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Marriage and Other Works in Progress

Hiba Masood

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Author’s note: Writing on marriage always carries a certain burden of responsibility towards the audience. The writer is never sure who out there is reading under what circumstances the apparently sage and often flippant “advice”.

This here then is my disclaimer: All of what I say applies only to your every day, run of the mill reasonably happy marriages between two good people. Any and all of the below is complete garbage if there is infidelity, criminal activity, haraam tendencies or genuine physical, emotional or sexual abuse taking place in a marriage.

No amount of positivity, good intentions or light heartedness can remedy unions damaged by these things, except by the Will of Allah. May He protect us all from the fitnah of difficult marriages and bless our good unions with His Mercy.

Drama Mama

 

We were supposed to be in Istanbul. That was the plan. We were last there in the first year of our marriage and the pact had been to return in the tenth year. Except, we plan and Allah plans and He is the Best of Planners. So now Hums lives in Dubai for work and I am in Karachi with the kids and the ten year mark came and passed a couple months ago in as ordinary a fashion as most of the days preceding.

Nevertheless, to commemorate this supposedly momentous occasion somehow, I brewed myself a cup of Turkish coffee and sat down to write the first ten things which come to mind that I consider knowledge earned in the last ten years. Nothing says love like a list, don’t you think? So! Bismillah!

  1. Rinse, rest, repeat

Many a things are made better or cured completely by a few tears, a little sugar, a long shower, a good night’s sleep or, ideally, all four. You know how everyone says don’t go to sleep angry? I say boo to that. A smarter strategy: Cry in the shower, eat some chocolate, head to bed. Do not stay up to fight. Anger + sleepy fatigue = Bad news. It much wiser to call timeout, establish a temporary peace on whatever the issue of the hour is so that there are no angels cursing you all night and go to sleep.
In the morning, the sun will stream through the windows and through the dark recesses of your mind, and everything will seem brighter. You might just pick up where you left off but there is also a really good chance that you can’t be bothered any more and would much rather concentrate on the scrambled eggs with chives that you’ve just cooked up.

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  1. Expect the unexpected

Marriage is a lot like parenting in that it’s always something new. In parenting, just when you have mastered the infant stage, your child becomes a toddler. Just when you figure out the basics of bedtime routines and potty training, your kid turns around and tells you he wants to major in Theories and Subcultures of Aztec Dance.
Marriage is exactly the same. Odd and unpredictable. Every couple is forever a work in progress. The spouses will grow and evolve as individuals and the only job of the marriage is to make sure that growth is, on the balance, more towards each other than apart.

In my own marriage, Hums has been a surprise to me at every single turn of our life together. There’s been many disappointments. But I keep the faith because the surprises haven’t been all bad. After years of buttering his toast and making sure his shirt collar was ironed just so, I had boxed him into the tidy category of “good hearted, slightly feudal, blissfully unaware of feminism and the ensuing equality of the sexes and division of household chores that entails”, to my utter disbelief and unbridled joy, one fine morning in our seventh year, Hums turned around and began making me dinner every Friday and Saturday night. That he, with his roasted fennel stuffed sea bass, and perfectly fluffy crème brulees, turned out to be a far superior cook than I had ever been, was the icing on a very sweet cake and has definitely brought us closer. I mean, how could it not?!

  1. You are far too complicated for one person 

The ideal soul mate spouse is one who shares every interest, gets every joke, hangs on to every word that drops from our rosebud lips, wants to spend every waking minute with us and fervently desires for us every last exact thing that we desire for ourselves no matter to what personal cost. Unfortunately, the actual spouse is too busy flossing his teeth while watching a televised sport you loathe and Whatsapping a friend you consider totally lame to pay much attention to your totally hilarious chicken joke.

Marrying Hums gave me a partner, a provider, a dinner buddy, a shopping bag carrier, a weekend movie companion and my most favorite secret keeper. We’ve really nailed the being each other’s garment. But there’s lots and lots it didn’t give me because there’s no such thing as one soul mate.

