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How to Raise Your Children, When You’re Dead

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Ali had two young children. While he was playing baseball one day, a ball hit his chest. A few days later, he was gone at the age of 33. Three years later, his widow, Firdaus, died in a car accident.  Someone else was now needed to raise their two children, but who would that be?

Many Muslim parents have no idea what would happen if they were to be put in the place of this hypothetical couple. Complete strangers or unsuitable family members being named guardians are so common that it is not worthy of making the news. You may already know that a busy legal system exists all over the United States to address this recurring problem.

If you are a Muslim, and hope that your child is raised Muslim if you are not around to do so yourself, judges will usually not go far out of their way to honor that hope unless it was followed by action on your part. This is not Islamophobia. Why should busy judges care if the parents evidently did not?  Naming a guardian for your minor child in a legal document is easier than changing diapers. You just need to make a few decisions.

My goal is to help you make sure that if anything ever does happen to you, the parent, you will have taken sufficient steps to ensure that your child will be raised consistently with your own values.

There have been cases where Judges just hand over Muslim children to non-Muslims to be raised as such, and certainly many other situations where children are raised by people the actual parents would have been horrified to know are now custodians of their care.

Here are a few different types of Muslim families that I typically see, as well as a few possible solutions to help you select a successor guardian. Keep in mind this is about Guardianship, not adoption, which is a different concept. While the examples below are fictitious, they are not too far from reality.

 No Assets

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Fatima and Abdullah are young and live paycheck to paycheck, with more owed than owned. They do not feel the need to go through the cost and expense of doing an Estate Plan, and even do wills on their own, at least right now. However, they are concerned about who would raise their son Abdul Rahman and daughter Layla.

The easiest way for them to handle this is to name Guardians through a separate writing, called a “nomination of guardian” form (where allowed) or naming them in a will.

By affirmatively naming their preference (and giving their selected guardians a copy) for who would raise their children in the case that they were unable to, they will take two steps. Firstly, the family members or friends selected should know that it is their responsibility to take care of the children, and that Fatima and Abdullah rely on them for this.

Secondly, selecting guardians in writing dramatically reduces the chance of guardianship disputes and the family fitna that goes with it, or even worse, the chance that the children could end up with strangers. As parents may “nominate” Guardians for minor children, judges tend to appoint those the parents selected.

Fatima and Abdullah can then select multiple individuals as possible Guardians so that if one were unavailable or regarded as unfit by a court, an alternate would be available.

Awkward Thanksgivings

Every year, Salma and Ismael have Thanksgiving dinner with Salma’s brother, Sulayman. The dinners are always uncomfortable as Sulayman seemingly has difficulty conducting a conversation without mocking Islam and Muslims and extensively discussing how people who believe in religions are unintelligent. Despite living in close proximity to each other, Salma and Ismael do not let Sulayman babysit their children and would rather not have him raise their children. He is, however, the only relative that lives in the same state and he would be happy to take care of the children if the opportunity ever arose.

If Salma and Ismail are against Sulayman ever raising their children, they should consider doing a negative appointment. Appoint the individuals they would rather have as Guardians but just in case, also make it clear that the parents do not want Sulayman to raise their children under any circumstances.

Husband and Wife do not agree

Bilquis and Hamza have three children and would like to name successor Guardians for them, as they see themselves as responsible parents. However, they cannot do it because they do not agree on who should be named as a guardian and in what order. Bilquis would rather her family members raise the children while Hamza is not nearly as fond of Bilquis’ family as she is. They find it is easier and less damaging to their relationship if they ignore the issue.

The solution to their problem is a Shurah, a panel that decides who the Guardian for the minor children should be. Both parents name people from each respective family. All of these individuals can be successor Guardians, however the panel decides who should act as a guardian for the children should the need arise. While this technique is an innovation of Estate Planning Attorneys, it is generally in keeping with state guardianship statutes. It may also allow for compromise between families and allow for both sides of the family to see the orphaned children.

Family Oceans Away

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Salman and Aisha came to the United States 3 years ago from overseas. They have been in their current city for two months and have one daughter, Sultana, who is 5 years old and has just started kindergarten at a local public school. Both have family living thousands of miles away. Salman and Aisha have not developed many very close friendships either, being new in town and mostly transient and too busy for much of a social life. When filling out school paperwork, they chose to name someone as an emergency contact to pick up their child from school if they are late. This person is another parent they had met when the school year started.

