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Motherhood – An Answered Dua

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By Umm Yusra

Have you ever spent all your nights and days making dua for one specific thing? I mean crying your eyes dry in the darkness of the night, asking Allah to give you something? I have!

And Alhamdhulillah, by the infinite Mercy of Allah, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) answered my dua. She’s called Yusra.

This is a deeply personal post and I didn’t think I could ever have written about it. But I want to now – for other sisters who might be feeling what I felt. It’s about being a wife, a woman and not being able to have children. For various reasons, including cultural/societal, family, individual desire, as women we want children. It’s an innate human need.

But when this want or need becomes desperation it can lead to unhappiness. Over time you can even start to resent yourself. I’m not saying every woman feels like this. But I did. Not always, but I had my moments.

So here’s my story. It took me just over 5 years to conceive during which time I made lots of visits to the hospital, had tons of tests done. If anyone is aware of the NHS in the UK, they know, it was a very lengthy process. I hate hospitals. I’m not a great fan of talking to medical professionals, especially about personal female related things. But it had to be done. SubhanAllah, I can’t truly express how scared I used to be the night before each appointment. After many checks, embarrassing conversations, nasty treatments and painful surgery, the doctors finally told me they didn’t know what was wrong. It could take a few months or many years for me to conceive. Or never!

However, this post isn’t about the medical side of things. This is about a woman’s heart. A heart that at times can deal with the entire world and its burden, but at other times it just stops and cries. And nothing in the entire world can wipe away those tears. That’s how I had become. I was at an awkward age where I felt time was clicking away. I was surrounded by all these lovely sisters who held their beautiful babies when I met them. And I had family members who never actually said anything about me not having a baby, but I knew they would look at me thinking, what’s up with her. It might have all been in my head, but it was there. And I was living with it daily.

Not having much confidence whilst growing up didn’t help, and with the addition of yet another thing, it made me feel there was something ‘wrong’ with me. It was extremely silly of me to look at things this way but when we are at our weakest and shaytan is constantly whispering to divert our intentions, we can think in all sorts of ways.

As the years went by the pain somehow got worse. I mean the heartache. I think what hurt the most was knowing that because of me, my husband was losing out on being a father. That feeling of not being able to give someone something – something that would bring them happiness – can become very burdening. Like most men, my husband isn’t very expressive. He never actually said much about this, which I think at times made me feel worse even though I knew I was reading too much into it. But alhamdhullillah he was there. He was there on those nights I would cry my eyes out and blabber on about being sad.

Although it was a test for both of us, I think I was the weaker one, therefore I didn’t deal with it very well. But as the heartache increased so did my duas. And that’s what I want to share here. Through this journey of seeking motherhood, I now realise Allah gave me the perfect opportunity to gain closeness to Him subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). This closeness didn’t come about based purely on my desire for a child.  It was the realisation of Allah’s Mercy, Kindness and Plans that brought about closeness. I made it a point to not only look for specific duas but to read the translation and the tafsir too. Through doing this I learnt so much about how the pious Prophets were tested in the same way. I remember one night crying so much from reading about Prophet Ayyub [as] losing all 14 of his children overnight that the pages of my mus’haf got wet.

What I didn’t realise is that the more I read about the prophets and their tests, the heaviness in my heart decreased. It sounds extremely selfish, but for the first time in my life I was truly able to appreciate that the prophets were also human and carried the same emotions you and I do. I’m not saying that before this I thought they were all magical creatures that felt no pain. I think I used to think they were able to deal with it better so maybe didn’t feel as much pain. The truth is that they did, but what made them better is their steadfastness. They never doubted Allah’s Decree and they continued to make dua.

The first 10 verses of surah Maryam bring me a level of comfort that nothing else does. Reciting them and then reading about Zakariyyah’s [as] plea to Allah for an heir – subhanAllah my heart understands that plea, it feels the pain in the words. And so, the more time I spent learning from the Quran about how Allah tested His subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) prophets with the test of childlessness, the better I was able to keep myself composed when I felt sad. My heart still felt pain, but it no longer felt stupid. I loved my Creator more than ever for allowing me to be tested in this way.

Not being able to have children doesn’t make you any less of a woman. That is probably one of the most important lessons to learn when understanding tests and tribulations – that it isn’t the test that determines who you are but the way we react is what makes us who we are! As Muslims, no matter what comes our way we must remain firm in our belief in being a servant of Allah, and that is our only true identity.

Alhamdhulillah, Allah showered His Mercy upon me and granted me a child but it doesn’t mean I am no longer tested. We must know that until the last breath we take, we will be tested. We may be tested in all kinds of ways in life, but we will be tested. Some of us are tested in matters of money, others with health and sadly many of our ummah are tested with the severity of absolute tyrant rulers.

