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Privacy in Islam 101: Do You Have Children?

“Anyone who asks a woman who has been married for several years and does not have a child ‘why?’ is a monster,” I think to myself as I hang up the phone after calming one of my dearest friends down. She does not have children, has been married for 15 years and is often asked intrusive questions by well-meaning people. Some that break her.

Are you one of them? Can I talk to you please.

Leave people alone.

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Your ‘innocent’ comments may be pushing someone over the edge. You are scratching a wound as deep as her soul that may be healing slowly, cell by cell, and your question just made the wound ooze again, spreading sepsis to her core. Don’t you think she already knows she doesn’t have a child? That she already knows she should pray or is praying every night for a child? Or that, yes, she has heard that so-and-so was granted a miracle after x number of years a billion times? And waiting for her miracle is the hardest test she has ever had or will have of her faith?

You don’t know how many times she may have cursed her empty womb, fraught with guilt, or fought between her desire for a child and her love for a husband who was not given the blessing of siring.

Unless you have personally suffered through this trial yourself, you don’t know how it feels. Unless you are ready to hold her hand through hours at the doctor’s office, or wipe her tears after the infinite micro-aggressions, taunts or threats of divorce she hears, or feel the pain of the uncountable miscarriages she labors through, or convince her irate husband to get treated himself, then be quiet and stay quiet after she tells you she doesn’t have any children.

Do you think that they, as a couple, would not have researched all options? Or that ‘get checked up’ is news to her?

For the love of God, please.

Aspiring to a Higher Ethos

I am upset because we, as a community, as a civilized society, should be above this. Over and over, I hear stories of women whose lives are made miserable by others – husbands and in-laws, neighbors, extended family, people from the masjid or community center and even total strangers because they have not had a child. We want a community who has a high ethos, a high character, and we cannot tolerate this behavior any longer.

We are better than this. We aspire to Jannah where there will be clean souls and clean hearts; we need to prepare our tongues for Jannah now.

There are general rules of etiquette (akhlaq and adab) that we, as human beings, must adhere to, and then there are specific manners that are incumbent upon all Muslims. Refrain from asking questions of a personal nature, don’t ask why/why not. A person’s private life is exactly that – private. Unless they invite you into their private life, there is a hurmat (sanctity) that we have to maintain. We learn this from the following verses of the Quran:

24_27

‘Do not enter any houses except your own homes unless you are sure of their occupants’ consent’ (24:27)

49_12

‘Do not spy on one another’ (49:12)

Many lessons can be learnt about the importance of privacy from the following hadith: it was narrated from Abu HurayrahraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” al-Tirmidhi (2318)

Abu ‘Ubaydah narrated that al-Hasan al-Basri said: One of the signs of Allaah’s turning away from a man is that he becomes involved in that which does not concern him, as a sign that Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, has left him to his own devices.

Infertility

Infertility is a medical diagnosis (the inability to conceive after one year of trying or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth) and one with serious psychological and emotional ramifications. It also can be, especially for Muslims, a spiritual crisis.

shutterstock_56943808

 

Infertility is  a trial that Allah has given to our brothers and sisters. Yes, brothers too, as infertility is not only a women’s issue. Approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile, and among these couples, male factor infertility accounts for approximately 50 percent of causes. According to the Mayo Clinic, male infertility can be caused by impaired sperm production, function or delivery. Female infertility can be related to fallopian tube damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis and uterine conditions.

It is Allah who chooses who to give a child to and who not to give a child to:

 

42_49 42_50

“To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills. Or He bestows both males and females and He renders barren whomever He wills. Verily, He is the all-Knower and is Able to do all things.” [Quran 42:49-50]

Secondary infertility is a huge trial as well, when, after one child, a woman cannot conceive again. Secondary infertility is a test that some couples face when they have the first child easily but have issues conceiving again. Sometimes, however, secondary infertility stems from complications related to prior pregnancies. Changes in the couple’s risk factors, such as age, weight and use of certain medications, can also contribute to secondary infertility.

Need for Sensitivity

One common, often-heard jab that women share is, “Keep your opinions about parenting to yourself because you do not have a child.” To those who make this statement, I ask this question: Is this gift of a child a miracle of your own making? Were you blessed with children without the permission of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

There are many wonderful people who are not parents, but are the best people to have in your child’s life. Many childless women have shared that they like to hear about your children, they love being a part of the lives of the children around them, and are often cruelly rebuked or denied taking pleasure in other people’s children.

Let your friends who don’t have children become the AishasraḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) in your child’s life. It will bring all of you great joy.

Some women do say they wish their friends would talk about a topic other than children from time to time.

One of the worst kinds of comments is to mention other people whose suffering was supposedly worse yet they have gotten over it more quickly and grown from it, says a sister who has been trying to conceive for several years; the implication here is that the couple is not meeting a “Muslimy” standard and are at fault for not showing adequate sabr.

There’s another type of commentor who won’t say anything directly but will try to undermine all other accomplishments/positive things of a childless woman by emphasizing ‘how meaningless life is without children’! Don’t be that person. A person can lead a very fulfilling life without children.