This is a hard situation. Sultana would be especially vulnerable to government intervention and foster care if her parents were to die or become incapacitated. Even if family members managed to come from overseas, the child would still be left with strangers.

Salman and Aisha need more than just documents to protect their daughter. They need people in the local area who would be in a position to take care of their children, preferably from the Muslim community, and assist them so that their child can be sent to live with family members in Pakistan. They need to build community, get friends quickly and name those friends in their documents. If a judge feels that it is not in the best interest of the child to live with their family overseas, because the country is an active war zone for example, Salman and Aisha will still have appointed a Muslim family for Sultana to stay with, and who have agreed to be her safety net.

The Conversation

This Thanksgiving as you meet with friends and family members, take some time, if you have not already, to discuss who will take care of your children if you cannot do so. There are sample templates (registration required) available for anyone who wants them, that can easily be filled out and you can take them to your lawyer if you wish. Keep a copy for yourself and keep a copy for the people you are appointing as a guardian.

You may also develop closer bonds with the friends and family you appoint as a result of this conversation and the mutual understandings that will come from it. Even if you live to see your children well into adulthood and none of these loved ones ever needs to be appointed as a guardian, having these conversations and writing down your wishes is always a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahmed Shaikh is a Southern California Attorney. He writes about inheritance, nonprofits and other legal issues affecting Muslims in the United States. His Islamic Inheritance website is www.islamicinheritance.com

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    dr farah afzal

    November 25, 2015 at 4:42 AM

    author has discussed a very important issue that we never think about. a quite thought provoking well written article.

    • Avatar

      Suhael

      November 25, 2015 at 10:28 PM

      JazakAllah Khairyn for this. This is very informational and needed for each and every member of our community.

  2. Avatar

    Syed J

    November 28, 2015 at 12:39 PM

    Assalam alaikum wa JazakAllah Khair. Indeed we hardly ever think of this issue in our daily lives.

  3. Avatar

    Ebrahim Karim

    November 28, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    Slms it is best to leave the offspring with well educated persons who understand the ruling &control of children. pre favourable the persons should be well educated in Islam & teaching of upbringing
    Children they must be trusted persons. They also have their own offsprings

  4. Avatar

    Kent Bayley

    November 28, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    I am blessed to be a Christian and in that we must exercise free will to become Christian. We must do that freely as individuals, The huge problem i have with all things Muslim is that you claim you are born Muslims and to change you must renounce the religion. Apparently this then brings penalties. I would hope that your barbaric ways can be set aside and try love for a change. This is how children should be raised and be given choice and use their free will to decide how their lives will be run. In this sense I would hope Muslim orphans would be raised in a home of free will and not branded Muslim from the moment they re born.

    • Avatar

      Hanna

      November 28, 2015 at 2:00 PM

      You demand love, but at the same time you have the ability to judge and be disrespectful. You show so much hate to a community.

      Please do some soul searching, as you appear to have lot of time to spread hate. Why waste peoples time with your lack of knowledge on the subject.
      An individual who believes in god, would not be so harsh, every religion teaches kindness. You want to get your opinion across, then learn to do it kindly like your religion has taught you. What disappointing example of Christianity.

    • Avatar

      Idris

      November 28, 2015 at 9:03 PM

      Anyone who reads your comment will clearly understand where you coming from, your level of education, way of thing and how deep is your hatred. I am glad that you are not claiming you represent Christianity and what it stands for. If you are really serious about giving children freedom to make their choice of religion, please help those children kidnapped by the missionaries from Asia and Africa with empty promises and brought them to Europe and America and left without guidance their entire life. Large number of those children either become atheist and end up in prison when they reach puberty. Those need your help!

    • Avatar

      Raed

      October 5, 2016 at 2:50 PM

      With all do respect Kent, I thought of this happening to my children(God forbid) and wondered ” what will they believe after me ?” Kind of what the prophet Joseph asked his children before he passed. If I was ever to have children from other religions placed in my home, I’d make sure they practiced whatever faith they were brought up with but I’d also invite them to Islam starting with the 109th chapter of the Quran. And I’d respect and love them no matter what but they’d need faith in God!! With that being said, Islam is not barbaric at all. Even though I was born Muslim , I didn’t know anything about it, till I September 11 happened. I though to myself, I couldn’t believe that my religion of Islam can be so cruel n was too blame. I needed to educate myself instead of being ignorant. So I opened the Quran that I borrowed from a friend since We didn’t own one. It had an introduction of each chapter along side the parables for the lesson to be learned from the certain verses. The more I read, the more I was awed the mdeeper I fell in love.. then found the miracles of its eloquent words so perfectly said. The rights of every living being from plants to humans. I was amazed! Try it. Not to be a Muslim but so that you can be more understanding to those who do follow Islam and why those laws are important. Good luck!