My soul (and anyone’s soul) is too multi faceted for any one person to satisfy. Fulfilling every part of my personality is too great a burden for one person to bear. Hums fills the husband shoes pretty okay. But thankfully, I’ve got my siblings and cousins and friends and professional colleagues for everything else. God is Great.

 

dubaimall

 

  1. Love is a language

And just because you’re living together doesn’t mean you speak the same language. I spent the early days of my marriage wondering if I would ever get the grand gestures and surprise gifts that felt to me the epitome of romance. Now, I relish Hums’s small expressions of tenderness and I derive great satisfaction from knowing that only I am privy to his careful and particular demonstrations of thoughtfulness. He has his own way of speaking love and through time, I have learned to listen, to distinguish his vernacular from the noisy chatter of my own expectations.

Marriage demands you be willing to accept love in the way it is offered and give it in the way that it desired and meet halfway between expectations and abilities. Sometimes you will be lucky and the way you want love is the way your spouse gives love but more often, over the years you slowly craft your own gibberish and with practice, it becomes the sweetest song you ever did hear.

  1. Look at the bigger picture

The trick to surviving and thriving in your marriage is to always take the long view, not the immediate one.

There have been days in which I have spent a good hour or so of my life imagining, in great detail, life without Hums. Sometimes, because, if he hasn’t answered three of my phone calls, I am convinced he is lying dead on the side of the highway somewhere. But other times, because after a particularly tense conversation, I decide I want to leave him. I tell myself, Allah is my witness, life with this man is completely unbearable, he has never once understood me, I am far better off alone, living and working on my art, in some secluded little town in the south of Spain where nobody knows my name and they refer to me as that “mysterious woman writer with the sad eyes and brave smile.” A couple of hours after chalking out an elaborate exit plan, complete with dramatic grabbing of the passport and sweeping out the door without a backward glance, Hums comes home, pats my hand like an absent minded professor, winking as he compliments the chicken curry, and with a whoosh, I am back, physically, emotionally and spiritually, thanking Allah that the overly zoomed in moment has passed and no life altering decisions had been taken in it.
raindance

 

When I keep my eye on the bigger picture under formation, I know Hums and I have joked and laughed and jumped around in the pouring rain. We’ve been to Umrah and every Muslim wife knows that their man in an Ihram, standing, at night, under the glittering lights of the Haram courtyard is a heartwarming sight that can fill you up with gratitude for days. We’ve held hands lightly, barely grazing palms, while strolling through parks and we’ve held hands tightly, almost crushing each other’s bones, when the doctor diagnosed our son with multiple delays, when our daughter went in for eye surgery, when the news came that my father was seriously unwell.

In all reasonably functional marriages, the good times far, far outweigh the bad times but that clarity only comes with stepping back from the canvas of your life and gazing, awestruck, at the masterpiece that is slowly taking shape.

  1. Dua helps and heals

Even if your duas are not answered, in a way or shape that you prefer, there is something creatively self fulfilling about the very act.

When you let yourself be weak and you empty out your heart in dua, your heart feels full and strong again. When your heart feels full and satisfied after dua, you remember that only the remembrance of Allah, not your spouse, can give your heart satisfaction. Thus you remember Him more. Praying for my marriage has made me more appreciative of it. Praying for Hums has made me more grateful for his presence in my life. Feeling grateful and appreciative has made me pray more and happily so.

It’s a lovely little circular thing which grows bigger in scope over time and great for any marriage. A little dua every day keeps the doctor, the doldrums and the desperate desire to escape away.

  1. All conversations are not created equal

Contrary to what most people advise about talking it all out, I don’t think that every conversation needs to be brought to it’s reasonable and complete conclusion. Some things are better left unsaid.

Ten years of being missus to the very quiet Hums has shown me the power of the unuttered. Many, many things self resolve. Situations that seem concrete often turn out theoretical. Talking about the what-ifs, the future, anything but the precise present moment can sometimes be a great bonding exercise and other times a ticking bomb best left untouched. Learning to recognize the difference took me the better part of ten years but I’m glad I’m finally there.