If you find it socially awkward, then try to find something else to comment on. She may be a great cook, organizer, artist or traveler – comment on that.

Then there is the case of women who do not want children – they know that they do not have it in them to take the responsibility of caring for another human being for 18 years.

So the bottom line is that we need to stop making assumptions.

Here are 12 things not to say to someone who has confided in you about their battle with infertility. Many times you may be a good person and really mean no ill will towards the person. At that moment if you find it really hard to say something or have an impulse to say something that that you shouldn’t, just say a heartfelt “I’m sorry” — that is plenty.

Muslim Fertility Project

The Prophet  sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Wonderful is the case of a believer – there is good for him in everything, and this is only for the believer. If he experiences a blessing, he is grateful to Allah – which is good for him; and if he experiences an adversity, he is patient – which is also good for him.” [Muslim]

I hope the men and women who are taunted have the spiritual strength to forgive those who hurt them with their words, and may Allah may it easy for you to continue to bear this test from Him with grace and dignity.

The Prophet  sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Whatever trouble, illness, anxiety, grief, pain or sorrow afflicts a Muslim even if it is the pricking of a thorn – Allah removes in its places some of his sins.” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Many times people have nowhere to turn to grieve, to deal with the belittlement, to share their experiences.  This article had been sitting in drafts for a long time, maybe waiting for this wonderful new project:

Muslim Fertility Project launches with a survey for Muslim women struggling to have a 1st or 2nd child. Here’s how you can help:

Here is a link to a Facebook support group for women who struggle with infertility.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Cliveey

    January 26, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    What business is it of anyone else whether a woman or a couple choose to have children or not? We are not here as breading machines. There are more than emough people to sustain the human race and its diverse peoplea. It seems to me that people who can only find meaning in life and joy in living are lacking in emotional maturity. We need to be complete fulfilled people in our own riThis musytght before we even consider having children. They should not be bouught into this world to “fill a hole in our souls”. That comes in fulness from knowing God and being recomciled to the Almighty. Above all having children should not be in order to please others or due to social presure from any person or religious body. Children should be bought into thios world to be loved and cared for and guided. They should be frere to make their own chois=ces once they reach maturity. They are not tehre to fulfil their parents or religious leader dreams. They are ondividuals to be loved and respected for who they are. Having children can often be for selfish reasons. You failed at sports or at your career and want them to succeed where you failed. This must not be selfish and you must respect that they have their own skills, abiliries and dreams. The worst thing of all is having children to force your own political or religious views on the world. That is evil. Share your faith and beliefs yes but as they mature you must respect their wishes and allow them to think for themselves IF YOU TRULY LOVE THEM and not yourself. There is nothing wrong with simply being grateful for teh life you have been given ad enjoying it, but if that is your choice try to live it unselfishly and care for others. Fulfil your responsibilties to your parents as they become old and frail and make provision for your own old age. Do not be a burden on teh wider community.

    • Avatar

      John Sampson

      January 27, 2016 at 5:12 PM

      Quite often a woman does not have the benefit of choice. There are all kinds of biological/medical reasons that can be mentioned. But, when she does have a choice, it is hers to make. We all have so many choices in life that we can and do make, so why should a woman have to answer to anyone for the choice she makes whether to have or not have a child? It is a personal/private matter, and is no one else’s business at all!

  2. Avatar

    cliveey

    January 26, 2016 at 7:33 AM

    Strebeing ss and Depresssion do not have to result from infertility. It is the social pressure taht brings these. to not have children because of infertility or choice does not mean you are a faiure. Be garteful for teh life you have been given and enjoy it to teh full, but with consideration for others.

  3. Avatar

    T

    January 26, 2016 at 12:04 PM

    wonderfully put ukhty …..through out my experience of life i have concluded that taunts,jibes and remarks are exceedingly painful than physical pain…i hate it when people taunt others, be it about anything….i just dont have patience with it….May Allah give us all tawfeeq to speak purely Aameen…. straight, direct speech called qawlan sadeeda…

    • Avatar

      cliveey

      January 27, 2016 at 6:57 AM

      People can pass remarks from genuine concern for the couple but that too can be unintentionally hurtful. You do not have to bring children in this world to lead a happy, caring and respecful life. Some people do taunt. It shows they are inadequate and siffer a sense of inferiority. To make thhem sleves feel better they persecute others and humiliate them.
      That is shameful and cruel. Emotional tortrure is very real. ALSO it is important taht children are really wanted. If people are pressured to have children they can come to uncociously resent them. Live your lives to tehfull and only have children because you really want tehm and are in an established happy relationship. Do not just do things to bow pressure from other people.

  4. Avatar

    Umm Yusra

    January 26, 2016 at 5:19 PM

    This is a good article and a much needed reminder to the ummah. We have unfortunately not understood what it means to remain silent in certain matters. People mean well. But it can still hurt.