  5. Avatar

    Kent Bayley

    November 28, 2015 at 2:18 PM

    Your response is perfectly predictable as is your own judgmental stance. Look at what you have written, just look.

  6. Avatar

    Kent Bayley

    November 29, 2015 at 12:04 AM

    Oh dear, these responses are so very poor and comprehension so very bad. You seem to just ignore the facts and ignore that Muslim males subjugate women. In Egypt they aren’t even allowed to drive cars. In Australia Muslims want their own law and for men to have 4 wives. In England whole suburbs are no go zones and in Holland they are taking steps to stop Muslim immigration. So it goes on all around the world and now Germany’s fate is sealed. My eyes are wide open.

    • Avatar

      n

      November 29, 2015 at 3:17 AM

      Thought provoking article, JazakhAllah Khairun.

      Kent – Muslims are imperfect human beings like anyone else, that doesn’t mean the religion is wrong. We believe in Jesus Peace be upon him and his return. Muhammed and Mecca ( in bakka valley) are foretold in the bible. The Quran is the final testament, the unchanged Word of God. Isn’t it worth checking if you are on the right path?

      • Avatar

        Kent Bayley

        November 29, 2015 at 1:30 PM

        Thank you for a civil response unlike others who simply decide I am wrong and stick their heads in the sand. Jesus taught love and was the son of the one true God. He wasn’t a pedophile as was Muhammad who married 6 year old Aisha. I acknowledge he didn’t bed her until she was 9……….nothing to be grateful for really.
        I have checked to see if my path is right and it is. The Koran offers nothing but anger and division and i can provide any amount of proof of that. My friend, it is you who should search for the truth not me and in doing so you will see that Islam is a man made barbaric religion which promotes hatred and not peace. Where ever there are Muslims in number there is war and hatred. Name one place where there isn’t and where there is peace and freedom……name just one.

      • Avatar

        Kent Bayley

        November 29, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    • Avatar

      Mohammed

      November 29, 2015 at 6:05 PM

      Dear Kent,
      Salaam!

      Dear Muslim brothers and sisters,
      We need to think who deserves what response.

      Kent is ignorant and is uneasy within self and probably depressed. Hence just say salaam.
      Remember Allah swt commands His true believers “when ignorant speak, just say salaam”

      Don’t respond to Kent with explanations because it’s not us but Allah swt Who guides. Kent’s very presence here indicates their intention “creating fitnah”

      • Avatar

        Raed

        October 5, 2016 at 2:54 PM

        Jzk Allah. U right!

  7. Avatar

    Hanna

    November 29, 2015 at 2:23 PM

    Asalamualaikum Ahmed Shaikh, JazakAllah khiar for this article, it is definitely food for thought! Something we all must consider.
    May Allah guide our children and protect them in the Dunya. May Allah grant our children the
    highest place in Jannah, Ameen.

  8. Avatar

    Hanna

    November 29, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    It would actually be a challenge for a muslim revert to find this support, especially if they are a single parent. Would be a great topic to discuss in the Muslim community.

  9. Avatar

    Kent Bayley

    November 29, 2015 at 7:46 PM

    Oh dear, nothing will stop the onslaught, not even the truth. Believe me when I tell you, if you face it, ‘the truth will set you free’. Now where did I read that?

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#Life

How To Be Positive In Hard Times

Amina Malik, Guest Contributor

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How to be Positive

We all know that we should be grateful. And we definitely know that we should be certain that whatever happens is good for us as believers. However, when we are tested -as we inevitably are-, many of us crumble. Why is that? Why are we not able to ‘pass’ these tests, so to speak? Many of us after a tragedy become hapless, sad, depressed, angry, or bitter.

