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American Muslim Life Changer: Dr. Samir Iqbal’s Device Detects Cancer Early

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

samir iqbal

Chereen’s interview with Dr. Samir Iqbal, the Pakistani-American scientist who developed a device to diagnose cancer rapidly. Iqbal worked on the project with Young-tae Kim, a UTA associate professor in the Bioengineering Department; Muhymin Islam, a STEM doctoral candidate; and engineering students Mohammad Motasim Bellah, Adeel Sajid and Mohammad Raziul Hasan.

 

Chereen: Please tell me a bit about yourself.

Dr. Iqbal: I was born and raised in Bahrain. My dad was an expat working in research health; he worked as a pharmacist. I was 14 when I moved to Pakistan with my family and settled into a fairly large town. That was where we I got my schooling and college done. I was fortunate to be in a very active community. In college, I was one of the founders of the Anti-pollution movement, which [went] against the mafia cutting down trees. We also went after the chemical industry people who would just throw their chemicals into the water streams without treatment.

I also would get students engaged in donating blood, because there was a major disconnect in the country with patient care and people donating blood to the hospitals. I was very active when I was in college. People used to ring our bell at two in the morning and my parents would know that it was for me. It could have been that someone needed blood, or someone was in need of help.

Chereen: What motivated you to be this active?

Dr. Iqbal: I think that I was born this way, alhamdulilah. My parents were supportive of whatever I was doing. Our family is like that. I remember seeing my dad volunteer at a Pakistani school in Bahrain that was not very well funded. He would spend his time and type up every exam on an old cyclose style machine. This inspired me to do more. I was in high school when I started teaching my uncle’s three kids. That was the beginning because they were my very first students.

Chereen: Can you explain the process? I feel like the groundwork started early on to prepare you for something that is so profound and in-depth.

Dr. Iqbal: There is a plan, Allahu khairul makirin. Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala has his plan. We don’t know sometimes and we get anxious sometimes, but there is always something larger than we can see. I was in my bachelor’s of science when I got selected for the naval service. The navy training is very competitive, with many steps you have to go through even to be selected and join the academy. I appreciated the opportunity because it made a man out of a boy.

We have to spend time at high seas to appreciate what we have on land. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says it in the Quran that when we are on ships, when we are on sea, we beg for Him to bring us on stable ground. When we are on stable ground, we become arrogant again. Those that have not been at sea have no idea what that means. Being on the other side taught me a lot about life.

Chereen: From speaking to you, I can tell that you really do apply a lot of effort and that is something that is very important to you. Can you tell me more about that?

Dr. Iqbal: This is also fard (obligation). It is very important to utilize what we have been given. We are given a rizq, and then we are told to use our rizq in a certain fashion. This is how we have to use it, as a source of help. When Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “Wa mimma razaqnahom yunifiqun.” I give you rizq and you have to do yunfiqun out of it. Why shouldn’t we be using that rizq to do what we are supposed to do? Our goal should be to use this rizq as a source of benefit and relief.

Chereen: Can you tell me about the process of your innovative work? What started this development?

Dr. Iqbal: It has been a work of 4 to 5 years. It has been the work of many, many good hardworking students. The rate it has evolved, and I will tell you that it has evolved because we did not just hit it. It starts with living things, and in living things there are organs. There are layers of tissue that support those organs. Some of the organs that get cancer, some of the cells break apart, and pass through those membranes or supporting tissue and get into the bloodstream. This is how metastasis occurs.

nano

There is something interesting called the basement membrane. When you imagine it, it looks like the carpet you see in your offices. If you rub your hand, you see it is rough and has smalls ups and downs in it. Take it down to nanometer scale texture. We have to be careful taking this big jump from millimeter to nanometer, because millimeter is thousandth part of a meter, centimeter is hundredth part of a meter. One micrometer is millionth part of a meter. To appreciate how small a micrometer is, over here is 50 to 100 micrometer. Nanometer is 1,000 times smaller than one micrometer. This is the kind of scale we are talking about that Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala has created in our tissues. This is the supporting network. Every organ has its own types of cells. I do not even know if I can get to this depth in my lifetime. I am focusing on the basement membrane which supports this organ. Basement membrane has nano-texture to it, and it is known to be a very strong membrane. Of course it has to support all the organs in place.

Allah [ swt] has put all of these things in us with very fine delicacy and it is under pressure, but it is maintained and ordered in its place. The basement membrane shows that all these things stay in their place. The cancer cells want to go to another place and they want to make another colony, while killing that organism. Some of these cells break apart and get into blood streams. Most of them get cleared up by our immune system. When there are too many of them, some of them survive and find another distant organ. Again, they do their process by going through the tissue across the basement organ and get back to the support organ, what we call metastasis. Finding metastasis before it occurs saves lives. 90% of breast cancer deaths are actually through metastatic tumor.

This basement membrane and narrow texture, we recreated these conditions on a chip using nanotextured walls. We then saw that the metastatic tumor cells were showing distinctly different behavior than non-metastatic tumor cells. So if I get a biopsy sample from a patient and I don’t know how much metastatic potential is there in that sample, this system can tell me that as well. Just looking at that sample, an oncologist can look at that tumor and tell if it has spread, or if there might be a secondary tumor growing separately. This changes the whole approach of what therapy is to be given. It is early detection, it is precise. Hopefully, the way we are doing it and the way we have done it will make it very affordable. The goal is to deploy it as an annual physical tool and a screening tool is the goal.