    My personal story here: http://gildeddunya.com/2014/10/27/motherhood-an-answered-dua/

  5. Avatar

    Chris

    January 26, 2016 at 9:11 PM

    AssalaamuAlaykum, thank you for the needed address. My wife and I were married for 6 years, trying every single month, until Allah blessed us with a pregnancy that went full term. Out daughter is one year old now Alhamdulillah. What’s amazing is that people think children just show up as if the Will of Allah has nothing to do with it. People wander what you do in your private life, make subtle accusations and explicit inquiries and tiring suggestions. What’s even more frustrating is seeing so many couples, on their honeymoons, and some yet to be wed, whom Allah tests with children. But we always knew and strongly felt that it was part of Allah’s greater wisdom that He decree children for us when He did. We enjoyed a six-year honeymoon Alhamdulillah and finally gave birth in a country where we felt more at ease with its medical services–previously living in Medinah. Allah is Truly Wise and Generous.

  6. Avatar

    Ayeina

    January 27, 2016 at 2:05 AM

    Jazakillah khair Hena. It’s evenue worse when you have miscarriages and you’re not over the grief yet and people expect you to have another child. With the same fear in her heart…
    I hope that people who went through miscarriage can find peace in this piece…
    http://ayeina.com/finding-hope-in-miscarriage/

  7. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    January 27, 2016 at 12:52 PM

    As Muslims part of our fundamental beliefs is that Allah is the Creator. If only people can understand the term kun fiyakun be and it is. I agrees it’s annoying and off putting when “well meaning friends” will always ask you and make jibes about expecting or even getting married. They need to understand that it is not within our control once we tie the camel we do not need a running commentary of the waiting time. Having been in both of the unpleasant situations to me it showed “well meaning friends” lack of faith when finally Allah blesses with spouse they are in shock and after years of infertility they admit despite their outward supportive (patronising) comments they cannot believe I have child and thought I would never get one! Glad I finally found out how their minds work, I will not confide in them again, what is the point? I’m not sure they are aware that they are unaware of the unseen. And yes people should just mind their own business and busy themselves and their own struggles and tests, because by Allah everyone has a test, and I think infertility is a great test only for the best of women, not only do their have inward battle they have to wear outward armour for all the “well meaning friends” running their mouths. Personally I do not agree with such a term as infertility; possibly infertile for a time, but who is to know this and have the ultimate decision is a woman will bear children? The stigma attached to infertility is based purely on ignorance and lack of understanding of Allah, Alhamdulilaah kulli haal, if you do not have the children you desire as yet, believe you will and wipe away any negative doubt I know is in your mind, we get from Allah what we expect so expect the best

  8. Avatar

    sarah

    January 27, 2016 at 6:38 PM

    beautifully put masha’Allah. Great article!!

  9. Avatar

    Nabeel Khalid

    January 27, 2016 at 9:06 PM

    Despite the positive inflection in this article, I wish the author had taken some more time to also explain that having children is optional for some people too, even Muslims, because we are all free to practice however we please, because it’s a personal matter. Some people are actually living very happy lives without children but they have to pretend to be sorry and apologetic to appease to folks like the ones this article talks about just to give them their dosage of ‘I feel good about myself now’. Pathetic backward culture and practices. You can take the man out of the cave but you can’t take the cave out of the man (or woman, as the case may be).

  10. Avatar

    Daly

    January 27, 2016 at 9:29 PM

    It’s just conflicting thoughts I always get when I think about my situation where I had been married for 12 years and not sure if I have to hope to get a child or try to accommodate to the situation I’m living right now so not to get disappointed at the end. I’m getting old and not sure if ther would be an opprtunity for conceiving at all. I can’t prevent myself from being sad and frustrated sometimes, I know everything is done through Allah’s will but it’s so hard not to get that feeling sometimes when you see all the moms around you are talking about their kids and children and I am just left out.

    • Avatar

      cliveey

      January 28, 2016 at 2:24 PM

      Possibly seek out people in a similar situation to yourself, whether by circumstance or choice. It willnhelp you enjoy life without being constantly reminded of the hurt you feel. Also you will have fellowship. I do hope you will find true happiness and go on to lead a great life. I believe infertility is most often from the male partner. You could consider other options like adoption or artificial ,eans to become pregnant. You could really help a rdfugee child in great need of care and love. Why not consider it. May God Bless You Both.

      • Avatar

        Daly

        January 28, 2016 at 10:08 PM

        Thanks Cliveey for your support. It’s true, we have a male factor problem and we tried artificial fertilization 10 times and never worked…yes 10 times believe it or not. We thought about adoption too but we figured it won’t be Halal by any means for any sex baby. Alhamdlellah I just have to live my life as it is and hopefully GOD would reward me much better in life thereafter..

        • Avatar

          cliveey

          January 29, 2016 at 12:46 AM

          Friends went though the same thing so I do understand. There will be so many children with such great need of love, care , protection and guidance coming to the UK from Syria. Fleeing for their lives! Chat with your partner about both of your feelings. Then chat in prayer to our loving creator to ask whether adoption would be the right thing to do. If you are guided that it is, then the Blessing you will receivebfrom Him (or her whsyever word is right for you) will be great. The child ,ay be difficult as it wil have known great distress, but in time it will bring you greatt joy. However the child turns out as an adult (not all children become good people at first), you will both be able to feel realy proud for having helped a vulnerable person in real need and above all, for having shown them love. But ask the Almighty first. God Bless.