The essence lies in knowledge that is beneficial, and the best form of knowledge is that which an individual can apply to their day-to-day life on their own. Here are a few tips to increase your patience in hard times. Like building muscle at the gym, it takes time to exercise this habit, but becomes easier over time:

Manage Stress:

Unfortunately, stressful events are abundant in our lives. People under stress can find themselves falling into thinking errors. These thinking errors include -but are not limited to-: black and white thinking, mind-reading, self-criticism, negative filtering and catastrophizing. Together this can affect how we perceive reality. Next time you are tempted to make a catastrophe out of a situation, stop and ask your self two questions:

  • Is this really a big deal in the larger scheme of things?
  • Are there any positives in this situation?

Have a Realistic Perspective of Qadr:

Although it is part of our creed to believe in divine destiny, personal responsibility is still of importance and we cannot simply resign ourselves to fate; especially if we have some sort of influence over a situation.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Quran:

لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِّن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ 

For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. [Surah Ar-Ra’d;11]

This puts the responsibility on us to change ourselves. Notice the word, themselves. We are not responsible for events beyond our control. These events include the behavior of our spouses, the affinity of our children to the religion, the love in the hearts of people, the weather, the gender of our child (or how many we have), or even the amount of money we will earn in a lifetime -to name a few. Often we become stuck and focus on our conditions, rather than focusing on our own behavior.

Nourish Positive Thinking:

How to Be PositiveIn order to be able to have a wise and calculated response to life’s events, we must learn to interpret these events in a way that assign positive meaning to all. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is after all, how we perceive Him to be. Shaytan interferes with this process through waswaas (interjecting thoughts that are based on negativity and falsehood). His goal is for the Muslim to despair in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy. The goal is not to be happy all the time; this is unrealistic. The goal is to think well of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as consistently as possible.

  • Create a list of what you are grateful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for daily.
  • Remind yourself everyday of the positive aspects of situations when your mind falls to default negative thinking. Self-criticism will will only encourage you to take full responsibility for negative life events and become depressed, or at the opposite end take no responsibility whatsoever; either mind-set does not help us improve our self.

Remind yourself as well as others of the benefits of Positivity:

  •  On an individual level, once we begin to think positive about ourselves and our life, we become optimistic. This positivity will then also effect our perception of others. We become more forgiving, over-looking, and patient with others when we can see the positives in any situation.
  • Increased rizk and feelings of well-being
  • Reduced likelihood of reacting in a negative way to life’s events; increased patience.
  • Increased likelihood of finding good opportunities in work, relationships and lifestyle.
  • Higher energy levels and motivation to take on acts of khayr and benefit.

10 Steps to Happiness!

Practice self-care as a daily routine:

Our bodies have rights on us. Our souls have rights on us. Our family has rights on us. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has rights on us. Often, when there is an imbalance in one area, our whole being can sense it. This creates anger and resentment towards those around us and life in general.

  • Take care of your body, feed it well and in moderation and exercise in a way that makes you feel relaxed.
  • Pray your prayers, read the Quran, maintain the rights Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and your own soul have on you.
  • Take care of your tongue by avoiding back-biting and complaining.
  • Take regular showers, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothes; even if you are at home.
  • Take care of your mind by doing dhikr as much as possible and letting go consciously of ruminating on situations.

A Powerful Dua for Happiness

Do not over-rely on your emotions:

Our emotions are a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts can be affected by slight changes in the environment such as the weather, or even whether or not we have eaten or slept well.

 

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ 

“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [Surah Al-Baqarah;216]

How To be PositiveUltimately, our perception can be manipulated by our thoughts, shaytan, and other factors. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not limited in His perceptions due to stress, emotions, or circumstances and moods. Therefore, we should be humble to defer our judgements to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) ever-lasting judgement. Far from naval gazing, the more we are aware of our internal perceptions, emotions, and motives, the more able we are to practice Islam in its full essence. Our forefathers understood this deeply, and would regularly engage in self-assessment which gives you a sense of understanding and control of your own thoughts, emotions and actions.

The Art of Overcoming Negativity

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#Culture

Go Visit Bosnia

Amad Abu Reem

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Visit Bosnia

I have been to 35 countries, from Japan and China in the Far East, to Mexico and Columbia in South America, to Egypt and Morocco in North Africa, and there has not been another trip that was as profound in so many ways as my last trip to Bosnia. Go Visit Bosnia.

Besides Bosnia’s natural beauty, affordability and hospitality, the enrichment that comes from learning about a different culture, its cuisines, its complicated politics, and a genocide not yet 25 years old, is one that turns tourism into an experience not easily forgotten.