  1. Sex: Don’t take it too seriously

It is a strange beast and it is adept as a shape shifter. The sexual intimacy in your marriage can be awesome and it can be bad. It can bring you together and it can tear you apart. It can be a constant, steady feature of your marriage, say, twice a week, every week and then bam, you have a baby and a killer episiotomy and it vanishes for months, disappearing without a trace, acting for all practical purposes as if it has never existed.

The only way to always come back into your sexual groove as a couple, is to not take any of it too seriously. Don’t let its shape shifting abilities pull a fast one over you. Laugh off the mishaps and misunderstandings, forgive the miscommunications and misdemeanors and try again. Sex is a highly essential and integral part of a healthy, happy marriage, extremely important to the sanity and stability of the individuals and the couple, powerful in it’s ability to aid reconciliation and heal growth, but at the end of the day, it’s just sex. Shrug it off and try again.

  1. One or two common interests is plenty

It takes two to tango, they say, but what they don’t say is that sometimes you can each dance to a different beat and still be in perfect harmony.

Hums and I are as different as night and day. On most things, our views are worlds apart and this may have a lot to do with the fact that we were born and raised worlds apart. But we both love good food and American politics and we’d both rather spend money on books than anything else and these few shared interests have given us ten years of great meals, terrific conversations and a book collection to be proud of, even at a time when we didn’t have enough money to pay the grocery bills. On common interests we are seamless, on separate interests we’ve each found our own outlets.

Home is where our stories begin but they don’t need to always end there. A far richer narrative is created when each of the spouses bring their own voice to the table.

home

  1. Ten years is nothing

A couple of years before I got married, I was at a bridal shower where there was a short talk on marriage by the bride’s very learned old aunt. One of the women present remarked that she had been married for ten years and felt very experienced herself and the aunt replied with a gentle laugh, “Ten years? Ten years is nothing. You need about forty years of marriage to really understand yourself and the other person.” At the time, I recall, sniffing a little disdainfully. What was this lady going on about? Ten years was an absolute lifetime with a person. I imagined myself being married for ten years and I could see the wisdom and experience practically dripping off of me. Well, now, I’ve been married for ten years and the only true knowledge that I have is: Ten years is nothing.

The last decade has been a blur of work and babies and diapers and figuring out how to work in order to afford all those diapers for all those babies. The years with Hums have rushed by and some days, when my heart is feeling particularly tender and his hair is looking particularly salty and not so peppery, I experience a sudden choking. Did we miss it all because we were just too busy? Did I allow myself to sideline the chemistry between us? Did I let the crying children drown out his voice, the voice of this man that I am, at this very moment, feeling so madly in love with? Verily by the passage of time we have been at a loss! How can I do better by him? Oh, I must do better by him, I must! A couple more of these grandly regretful thoughts and I find myself getting misty eyed and nostalgic. Only when Hums grumbles something about his undershirts always missing from the drawer and can I ever remember the laundry, do I roll my eyes and tell myself to calm down.

Because, even as I secretly vow to do better, I remind myself of the Will of Allah and how it can manifest in ways that can be so surprising. There’s so much ahead that I don’t know yet about our life together and Hums as a person.

dignity (1)

Even though we’ve been together ten years, I am just getting to know this man. I know how he was as a young man in his twenties trying to figure out his new bride. I know how he was in his early thirties as a father to three young kids. I know how he was recently during a period of long unemployment. I don’t know if he will have a midlife crisis in a few years time. I don’t know how he will be when its time for the kids to go to college. I don’t know how he will be when one of us loses a parent or is struck with a life changing illness. He is, like me, like us, a work in progress. There’s so much about him I don’t know. Every day is a brand new introduction.