    • Avatar

      cliveey

      January 29, 2016 at 12:50 AM

      Onevlast thought. Male sperm counts and sperm mobility are falling due to some insecticides and organo phosphate weed killers. So you will not be alone with this.

  11. Avatar

    Beenish

    January 27, 2016 at 10:17 PM

    This is very inspiring and interesting discussion. I wish people start understanding and stop hurting those who suffer with this thing.

  12. Avatar

    huma

    January 28, 2016 at 12:46 AM

    Worth reading .very well written.

  13. Avatar

    Humna

    January 28, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    The most important thing in this article is “privacy”. Just bugger off. Mind your own business. Don’t give suggestions unless someone asks for it. It’s that simple.

    I liked the way the article was written. Well meaning and emphatic.

    • Avatar

      cliveey

      January 28, 2016 at 2:10 PM

      You are so right, but it is important to be kind and understanding while encouraging people to be confident and stand up for themselves about what is really a personal matter or choice of life. Caring for them comes first.

      • Avatar

        Beenish

        January 29, 2016 at 1:08 AM

        Totally Agreed :-)

  14. Avatar

    Quran Classes

    January 29, 2016 at 6:28 PM

    beautifully put masha’Allah. Great article!! thank you for writing such a great Article

  15. Avatar

    Cass

    February 8, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    What about couples who don’t want to have children? I don’t think that they should be marginalized and criticised for their decision to not have children. I’ve seen people act like women who don’t have children out of choice are some kind of monsters. I know that it’s highly encouraged to have children in Islam but there’s also the choice not to have them

  16. Avatar

    Hauwa

    November 18, 2016 at 5:13 AM

    masha’Allah, this is well elaborate sister. and believe me I know exactly how its feel because my hubby and I have been battling infertility for 15 years. But Alhadulillah Allah have blessed me with a caring husband that always encourage me and to be patient with what Allah put on us there in the afterlife in shaa Allah.

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Podcast: How Intimate Can a Couple be Post-Nikkah, but Pre-Marriage? | Yaser Birjas

Question:

I just had my nikkah done with my husband and we are having our rukhsati done soon (in the next few months). The reason for [the] delay is just mainly to prepare for the wedding and  [to] accommodate family members’ schedule [for] the wedding. After the nikkah is it permissible to do all the acts that are permissible between a husband and wife even if the rukhsati hasn’t been done?

Sincerely,
Getting married in my 20s

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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#Life

“It’s much worse than the flu.” An Epidemiologist’s Perspective on COVID-19

In light of the suspension of Jummah prayers and the mosque closings across the nation, I want to share my expertise as an epidemiologist.

Some people are in denial of the enormity of the crisis and do not agree with the rulings on Jummah prayers being canceled. Others think that this crisis is hyped up. They are asking, isn’t this like the flu or just a little worse than the flu?

It is not.

It is much worse than the flu.

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Before I explain why, I would like to iterate that we must not panic. We cannot think clearly if we panic. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us in the Quran:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards East or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.”

Surah Al-Baqara, verse 177

While we should not panic, we should also not be skeptical about the unanimous consensus of all medical experts. Medical experts are authorities on medical issues.

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.”

Surah An-Nisa, Verse 59

This is a true crisis

We need everyone to do their part to prevent infections. The following is concise Epidemiology 101 for the non-epidemiologist regarding why there is so much concern by health authorities on the seriousness of Covid-19.

This is a crisis because of two simple mathematical reasons: the case fatality rate and the reproductive rate.

Case Fatality Rate

First, the case fatality rate – or the death rate – is the number of people who die if they have the disease, which in this context is the infection. In other words, out of the people who have the infection, this number represents how many will die.

For the flu, the case fatality rate is 0.1.For Covid-19, the case fatality rate based on the 133,000 so far infected as of March 13 and the 4,945 who have died is 3.7. This is not the true case fatality rate as some people with the mild infection are not being counted.

Some experts believe the case fatality rate is 2.0, which is 20 times higher than the flu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who for over three decades has been the Director of the National Health Institute (allergy and infectious diseases) gave an estimate of 1.0 when he testified to Congress several days ago, and 1.0 is 10 times more than 0.1

If everything else that is important (such as the reproductive rate) was the same between the flu and Covid-19, then the number of people dying would be 30,000 times 10, which is 300,000.

Reproductive Rate (Basic Reproductive Number)

The other important number is the reproductive rate. The word “reproductive” in this name is not focused on the reproductions of the virus in one body, but the reproduction of cases. Technically this is called the basic reproductive number, but for ease of communicating, I will call it the reproductive rate.

The reproductive rate is related to how infectious the organism is from one person to another and what steps society is taking to limit the infections from spreading.