To the last point, why do human beings travel? What is it about a new destination that is appealing to us? Fun can be achieved in your neck of the world, so why wander? There are those who live in picture-perfect Switzerland but love to travel to remote deserts of Africa or the beaches of Indonesia. That is because traveling through new lands is a human instinct—a yearning to experience different cultures, foods, and environments.

Moreover, there is nothing more precious in life than experiences. Those who have had a sudden onset of terminal disease at an early age have an important perspective from which we can all learn. Why? Because the knowledge that you are dying quickly ends any sense of immortality, and what truly matters is crystallized. When asked what is it that they cherished most in their lives, pretty much all of them mentioned how the satisfaction from experiences such as travel beats the enjoyment of material riches any day.

What is an experience? Is it a fun week at Disney? Is it an adventure-filled trek through mountains? Is it going to a place to learn a new language? Actually, all of them are experiences, and it is not just going to a new place, but it is what you make out of that travel. If it is just fun, games, and shopping, have you really enriched your own life? Or have you missed out?

So when we planned our trip to Bosnia, many in our circle were a bit surprised as Bosnia is not on most travelers’ bucket lists. Muslims generally have Turkey and Malaysia in their must-visits “halal trips”, but after my trip to Bosnia, I feel that all Muslim travelers should add Bosnia to their short-list. Bosnia is a Muslim majority country, but barely so with about 50% Muslims, 30% Serbian Orthodox Christian and 15% Croat Catholics. I know this concerns many people, so let me add that food is generally halal unless you are in a non-Muslim village. Your guide will ensure that.

However, let me add that Bosnia is not just good for Muslims (just as Turkey and Malaysia appeal to everyone); people of all faiths can enjoy from the enriching trip to Bosnia.

Our trip began with selecting a reliable tour operator. While people tend to skip operators, preferring to book directly, I firmly believe that a professional should organize your first trip to a relatively unknown destination. I can honestly say I would have missed 50% of the enrichment without the presence of Adi, a highly educated tour guide, who was such a pleasant and friendly person that we almost felt him part of the family. The tour company itself belongs to a friend who worked for a major international company, before moving to his motherland to become part of Bosnia’s success. At the end of this article, I am providing contacts with this tour company, which MuslimMatters is proud to have as its partner for any Balkan travel.

Travel Bosnia, Visit Bosnia

Coming to the trip, I am not going to describe it in the sequence of the itinerary, but just some of the wonderful places we visited and the memorable experiences. We had 10 days for the trip and I would say a minimum of one week is needed to barely enjoy what Bosnia has to offer. However, two weeks if available would make it less hectic and give more time to absorb most of what Bosnia has to offer.

Our trip started in Sarajevo, a beautiful city. Even though it’s Bosnia’s largest city, the population is around half a million. Remember Bosnia itself has a relatively small population of 3.5 million. An additional 2 million people in the Bosnian diaspora are spread throughout the world, mostly due to the Balkan wars of the 1990s. We walked through the old town and heard amazing stories from our guide. Although I have never been to Jerusalem, I have seen its pictures and can see why many people refer to Sarajevo as the “little Jerusalem”. We heard the interesting story about the assassination of the Archduke of Austria in 1914 (the Austria-Hungarian empire controlled Bosnia at the time) and the beginning of World War 1. We visited the Ottoman bazaar, the City Hall, the Emperor’s Mosque, and many other interesting areas.

Sarajevo

Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a compact city on the Miljacka River, surrounded by the Dinaric Alps. Its center has museums commemorating local history, including Sarajevo 1878–1918, which covers the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an event that sparked World War I. Landmarks of the old quarter, Baš?aršija, include the Ottoman-era Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque.

Like most cities in Bosnia, a river flows right through the center of Sarajevo.

The magnificent building that houses Sarajevo City Hall is located in the city of Sarajevo. It was initially the largest and most representative building of the Austro-Hungarian period in Sarajevo and served as the city hall. During the siege of Sarajevo that lasted over 3 years, Serbs targeted this building, focusing on destroying a rich collection of books and manuscripts inside it, and it was essentially burned down. After years of reconstruction, the building was reopened on May 9, 2014.

As we were walking on the streets, I took a picture of a man sitting carefree on the bench near the garden. I found this man’s peaceful enjoyment of the weather fascinating. He was in his own world— eyes closed and smiling.

