicide bombing of a Manchester pop concert in 2017. This past May, when an audience member at one of his rallies shouted, “shoot them” in response to Trump’s question as to how to stop migrants from entering the country, the President joked approvingly. His effort to end birth right citizenship and his staunch support of voter suppression, both designed to undermine the growing political strength of expanding minority populations, can only be described as racially motivated.

Such actions, coupled with the President’s words decrying immigrant populations as rapists, murderers, and invaders, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country, his praise and support for white nationalists, both nationally and globally, his describing countries the US has historically helped to under-develop, such as Haiti, as s—t hole countries and a long list of other open and “dog-whistle” racist statements send a clear message to racists that bigoted hatred is not only fine, it has an ally in the White House.

Many failed to grasp Trump’s racism because they do not fully realize its nature. The brilliant African American novelist, Toni Morrison, who passed away earlier this week, captured the essence of racism when she said, “Racism is not a goal it is a path, a path to power and money, a manipulation and a tool…” Throughout his career and now as President this is exactly what Trump’s racism is and has been.

While it would certainly be a stretch to claim that Trump’s words are directly responsible for the actions of white supremacist terrorists, it is increasingly incredulous to claim that the President’s rhetoric is not a factor in massacres such as the recent one in El Paso. Words convey meanings and those meanings matter. Consider this recent excerpt from a letter penned by the leaders of the National Cathedral:

Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous. These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.

It is similarly incredulous to claim that significantly tighter gun control policies, such as strict background checks, bans on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, would do nothing to stem the growing frequency of deadly mass shootings in America. In response to a shooting that left 35 people dead in Tasmania in 1996, Australia overhauled its gun laws, significantly tightening them. Since then, there has only been one mass shooting in that country, in June of this year. That incident resulted in four fatalities.

Critics of more stringent gun laws will argue that states here in America with tight gun laws do not necessarily experience fewer gun-related fatalities than those with lax laws. I would counter that a uniform national plan would yield significantly different results. What does it mean for California to have tough gun laws when a potential killer can go to Nevada and purchase a weapon banned in California–as happened last month with the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter.

A seldom-discussed issue is the fact that there was an assault rifle ban in the United States for ten years, from 1994-2004. During that period, overall gun-related homicides were not significantly reduced; however, a recent study (DiMaggio, et al. 2019) concludes that mass shooting fatalities, 86% of which involve assault rifles, were down 70%. That percentage would likely have been much higher had it been accompanied by an effort to get rifles purchased before the ban off the street. It is time for more conservatives to listen to the voices of those on the left who advocate such policies.

So too would those on the left do well to listen to conservatives who are arguing that video games are a major factor in desensitizing young people to killing. Anyone who thinks otherwise should read Lt. David Grossman’s insightful book, On Killing. During World War II, only fifteen to twenty percent of American soldiers engaged in combat would fire their weapons at the enemy. Grossman shows how insights from behavioral psychology, derived primarily from the work of B. F. Skinner and I.P. Pavlov, were employed by the military to raise the firing rate to over 90% in Vietnam. Video game manufacturers employ those same techniques to create in our children the potential to likewise become desensitized killers.

Grossman writes these chilling words, words which should cause us to drop our polarizing political posturing and come together for the sake of our children:

Through operative conditioning B.F. Skinner held that he could turn any child into anything he wanted to. In Vietnam the U.S. armed forces demonstrated that Skinner was at least partially correct by successfully using operant conditioning to turn adolescents into the most effective fighting force the world has ever seen. And America seems intent on using Skinner’s methodology to turn us into an extraordinarily violent society (Grossman, On Killing, p. 316).

We should note that the same psychological techniques employed by the military to turn passive civilians into mindless killers are employed by the makers of video games. While it is certainly true that not all video gamers become mass murderers many if not most of our recent mass shooters have been video game addicts. More research has to been done to establish if there is a direct causal link between video games and mass killings, however, there is enough evidence to suggest that this is an issue not to be glibly dismissed when we examine the causes of the epidemic of mass killings sweeping this nation.

As for mental illness, studies show that the majority of mass shooters, for a wide variety of reasons, suffer from some form of mental illness, the most common being depression, suicidality, and various thought disorders. This is a sensitive issue; however, it is one that must be actively countenanced for this is the area where we find the most easily detectible “red flags” which alert us to the descent of a person into the dark states that give birth to the kinds of atrocities we have been witnessing all too often. Saying this is not to deny the fact that a person suffering from a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator.

Concerning the breakdown of the family, this factor is oftentimes neglected in the intensifying debate around mass shootings. The most worrying consequence of that breakdown is the eradication of the societal forces that civilize males. Those forces are eroding in the face of a withering assault on the traditional family. One of the justifications for that assault is that the traditional family is currently being blamed for fostering the qualities associated with “toxic masculinity.” Therefore, it has to be destroyed. In fact, masculine toxicity, as defined by those advocating its eradication, can be viewed as a direct result of the unrelenting assault on the traditional family.

That assault is being pushed by those whose stated goal is the destruction of society as we know it. Consider these words by the pioneering feminist activist, Betty Friedan:

The changes necessary to bring about equality were, and still are, very revolutionary indeed. They involve a sex-role revolution for men and women which will restructure all our institutions: child rearing, education, marriage, the family, medicine, work, politics, the economy, religion, psychological theory, human sexuality, morality and the very evolution of the race. (quoted from, New York Times Magazine, March 4, 1973)

In the almost forty years since Friedan issued this declaration of war on the traditional family and society, the forces she helped to lead have wreaked havoc in all of the areas she identified. Perhaps the most worrying reality concerning the war she declared is that those who have assumed leadership after her generation ceded command are exponentially more radical and reckless in their vision for society and gender relations.

The greatest casualty in this war, by design, has been the properly socialized male. By removing the male from his traditional role of a protector and maintainer of women, a role codified in the Qur’an (4:34), we open the door to the uncivilized, barbaric, “toxic” male, adding another factor to the many conditions which make mass shootings possible.

In the prescient words of George Gilder:

Such single males–and married ones whose socialization fails–constitute our major social problem. They are the murderers, the rapists, the burglars, the suicides, the assailants, the psychopaths…         (George Gilder, Sexual Suicide, p. 105)

Hence, we find that virtually all of our recent mass shooters have been males who were unable to affirm their sexuality in normal ways through normal relationships. Like all of the other factors mentioned above, as a society, we will have to address this factor also, no matter how unpopular or controversial.

In conclusion, let me repeat, all of the above factors contribute to the uniquely American problem of mass shootings. To effectively begin to work towards eliminating them, we will need to remove ourselves from the left/right false dichotomy that limits our creativity, civility, and intellectual honesty. That should be easy for members of the “Middle Community.” Our primary objective in how we approach the vexing issues of today should be finding credible solutions and not confirming dead end political orthodoxies. Those solutions do not belong exclusively to the political party advocating them. Let us put aside the stultifying partisan nonsense tearing us apart, claim what is rightfully ours, and put it to work for the betterment of our society.

“The word of truth, wisdom, is the lost property of the believer. Wherever he finds them he has more right to them.”

Prophet Muhammad

Imam Zaid Shakir

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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Kaaba

Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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