The exact definition of the reproductive rate (basic reproductive number) is the expected number of cases directly generated by one infected case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection.

Case Fatality plus Reproductive Rate Equals:

For the flu, the reproductive rate is 1.3. For Covid-19, the reproductive rate is between 2 and 3. The reproductive rate for Covid-19 is twice as high as the flu virus. Therefore we have to multiply the estimated number of deaths of 300,000 by 2, which is 600,000.

The case fatality rate could be lower than 1.0, it could be closer to 0.8 In fact, in South Korea, it is 0.9 so far. In Italy however, it is almost 5% because there are so many elderly people in Italy. In both of these cases, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 is still many, many times higher than that of the flu, which is 0.1.

To put it simply, at even a 1.0 case fatality, we can expect 600,000 people to die from COVID-19 in the US alone if we don’t follow the CDC guidelines. That’s not counting the huge number of people with other diseases who are at risk of dying from the effect of the healthcare system being overloaded beyond its capacity.

This is bad news. However, this disaster scenario is based on us treating it “just like the flu.” If we decide to take things seriously instead, and treat this as an emergency as it truly is, then InshaAllah 600,000 people don’t necessarily have to die. Following CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of the disease as well as the impact to the healthcare system can save hundreds of thousands of people.

We can lower the case-fatality rate and the reproductive rate, and the number of lives saved will be much, much greater than the number of lives who will die.

This is good news. We can, and will Insha’Allah, save lives by acting to lower the spread of COVID-19.

Malaysia reported an additional 190 confirmed infections on Sunday, an increase of 80% of cases over a day and bringing its total to 428. Most of the cases stemmed from a Muslim religious gathering held from Feb. 27 to March 1, which authorities said was attended by 14,500 Malaysians and about 1,500 foreigners. Malaysia is the worst-infected nation in the Southeast Asia. Bloomburgquint.com

We need to be on the same page

I mean this literally. We need to be on the same page, and that is the webpage of the CDC website:

The CDC, of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the agency responsible for preventing and limiting epidemics. You can keep yourselves, families, and the public at large safer by following their guidelines. Familiarize yourself with the following, and please ensure that all your family and friends have too:

1. How COVID-19 spreads

2. Symptoms

3. Steps to Prevent Illness

4. Older People and People with Chronic Diseases at Higher Risk

5. What to Do if You are Sick

6. Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

The first five sections are the responsibility of every person to learn, since every person can spread the infection and thus contribute to the reproductive number of COVID-19.

“The Muslim is the one from whose hand and tongue people are safe. ” – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (An-Nasai)

For the many health professionals in the Muslim community, I encourage all health professionals to see the following resources on preparing your  practice to deal with Covid 19.

Do not go to Mosques until further notice

This is not an issue of a certain school of thought, but is the judgment of scholars from all schools of thought. Medical and religious experts are in agreement with regards to the suspension of Jummah for the protection of the community.

Please read the following joint statement by the Fiqh Council of North America, Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Medical Association of North America, and American Muslim Health Professionals. See also this declaration from the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America regarding the suspension of Friday congregation. 

Mosques are higher risk than churches

In Iran, the first cases started in Qom, a city that often sees more attendance to mosques and more gatherings than other cities. Most cases were in Qom and then spread to other cities. The number of grave plots dug for the dead and dying is large enough to be visible by satellite imagery.

How is this relevant to the disease, and why are mosques more vulnerable than churches or other places of worship?

  • Many attendees do wudu at the mosque. CDC guidelines are to not to touch the eyes, nose, or mouth, as these are mucous membranes. During wudu, the nasal mucous membranes are touched up to 3 times, the eyes mucous membranes are touched up to 3 times during the face rinse, and the mouth mucous membranes are touched up to 3 times.
  • Wudu does not require soap, so coronavirus particles (from an infected person) remain even after completing Wudu.
  • The vast majority of mosques do not have automatic sensors in their water taps, and attendees open and close them by hand shortly after touching their eyes, nose, mouth.
  • Almost all people close the taps with their bare hands versus holding a paper towel.
  •  Even if paper towels are used, there can be cross transference to the paper towel roll. There may be ways to limit transference but the risk cannot be eliminated.
  • People often relieve themselves before doing wudu, and clean their private areas with their left hand. We don’t have data on coronavirus in mucous membranes in the private areas, but we do know that the virus can often be in the GI tract in addition to the respiratory tract and eyes and nose, etc.
  • CDC guidelines say to use Social Distancing, staying 6 to 10 feet apart from others. But in the congregational prayer, we are standing shoulder to shoulder and some are also foot to foot.
  • Some attendees touch their faces after making dua, which is the first step in the virus’s transmission.
  • There are often handshakes and sometimes even hugs among some attendees, further spread person-to-person transmission.
  • A higher percentage of Masjid attendees are elderly, and thus, further susceptible to infection.

Allah tells the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that he has been sent as a mercy to all the worlds, and in following his sunnah, we strive for the same. By attending the mosques in the time of a pandemic, whether for the regular salah, Jumah prayers or ‘Eid prayers, we will not be a mercy to mankind. We will be a danger to it, spreading the coronavirus and increasing the number of people who suffer from it.