If you’re a sister experiencing anything similar to what I did, then please know my dearest sister, you’re not alone. Know that many before us were tested in the same way and know that others who may have been blessed with children are being tested in different ways. What brings comfort is knowing that it is not what befalls us that shapes who we are, but that it is a Decree of our Creator subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that helps us turn to Him in our time of need.

Don’t lose hope, know that the real reward is with Allah. We might be given what our heart desires in the dunya, but what awaits us inshaAllah is much more superior. Imagine how lovingly Allah looks down at His servant when the servant shows sabr when facing a calamity.

Those 5 years of my life were difficult and very testing but looking back at it now, I know that is when I turned to Allah in sincerity. Something I may not have been able to do if I wasn’t feeling the pain in my heart.

Use what you are tested with as a means to gain closeness to Allah (my mother’s words), and then inshaAllah the burden doesn’t seem too heavy even though it is still there. From all the stories in the Quran and my own experience, I now know that the most important aspect of dua isn’t when it’s answered, it’s the conversation you have with Allah, the one where you’re destitute and He is Supreme.

May Allah help us with all that He sends our way.

 

Below are some duas from the Quran that sisters can recite inshaAllah.

3_38

O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation. (3:38)

21_89

O My Lord! Leave me not single (childless), though You are the Best of the
inheritors. (21:89)

25_74

Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of
our eyes, and make us leaders for the Muttaqun (25:74)

37_100

My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous. (37:100)

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Safiya Iman

    January 29, 2016 at 1:23 AM

    I just love whoever wrote this :) i wish if i can find her name…
    May Allah Bless her in everything in sha Allah

    • Avatar

      Umm Yusra

      January 29, 2016 at 2:34 AM

      Assalamu alaikum, wow didn’t realise it got published here. Alhamdhulillah. I’m Umm
      Yusra from gildeddunya.com – jazakAllah khair for the message.

      Here’s the original – http://gildeddunya.com/2014/10/27/motherhood-an-answered-dua/

      • Avatar

        Sumeera

        January 29, 2016 at 5:01 AM

        Asalaam alaikum sister… This was EXACTLY my story too subhanAllah!
        its as if i wrote this myself. Thank you for sharing this-all this time i wasnt the only one then.c

      • Avatar

        Faiza

        January 29, 2016 at 6:50 AM

        Your story is so truly touching. Beautifully written!

      • Avatar

        Umm yusra

        January 29, 2016 at 5:22 PM

        Lovely …. And i can relate to you. I am umm yusra too. It took me eleven years to have Allah’s gift… And i named her yusra too. I can relate to everything you wrote,i did exactly what u described.

      • Avatar

        Farah

        June 28, 2016 at 8:35 PM

        Jazakallah Khairun for sharing such a very personal experience with us. It’s so heartfelt I’m crying for the pain you went through. But the lessons you’ve learned and shared are very real and inspiring. Thank you for helping others to see the lessons in our trials. May Allah bless you and your family. Xxx

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      January 31, 2016 at 3:23 PM

      ALHAMDULILAH ! Too beautifully expressed and true faith of a mu’mineen .

      • Avatar

        cliveey

        January 31, 2016 at 3:43 PM

        Are you not allowed to be angry with the Almighty for your plight? Are you there just to be subservient. Surely a truse loving relationship allows you to complain and bemoan your situation. Are we required to be dumb obedient robots or is this a rwo wat felationship with our loving creator? Worldly leaders may ask us to be frightened, dumb and never complain, just slaves and robots. I have greater faith in the one who made us and gave us individual identities. If you only fear God, where is the love?

  2. Avatar

    Umm Yusra

    January 29, 2016 at 2:36 AM

    Assalamu alaikum. JazakAllah khair for sharing my article. Can you kindly link my name to http://www.gildeddunya.com

    • Avatar

      Hamdiya

      January 29, 2016 at 5:27 PM

      Masha Allah. Wonderful piece my sister. May Allah bless our offsprings.

  3. Avatar

    نشا

    January 29, 2016 at 6:36 AM

    SubhanAllah.. This is exactly how I feel… Especially the part regarding my husband. Sisters keep me in your duas insha Allah… I to want ذرية طيبة امين

  4. Avatar

    Ashma Khanani Moisa

    January 29, 2016 at 6:57 AM

    Salaam, I feel as if you just described what I went through with my challenges for 7 years with coming close to death & 7 pregnancies. Till I was blessed with my Fatima. I felt ashamed to ask Allah SWT for another child and I read Surah Maryam that I named second child Isa. My gifts fromAllah SWT and the reward in believing in him that my Dua was answered not once but twice. Tests are always there but theses are blessings of knowing your creators is listening. I am also 2 time cancer survivor, I feel blessed to know what my purpose is in my life with theses tests, yet another blessing from my Lord.