Which is precisely the beautiful, God-given gift of marriage: Forgiveness. Every day, you wake up in the morning and you turn and see the same face beside you, offering in its constant and loyal presence, redemption from all the flukes, foibles and follies of the day before. Every day is another opportunity to start over, to get it right, to reaffirm that who you were as a couple the previous day doesn’t have any implication on who you can be today. Your happy marriage can begin the very morning, the very moment you choose it to. Allah is Al-Kareem and how awesomely generous of Him to give us these second chances, all these fresh opportunities to create better, wiser, lists and litanies of what makes for a happy marriage. What a gift.

You know, I wasn’t very nice to Hums yesterday. We didn’t end the day on the best of notes. But today? Today our song, our story, our work of art, is going to be so beautiful.

Because, we’re still alive and together. Alhumdulillah. We’re still growing as a couple, in love and with love. MashaAllah. And the years behind us may have rushed past, but the years ahead stretch before us with possibility and potential. InshaAllah.

Hiba Masood is a writer, speaker and teacher. You can read her daily on www.facebook.com/etdramamama

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Francis

    February 24, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    This is a fantastic insight, thanks for pouring out your thoughts.
    So much of what you wrote is spot-on, I’m glad you took the time to put words to feelings and experiences that most marriages go through and are unsure of “is it just us”
    It’s also interesting hearing the different perspective from a cultural point of view. Your expectations of what you want from Hums romantically are traditional, however I find many western women, particularly those under 30 have expectations that sadly are almost delusional.
    All the best on your future!

    • Avatar

      Saadiya

      February 25, 2016 at 2:08 AM

      I love this so much:) its amazing how our expectations of marriage differ so greatly from what marriage really is.. All we can do is try our best everyday and leave the rest to Allah swt.. JazakAllah khair for an awesome article, may Allah swt bless and protect all our marrriages

    • Avatar

      Diana

      February 25, 2016 at 10:33 PM

      Hi,
      I disagree with you opinion that the author has a “traditional” view of romance. She actually started the article by saying that everyone wants a spouse who is perfect and lovely and unconditionally loving. Also, judging by her writing style, I would bet that she did grow up in a “western” culture.

      And even if some “western” girls may have “delusional” views of marriage, most of us are human beings just like everyone else. We all want to be loved, accepted, cared for, cherished, etc. It isn’t a delusional desire but a human one.

      • Avatar

        Test

        March 1, 2016 at 8:07 AM

        TEST Just want to see how this comment section works

  2. Avatar

    Umm Ibrahim

    February 25, 2016 at 4:24 AM

    Oh my God!!!
    Reading this, every but of it, was like my brain yelling at me: “I told you so! I was right afterall!”

    Thank you Hiba, for this amazing read. It is a very much-needed post for women like me who need reassurance that the ‘flame’ in their marriages is still bright even if it tends to give a few burns at times.
    This post reassured me that everything was right in our marriage and how the beauty really lay in all the tiny details.
    Now I will remind myself to always step out of the canvas sometimes and admire the magnificent view of the husband, partner, confidant I have in my life.

    Thank you again, Hiba, I really needed this. :)

  3. Avatar

    Zujaja

    February 25, 2016 at 4:54 AM

    Very well written. ..yes 18 years and counting mashallah. .still feel don’t know it all..:)..and love the disclaimer part …

  4. Avatar

    Uzma

    February 25, 2016 at 5:10 AM

    Such a beautiful insight of what is happening behind the curtains. … thank you got writing it…. may Allah give you ease on every thing you do
    Ameen

  5. Avatar

    Sadia Ali

    February 25, 2016 at 5:55 AM

    Hi. What a beautiful piece of writing and I don’t know if anyone else felt this way too, but I seriously felt like I was reading my diary. Bless you ?

  6. Avatar

    Sahar

    February 25, 2016 at 6:59 AM

    Very well written… I can relate to most of the stuff here… and also, its about how willing the couple is to go through the good and bad times in a happy marriage.. thanks for a good read

  7. Avatar

    Nabeela

    February 25, 2016 at 7:12 AM

    JazakhAllah Khayr for this beautiful piece. It’s comforting to know we’re not alone in the marriage struggles. May Allah bless you and your family immensely.