The bottom line, according to the epidemiology of this disease, is this:

It is guaranteed that some – likely a large number- will get infected if people go to mosques. And some of those people will die. And it is guaranteed that the infection rate will increase in the wider (non-Muslim) community because of this as well.

What to do if you think you have COVID-19

In general, call your doctor or ER if you think you are sick with Coronavirus. Do not automatically go to the ER or the doctor, first call ahead. Before even calling, familiarize yourself with what the symptoms of COVID-19 are.

Separate yourself from other family members and people at home, and call your doctor to get instructions to see if you need to be tested and to receive other very important instructions regarding supportive care to address your infection and to prevent the spread of it to other household members.

The doctor will instruct you as to whether you need to come to his/her office or go to the ER and when you need to go. Also by calling first, if you do need to go to the doctor’s office or the ER, they will make preparations to prevent the spread of infection from you to others as you come.

Social distancing in action: Death rates for the 1918 flu pandemic were heavily reduced by social distancing measures taken by the city of St. Louis, but not Philadelphia.

Do not delay calling your doctor since some people might deteriorate quickly, but try to read the CDC guidelines before calling so you can know whether you even need to call.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately (call 911 to get immediate help).  Emergency warning signs include*:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
*This list is not conclusive.  Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

In summary

  • We must not panic, but we must be prepared.
  • We must recognize that this is a crisis due to the case fatality rate and reproductive rate of COVID-19
  • Read the sections on COVID-19 at www.cdc.gov.
  • Do not attend congregational prayers, Jumah prayer, weekend schools, etc. until further notice
  • Believe, with the help of Allah, that we can change the bad news to good news if we follow all the CDC guidelines in every section

Let us be calm but also serious. Let us also be grateful that we live in a time when governments are much more proactive than the past. Let us be grateful to our medical community. Let us not overwhelm ourselves with unverified articles or forwards on Whatsapp. Let us read and circulate medical information from only authorized sources such as the CDC.

And let us remember that we are so vulnerable and fragile and that we must often remember and supplicate to Allah for forgiveness, protection, and guidance. Thank you and may Allah keep us, our families, and all safe. Ameen.

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#Life

Like Tinder, But Safer: Troubleshooting Arranged Muslim Marriage

Like many people in my mid-20s, I approached my parents about getting married and initially chose to use a more traditional route. That is to say, creating a resume – or biodata – and sending it to matchmaker aunties. I wanted this approach because I wanted to be able to balance my American, Desi, and Muslim identities. I wanted things to be done in a halal way with my parent’s knowledge. However, over the past 2 years, my experience with the process has left me jaded.

Before I continue, I want to preface with two things. The first is that my parents are wonderful. We’ve butted heads, but I recognize that they are doing what they think is best, via a method that they’re used to. Providing critical feedback of the method should not be taken as critical to my parents.

The second is that while I have critical feedback, I am not intending to discredit the entire process. Meeting people through family is hardly a bad thing, and maybe what some people need. It is very possible that I will still end up using this process. That said, there are changes that need to be made, especially in the modern world. I want to make sure that my younger brothers and sisters can get an idea of what the process is, and what they’re in store for.

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Superficiality

The biodatas that we send and receive are inherently superficial. They are, in total, the person’s education/career, info on their parents and extended family, and pictures. There’s nothing written about the person’s personality barring, perhaps, a few sentences about their interests. This doesn’t provide any real depth of information about the other person at all.

Then there is the emphasis that is placed on the pictures. It is important to acknowledge that physical attraction plays a role in all of this. I think one of my early mistakes was that I was trying to pretend it didn’t matter at all, and that’s not reasonable for a marriage. The problem, however, is that given the lack of personal detail in the written part of the bio-data, we are left with the photo being the most personal piece of information presented. Unless you really care about where a person’s grandfather went to University in the 1940’s, that photo ends up being the most important thing you’re making your choice on.

Like “Tinder, but safer,” a friend said to me, as I explained how these situations played out. That’s not far off from how the experience played out for me. We’re not given much time to make a decision on the bio-data, so the result is the superficial, un-Islamic swipe based on attractiveness alone.

How many times have I heard, “Oh, she’s too fat,” or “Oh, she’s too short,” or “Too tall,” or “She’s pretty dark isn’t she?” Bengali speakers will recognize the word “moyla,” [dirty] used to describe women who are slightly darker, which is terribly problematic.

It’s not just that women are being chosen based on their looks alone, but on top of that, they’re being held to Eurocentric notions of what is deemed attractive. We’re all being held hostage to a standard designed by and for an entirely different race of people, and I have been told that it would be weird for me to be attracted to a darker-skinned woman because in the minds of many, dark skin is undesirable.