    • Avatar

      cliveey

      January 29, 2016 at 12:47 PM

      Thecomment re is great danger in this well expressed and well intended comment from Ashma. Many of us pray for things that are important to us and close to our heart. It can be for the recovery from cancer of someone who is close to death – a person we love dearly. It can be for our children being succesful in their studies and careers. Prayer is sometimes answered and sometimes not. Sometimes prayers are fulfilled for us in a differnet way to what we expect. The danger in Asma’s comment is that it can make a person who is facing difficulties feel dreadful and an even deeper failure if for some reason yheir prayers are not answered. They may not just feel a failure at bearing a child but also a failure at praying. … even a bad Muslim or whatever faith they hold.
      It could even accentuate the pain and have the person believeing the creator does not love them which is surely the big lie. But you clearly spoke with great kindness Asma and can be proud.

  5. Avatar

    Quran Classes

    January 29, 2016 at 6:35 PM

    Masha Allah. Wonderful piece my sister. May Allah bless our offsprings.

  6. Avatar

    Raeesa

    January 30, 2016 at 4:53 AM

    How beautiful! Really gives me the perspective that I needed

  7. Avatar

    Sofia

    January 30, 2016 at 5:36 AM

    May Allah bless all my beautiful sisters who are waiting with sabr and pious miracle children. Ameen.
    I waited 10yrs before Allah answered, and now I cannot even remember our pain. ?

  8. Avatar

    Raziya

    January 30, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    Mashaallah. May Allah make everything ease for all of us.

  9. Avatar

    Abiodun

    January 30, 2016 at 1:32 PM

    JazakAllah Khairain for sharing this experience. I have pick some other beautiful prayers here..May Allah continue to bless us all and grant us our utmost heart desires. Aminn

    • Avatar

      cliveey

      January 30, 2016 at 2:33 PM

      But surely we need to accept that not all our utmost hearts desires are met. Not all our hearts desires and not everyones. Yes that is what teh Almighty may wish for us, but, for whatever reason, it does not always happen. Nobody should in any way feel a failure because they pray and do not get the r4esults they so want. Our hearts desires may cahnge over time as we mature. We have been blessed with life and should not get driven down one track in order to enjoy it. Many people live good happy fulfilled caring lives without having children.
      Above all do not hurt others when their paryers do not get answered – that is selfish.

  10. Avatar

    Ameenah

    March 16, 2016 at 8:13 AM

    Thank you for this piece. It’s as if you are in my life right now. I know it’s a test from Allah and it will pass soon Insha Allah, though it hasn’t been easy. I am grateful for my spouse and siblings.

  11. Avatar

    Aalia

    June 29, 2016 at 5:36 PM

    Mashallah sory I little undrstan d ask dua for me I didn’t have house to stay

    • Avatar

      nemomil

      October 26, 2016 at 3:37 PM

      Sister Aalia, may Allah give you a house to live in under His protection.

  12. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    November 12, 2016 at 7:46 AM

    Nice Article!! Everybody should also visit the link for complete online Quran Tilawat with Translation

  13. Avatar

    As the heart heals

    July 17, 2017 at 5:07 PM

    JazakAllah Khair for sharing your story. It is true Allah tests us all in different ways. He gives to some, He keeps away from some and takes from some and it is all a test. May Allah give us the strength to get through the tests we are put through. I went through the test of losing a daughter after carrying her through a full term pregnancy. It was one of the most difficult times of my life. Can you imagine holding your baby after giving birth to them and saying good-bye and burying them? The only thing that gave me peace was accepting that this was the decree of Allah and I could have done nothing to have changed it and that I will inshaAllah meet her in Jannah one day where I will finally see her with her eyes open and I will see her smile, coo and move, and I will cuddle her inshaAllah – all that i crave for in this dunya. InshaAllah it isn’t too far away. Alhamdulillah for the mercy of Allah even in the tests He puts us through.

  14. Avatar

    Asra

    October 16, 2017 at 10:35 AM

    I felt as if I was reading my own story.
    I agree with what u hv mentioned here

  15. Avatar

    Zaina

    January 12, 2019 at 2:53 AM

    That was absolutely beautiful may Allah bless you and your Yusra for
    Sharing such a wonderful story with other muslimahs going through hard times. Gives so much hope. Jazakallah khair

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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