Visit Bosnia

As you go into the Old Town, you will find many shops like this one in the picture of metal-crafts. Bosnians have been historically folks with mastery in metal and wood crafts. One historic shop that still functions and has some fabulous wood pieces is shown in the pictures.

 

 

As you go through the city, you will find many graveyards as well, reminding everyone of the longest modern age siege of Sarajevo. One particular grim reminder is a memorial near the city center dedicated to the children who were killed during the war.

Visit Bosnia, SarajevoOur trip coincided with the annual somber anniversary of the beginning of the siege, April 5, 1992. Bouquets of flowers adorned the remembrance area.

Visit Bosnia

Another major graveyard (massive area) has graves of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs (Orthodox Christians) and few Bosnian Croats (Catholics). They fought against each other with the oppressor by all accounts being the Serbs. Now they all lie together next to each other. The white tombstones are Muslims, the black ones Serbs. One pic shows a particular Serb person who lived 101 years, only to die in the first year of the war. Most of the tombstones indicated the year of death during 1992-95, the war years. Some of the white tombstones have “Sehid” written which means martyr. Interestingly, Serbs use Greek letters and other Bosnians Latin, so most signs are in both languages.

You can go up to a café in Hecco Deluxe Hotel, which is Sarajevo’s oldest “skyscraper” and just absorb a 360 view of the city.  I was able to take one picture that captured the signs of all three major religious groups in Bosnia, as labeled in the photo. However, this is also a reflection of a country divided with 3 presidents, one from each religious group. Remember that the massacres were conducted by mostly Bosnian Serbs (not Serbian Serbs) and at some point, the Bosnian Croats also backstabbed the Bosnian Muslims (for example by destroying the vital ottoman old bridge in Mostar). Croatia and Serbia were planning to divide Bosnia between themselves but the Bosnian Muslims held their own until finally, NATO stepped in. It remains shocking how genocide could happen in the 90s in the heart of Europe. And it says a lot about the hypocrisy of the “West” in general. Many Bosnian Muslims remain bitter about it and I find it amazing that despite living among their potential killers, no revenge attacks have taken place. The political situation remains stable but tenuous— extremely safe but one political crisis away from going downhill. However, everyone is war fatigued and in case of a crisis, most people intend to just leave the country than to fight again.

Visit Bosnia

A view from Hecco Deluxe Hotel, Bosnia

Visit Bosnia

In the old city, you will also find the famous Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque that was built in the 16th century; it is the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans. A very interesting facet of the mosque is the clock tower. This is probably the only clock in the world that starts at dawn and ends at dusk. Every day, a caretaker adjusts the time to reflect the actual hours. So whenever you look at it, you will know how many hours to Maghrib prayers!

Watering hole structure for stray cats and dogs

Another interesting feature and a reflection of the concern for animals is the watering hole structure set up for stray cats and dogs. It kind of looks like a toilet seat, with the purpose that an animal like a cat may climb the seat and drink from the small water reservoir that is constantly filled by the caretakers.

If you want to shop for normal stuff, there is the Sarajevo City Center (SCC). It has all the popular international brands, but what I found interesting is that the prices were in many cases even lower than American prices, which if you have been around, is quite rare. So if you are coming from the Middle East or Europe, definitely check this mall out.

Vrelo Bosne:

 

Just outside Sarajevo in the outskirts of the city, you a public park, featuring the spring of the River Bosna, at the foothills of the Mount Igman on the outskirts of Sarajevo. This beautiful park and the spring is a remarkable sight. It is a must see when you visit Bosnia. Crystal clear water allows you to see the entire waterbed. A beautiful white swan swam, followed by a couple of gorgeous ducks.

Visit Bosnia

Museum Tunnel of War:

This small museum showcases the tunnel that was built underneath the airport tarmac by Bosnian Muslims in order to carry food, supplies and even arms. It was called “Tunnel of Hope” and constructed between March and June 1993 during the Siege of Sarajevo. While the Bosnian Serbs besieging the country were armed to the teeth with weapons from the ex-Yugoslavian army, an embargo of weapons was applied, essentially making Bosnian Muslims sitting ducks. Such was the treachery of the international community. This tunnel helped the Bosnian Muslims protect Sarajevo from total surrender. You can see the names of those killed here.

A truck driver on the “exit” side of the tunnel would then transport these supplies up and down some treacherous mountains. The driver’s wife is still alive and has a small shop that sells souvenirs—be sure to visit and buy some.