The superficiality is worse for women, but even as a guy I felt it. I’m fine with how I look, but you can only hear, “Oh, your face looks weird in that picture,” or, “He’s not tall enough,” so many times before it starts to mess with you. Men face another superficial judgment as well: the problem with men being reduced to their ability as moneymakers. I’m a graduate student and there are people in my class who have a spouse and children and are making it by just fine on the stipend we receive. But, inevitably, it will come up that I’m not making tons of money, so how can I support a family? While recognizing that men do have an Islamic responsibility to financially support their families, it troubles me that the process boils men down to one thing and one thing only – money, and not just having enough of it, but lots of it.

Age

I’m relatively young, 27 in May, and so when I started this process two years ago, I told my parents that I was willing to go +/- 3 years, just because I thought that would be a good range to encompass people I’d have some similarities with. However my prospect of an older wife – even a day older – was rejected with quite some vigor. I’ve been disqualified from matching with some women because they were born just a couple of months before I was.

The majority of the biodatas sent to me are of women still in college, between the ages of 19 and 22. It doesn’t matter when I say that’s too young, or how that I feel like I’d be taking advantage of someone who hasn’t fully grown up yet. I get told that I’m wrong.

Do you know how many random aunties and uncles have told me that a 7-8 year age gap is necessary to make a marriage work because otherwise, the women “will demand too much?” It’s shocking that I’m being told specifically that I need a wife young enough to be manipulated and shaped to my desires. When I push back on this, I’m, again, told that I’m weird.

I’m being constantly told to reconsider my age preferences as if wanting to marry a woman in her mid-20’s is a weird thing to do when I myself am in my mid-20’s. The sheer number of times I face this makes me think it’s an inherent flaw in how our cultures think, and not something unique to my situation. This is to say nothing of the fact that people will, to our face, tell me (26) that I’m too young for marriage, but my sister (25) is rapidly passing her expiration date.

Race

As a Bengali man, I have no problem marrying a woman of Bengali descent, but it’s annoying that even in 2020, it’s seen as a taboo to marry outside of your race in Desi culture. I personally have had it conceded to me, that if I choose an Indian or Pakistani woman on my own, that might be ok, but nothing else. Not an Arab. Certainly not someone with (black) African descent. And a white/Hispanic/black convert would cause a genuine scandal.

And even this concession is not universal, as there are many Bengali parents I know who will not let their child marry anyone outside of their own culture. Even when people have pushed through it and married outside of their ethnic backgrounds, there is still gossip and concern as to how the parents could “let this happen.”

Going into this I thought, “Well, all I have to do is show a few videos from Imams talking about how inter-racial marriages shouldn’t be taboo for Muslims,” but it doesn’t matter how many of these clips I show, it falls on deaf ears.

I understand the concern of losing culture and heritage to life in the West, I get it. But if I want to teach my kids about their Bengali roots I can do that with a wife of any background, and if I don’t want to teach them, having a Bengali wife isn’t going to make me any more likely to do so.

Ultimately, the feeling I get is that the older generation wants in-laws who they can go and have chai and gossip with, to do traditional things they saw their parents do with their in-laws. And again, while I empathize with the desire to do something familiar, this seems like an unhealthy reason to dictate why your children can’t marry someone from another race or culture.

Classism

I understand that families need to mesh and that it makes things easier if there are similarities that exist. However, in what world am I reading a biodata and seeing what a woman’s uncle does for a living, and then deciding that she’s marriage material?

It doesn’t work for me that way, but it works on the minds of the older generation, and there are even ways of working the class distinction to your advantage. Uncles in the community have actually told me that marrying into a “lower class” may be good if you want someone to be subservient to you because they’re thankful you brought them to your status. But they’ve also told me that marrying a “higher-class” woman isn’t bad either, because a rich father-in-law could have its perks. Caveat- beware of them being snobby with you, since you may be expected to be thankful, subservient one instead.

I can’t even wrap my head around what people are talking about here, but it’s yet another factor that I end up having to deal with during this process.

Religion

I want a wife who cares about the deen and prays 5 times a day, and I want this not to be a controversial take.

I have been told that’s unrealistic. Literally a couple of weeks ago, an auntie told my sister that ‘modern women’ do not pray regularly and so I should not expect that in a future wife. She said this, of course, to my sister who is both a modern woman and someone who prays five times a day without fail.

It’s crazy to be told that I’m being too picky because I want a wife who already has her religious-ness established. I have been told, by both aunties and uncles, that it’s better for me to marry a wife who isn’t too religious yet so that I can shape her deen. This isn’t about mutual growth in faith as you may hope for in a marriage. This is about controlling women with religion by only teaching her what I want to teach her. When older women tell you this, it raises so many concerns about what they’ve been through and what they want future generations of women to go through.

When I tell people I want a religious wife, they seem to translate that as subservient to me, not Allah. And that scares me. I don’t mean to fetishize anybody, but I want a wife whose religion drives to be bold, to stand up for what’s right, to be outspoken. I want to partner with someone whose religiosity pushes me to be a better version of myself, not to do what she’s told.

Marry Back Home

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me, as someone who has lived their entire life in the US, to think that I’ll mesh much better with someone with a similar background. This isn’t universal, some people will genuinely get along better with people from “back home,” and that’s fine, but this needs to be a personal choice.