  8. Avatar

    Atika

    February 25, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    Great read. I can only assure myself that I should ‘hang in there’:)

  9. Avatar

    Sana

    February 25, 2016 at 6:05 PM

    Beautiful. This made me shed that heavy to hold and a burdened tear like a rain drop! You don’t know how good you made me feel now, bless you and may you get every joy you wish for and beyond!

  10. Avatar

    Pakeezah

    February 25, 2016 at 6:06 PM

    This was so beautiful, Hiba. May Allah bless your marriage and your family. May He increase you in your strengths and make you a source of contentment for those around you. ameen! You are one gem of a person.

  11. Avatar

    Al

    February 25, 2016 at 8:40 PM

    Glad that the pressures of marriage and hard times u may have faced did not make u lose hope in your husband as a person. More strength and love to you and your bond of marriage.

  12. Avatar

    Dia

    February 25, 2016 at 10:36 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this and may God reward you immensely!!!
    It’s nice to know that switching between “I love you” and contemplating divorce is normal and should be expected :)

  13. Avatar

    Aafia

    February 26, 2016 at 2:14 AM

    Marriage is the Only relationship which has been provided the status of”Completion of deen”.Love and Mercy between a Partner is a Mercy of Allah without which a relationship can never survive:””And among His Signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” [Sûrah Rûm: 21]”

    So,Its Allah I thank for all his favour.May We treasure this blessing and dwell in tranquility with our Spouse by loving and forgiving each Other,In sha Allah.

  14. Avatar

    Fatima

    February 27, 2016 at 5:05 PM

    A beautiful insight into what marriage should be. I wholeheartedly believe that marriage is a work in progress because the two spouses are a work in progress individually n no two days are, or have to be, the same. Lots of duas for more love in your marriage, more blueberries in your fridge, more glitter on your floor and more happy giggles in your lounge. AND more more power to your pen❤❤❤

  15. Avatar

    Sumaiya

    March 5, 2016 at 1:59 AM

    That was a heart warming article that covers a truly inspirational experience of what marriage actually is. I especially loved the ironic parts.

  16. Avatar

    Sakeenah Begum

    September 24, 2016 at 9:18 PM

    JazakaAllah sister for sharing your insights! It’s a blessing to have others who have been through it all and offer support from the other side!
    http://sakeenahbegum.com

  17. Avatar

    maleeha

    September 27, 2016 at 11:22 PM

    such a GREAT article; so insightful and your point number 7 hits the nail! I thank you so much sharing your thoughts, I learned a lot from this piece of writing than I have from a million aunties :)

  18. Avatar

    Maryam

    September 30, 2016 at 6:37 PM

    MA Sha Allah, I really needed this….. It looks as if the writer has said my own words. But much much much better than the way I would have presented. I felt sooooooooo much better after reading this. May Allah reward you sister.

  19. Avatar

    fariha

    June 11, 2017 at 3:43 PM

    Awesome piece of writing
    Jazakillah khair sister. You may not know me but this article has surely been a guidance to others.May Allah accept this from you and bless all the marriages of the ummah with great empathic skills.

  20. Avatar

    Sadia baig

    July 26, 2017 at 11:15 AM

    MA SHA ALLAH its a really beautiful article this shows how couples can support each other how they see circumstances i would like to appreciate the section of how” dua help & heals” this is really amazing way how to ask from ALLAH SWT
    may ALLAH SWT gives reward you for this awesome piece of writing !

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Do Muslims Plan for Disability

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

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

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

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

The Problem

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

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

Please Stand By

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

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

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

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

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

Munir Vohra is a special needs advocate and an athlete

The Shape of Special Needs Trusts

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

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

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

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

Example: Care for Zayna

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

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

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

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

When disability planning is not about Public Benefits

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

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

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

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

Considering your own needs

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

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

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

Example: Haris Investing in Cambodian Rice Farms

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

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

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

How living trusts helps

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

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

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

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

Planning for everyone

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

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