Blagaj

This is a village-town in the southeastern region of the Mostar basin. Here we relaxed and ate fresh fish at the source of the Buna River, right next to where the water sprung out from the mountains underneath a cave. This is one of those dining experiences where the scenery makes your food even more enjoyable than it would have otherwise been.

Travnik

Visit Bosnia

This is a town and municipality and the administrative center of Central Bosnia Canton. It is situated about 50 miles west of Sarajevo. Historically, it was the capital city of the governors of Bosnia from 1699 to 1850, and has a cultural heritage dating from that period. Here you see a pre-Ottoman Fort (1300s) is still in great shape. It stands on top of the hill with mountains behind it so no one could enter the city without being spotted. The scenery from the top is also fantastic as seen in the picture. The oldest mosque of the city was built here. There were 20 mosques were built in the city, of which 17 survived to date.

Jajce

It is situated in the mountains; there is a beautiful countryside near the city, rivers such as the Vrbas and Pliva, lakes like Pliva Lake, which is also a popular destination for the local people and some tourists. This lake is called Brana in the local parlance. In 1527, Jajce became the last Bosnian town to fall to Ottoman rule, and you will see the gate to the city that fell to the Ottomans.  The 17-meter high Pliva waterfall was named one of the 12 most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

Mostar

Visit Bosnia

It is situated on the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country. Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva. The Old Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks and is considered an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years until the Croatian army destroyed it in an act of treachery in November 1993. It was rebuilt and reopened in July 2004 with support from various nations.

 

Mostar is a beautiful city. You can also shop here and like all of Bosnia, you will not be haggled or conned (something that has become a feature of doing business in Turkey, unfortunately). There is one large shop that sells bed-sheets, table covers, etc. owned by a guy from Kosovo. You will not miss it if you are going through the bazaar. That is worth buying if you like such stuff.

Not far from the Old Bridge, you can climb up a narrow staircase to a top of a mosque minaret and have another breath-taking view of the city and of the Old Bridge itself. The climb is not terribly difficult but may be a stretch for the elder.

Visit Bosnia

Mostar Old Bridge (1567) (UNESCO World Heritage List)

Olympic Mountains Bjelasnica

Bjelašnica is a mountain in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is found directly to the southwest of Sarajevo, bordering Mt. Igman.  Bjelašnica’s tallest peak, by which the whole mountain group got its name, rises to an elevation of 2067 meters (6782 feet). This is one of the resorts that hosted the 1984 winter Olympics. The main hotel here serves delicious food. If you are a skier, then the many mountains of Bosnia make for perfect (and very cheap) skiing options.

Bosnia

Srebrenica

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Srebenica, Bosnia

Epicenter of the Bosnian genocide, where 8372 civilians were murdered as the world watched callously. This is a must when you visit Bosnia. The genocide museum houses stories and eyewitness accounts. It is in one part of a massive warehouse that used to be a factory for car batteries before it became the command post for the UN designated Dutch army, sent to protect the Bosnian Muslim civilians, but later turning into cowards who gave up thousands for slaughter.

We met a survivor whose to this date chokes as he recalls his escape, walking 60 miles sleepless, hungry to reach Bosnian territory. Shakes you to the core.

Till today, not all bodies have been found or identified. Some of the bodies were moved to secondary graves by the Serbs to hide evidence. The green posts are the discoveries between one July 11 anniversary to the next— to be converted to white tombstones.

 

This day trip by far was the most moving. A genocide that shook us 25 years ago, but that we only heard of, is brought to life here. The museum offers stories and footage of the genocide. The graveyard makes your heart sink.

Unfortunately, this genocide is mostly forgotten and is something that we must never forget. Just as visits to Auschwitz are important to remember the Holocaust, we must make Srebrenica a place to visit, such that it becomes a history that we must never forget.

Other places of interest (not all-inclusive by any means):

Woodcrafts in Konjic, Bosnia

On the way back from Mostar to Sarajevo, be sure to stop by Konjic where you can stop by a very old woodcarving shop that to this date provides fabulous woodcrafts.

Visit Bosnia

You can also stop by Sunny Land, a small park where you can ride an alpine roller coaster that kids (and adults) will definitely enjoy. A bit further from this location, you can see the remains of the bobsled structure, built for the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Visit Bosnia, Sunnyland

Our guide was The Bosnian Guide.

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#Life

Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware

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Mindful

Modeling Mindfulness

Mindfull

“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.

Mindful

Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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