Yet, I keep getting told that it would be better for me to marry from “back home.” I have been told, straight up, if you bring a wife over here, she’ll be more “indebted,” to me because I brought her to America. Setting aside that I don’t want to marry someone who just wants to marry me for a Green Card, why would I want to marry someone who feels like they owe me?

I fail to see how marrying from “back home” is an issue of compatibility in this case, it feels way more like an issue of subservience.

You can see here that the concern isn’t about finding a spouse who matches with my personality, it’s about finding someone who’ll come and cook and clean and bear children for me without speaking up about it because they feel like they owe me. Which segues to…

Gender Roles

I want to preface this section by saying that this is one topic where my parents haven’t, at all, been the source of my concerns, but rather, this something that comes up when talking to certain members of the community.

For men, there is an emphasis on making money to provide for a family, and for women, raising children and taking care of the home. There’s no problem with this model, but it is not the only model. It’s a valid option, but I am being told it’s my only choice.

In the eyes of many, the preference is to pick a homemaker. This seems at odds with the desire to select a woman with a good education, making it seem that I’m then not expected to let her utilize that education professionally. After all, it could be embarrassing for me if my wife makes more than me, and I have been told to be careful, because a wife who makes too much money could be “too independent.”

I must also be careful to stay in my exclusive role as a moneymaker too, and not try to go beyond that. I had pictures with my nephews in biodata because they mean the world to me. I was told to take them out because somehow a man taking care of children is deemed…bad?. I also like cooking. I once said this to an auntie and I remember her saying, “Why do you like doing girl’s stuff?”

Quite bluntly, I don’t want a wife who will only cook and clean and raise children for me. I want someone I can share those duties with because they’re my equal partner, an idea that, to me, keeps getting glossed over in this process. Every couple deserves the opportunity to figure their marriage out for themselves.

Quick Marriages

There are limits to what we can(‘t) do as Muslims. I understand that we shouldn’t have 3 year-long courtships or live together before getting married, and I am not advocating that. But we should be allowed some time to make such an important decision. I’ve been shown bio-datas and have been expected to come back with an answer in two days – just two days – about whether the information on this piece of paper is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Please, can we have a few months? Can we talk, and try to make sure that this is the decision we want to make (chaperoned)? When reviewing potential spouses, try to make sure everyone is one the same page about how much time you give to each other in order to avoid heartbreak and confusion.

Nature Of Relationship With Parents

My parents and I have a pretty good relationship. It’s relatively open and comfortable, but it’s still a Desi parent-child dynamic. Expressing a dissenting opinion is disrespectful, which means it can be harder to speak up without fear of disappointing them.

Plus, my parents and I never openly spoke about sex or physical attraction, at least not in-depth. To go from that to suddenly having to talk to your parents about the physical aspects that you’re looking for in a wife is awkward, and it can lead to miscommunication.

It’s a culture clash on top of a generational one. I have a hard time articulating what I want to my parents, and it’s not easy to figure out. If you know this before starting the process, you can make an effort to speak as openly about things as you can. You can even recruit an older cousin or friend, or an Imam you trust to help you. Don’t do what I did and go by yourself, have people to support you to make sure you and your parents are communicating well.

In Conclusion

It’s not reasonable to expect that you’ll get everything you want in a spouse. There will be compromises that are made, whether they be with yourself or with what your parents want. But don’t sacrifice on the points most important to you. Determine those, know what your must-haves are, and negotiate on other things. Make sure your potential spouse is on board. It can be awkward, especially with how many of us were raised, but talk to your potential spouse about these important things.

While this was a reflection of my own experience, I place emphasis on the aspects I feel are more universal. Speaking to other Desi Muslims in my age bracket, it certainly does seem that my concerns are relatively common. Obviously, there are individual factors that are at play, but these were things that came up regularly when speaking to elders in the community.

I also, again, want to stress that this isn’t an attack on my parents. While I have a level of frustration with how this situation has played out, I recognize that this is what they’re used to. And to their credit, they have made some concessions. Furthermore, it’s not just parents who are playing a role in this. The (often unwarranted) voices of certain elders are given undue emphasis, and that, I think has complicated the situation even further.

Ultimately, I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t consider arrangements or biodata, but if you do, then you must openly discuss this with your parents. Make sure they know what you want, and stand firm if it’s something important, even if it complicates things. It may put a strain on your relationship with your parents, but it’s better to open about things now than to have anger and resentment towards them for years later.

I’ll end with a specific piece of advice to the brothers: You have a duty to learn about why these issues are red flags and to push back on them yourselves. Women can be labelled as too rebellious if they push back themselves, and we need to be aware of this. Speak up for your (biological) sisters, family members, and friends when you notice their discomfort. Make sure you establish with your potential spouse that she is actually on board with the process, not just going along with it because she feels that she needs to. It might be awkward, but it’s important to establish a clear line of communication with someone even before you get married.

May Allah bless us all with happy, healthy, and fruitful marriages. Ameen

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