Chereen: What was the leading factor that motivated you to work on something so groundbreaking and profound?

Dr. Iqbal: We all have seen our loved ones suffer with this disease. We all have seen our loved ones struggling and scared for the rest of their lives, because they went through something like this. My sister-in-law was a very humble lady, and she died from blood cancer. It happens by the will of Allah. We did not have tools to see it. Allahu khairul Makireen. I used to wish if I could do something for biochemistry, for the chemistry of diseases. I did not know how to go about it, but alhamdulilah we end up guided. I ended up having a doctoral advisor who was doing beautiful work in bio-detection, who gave me the opportunity to audit a course in Bio-MEMS. I sat and saw if this was something I wanted to do, and it changed my life. I was able to work on genes and detection of genes, and then I began to collaborate with people as an Assistant Professor. I worked with people that did remarkable work, which motivated me to want to do more.

Chereen: What kept you motivated throughout this journey?

Dr. Iqbal: The support is very important; you have to be in the company of the right people. My first doctoral advisor, Dr. Rashid Bashir has always been there to push me. My parents, my wife, my kids have always been there for me and to make dua’a for me. They have given me the freedom to spend my time on this. My wife did a major role in giving me my piece of mind and full support. This is the blessing of Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala, He puts you in the right company and gives you the correct support where you are reminded of how you can spend of your time and opportunities wisely. Going into the right company has helped me, I have learned from them and that has kept me inspired. Being friends with people that have been good to you and people that want to do well is what will keep you motivated.

Chereen: How has this accomplishment made you feel?

Dr. Iqbal: I went to the same school that Neil Armstrong went to, Purdue. He said, “It is one small step.” I don’t think we are there yet; I think it is a small step there. I am not saying we have achieved everything we can, but we have achieved a lot. However, there is much more that needs to be done. I say alhamdulilah, because we are one step closer.

Chereen: What advice would you give to anyone that wants to make a change in the world?

Dr. Iqbal: Gain experience! Pick right role models, your role models have to be good people. The beauty of America is that in every city there is a major university, where you can find the type of people who think about doing good for others. Where they are from does not matter, but it is the common goal that matters. It is their desire to good that should teach you how to become a better person. You have to learn how to be patient, to not live in a cocoon, and to learn how to be inspired from other people’s differences. This helps you get into the right environment, and then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will open ways for you. From there, you will gain experiences, and you will learn from your experiences. This world is full of many different people. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent for all of humanity, and it is on you to want to help all of the world and everyone in it. You should want to be a mercy for all of mankind. This is how you will begin to change the world for the better. This is how you will make a difference.

Chereen is a therapist, as well as a certified learning, leadership, and change life coach. She enjoys writing, reading, coaching, and offering advice. You can find her daily inspirational posts on instagram: @dearchereen.

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  1. Avatar

    Rehmat

    March 18, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    Many rural areas in United States are anxious to copy the public-oriented Iranian primary healthcare system. The system is run by citizen. These health houses provide preventative care in informal yet effective manner. They can provide healthcare faster than far-away emegency rooms. In case of of extensive care, these houses have contract with local hospitals and clinics.

    The health house workers from the local communities, known as Behvarzan (meaning good skill in Persisn language) are trained to meet the basic health care needs of people living in rural areas. A female Behvarzan is responsible for, among other things, child and maternal health, vaccination, administering medicine, registration, etc; a male Behvarzan is responsible for the outdoor activities, such as, follow-up visits to the patients, sanitation and environment projects. Both work out of the health house, a rural medical post and the most basic unit of service delivery in country’s healthcare plan. The minimum age of male and female healthcare worker is 20 and 16 respectively. They’re required to have had 11 years of regular education plus two years of theoretical and practical training before being awarded a certificate to be allowed to practice. Even after graduation they’re subject to regular monitoring.

    As the result of the heath house scheme, the infant death have dropped from 200 per 1000 births to 26. With the Mississippi Delta rate 10 time worse than Iran’s – a group of volunteers from the US are traveling to Islamic Republic this month to get a crash course in how health houses work. The poor communities in America, 40 millions of whom cannot afford healthcare, because they cannot pay for medical insurances – have been considering to adopt Iranian healthcare model.

    https://rehmat1.com/2010/06/04/irans-health-house-model-for-us/

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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#Life

Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

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will you marry me?
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that single young Muslims, despite not being in possession of any fortune, are always in search of a spouse.

However little prepared these people may be to undertake this ordeal is given little thought, and they are thrust out into the world of modern Muslim matchmaking. The generational divide in the community has meant that young people have received little training at home to navigate the process of finding a spouse. These individuals are seeking high-quality relationships, but few have the skills and emotional intelligence needed to find one. They are left to learn on their own through trial-and-error, and often a lot of pain.

With hopes of making this journey a little easier, we’ve compiled a few principles to keep in mind as you tread these cold uncharted waters.

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?Click To Tweet

1. Work on yourself

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?

Aspire to be self-fulfilled and complete on your own, rather than hoping for someone else to do that for you. Operationally, this entails refining both your inner and outer self. On the outside this could include basic things like being well-groomed (especially for men), knowing how to cook a healthy diet, exercising regularly and supporting yourself financially. You should also ensure you have good relationships with loved ones – do the people you care about love you back? Admit any wrongs you may have done to them and make amends to improve ties if they are strained. The state of your current relationships can be a good indicator of future ones.

On the inside, you should make a moral inventory and work to address your shortcomings in character. You must work on your selfishness, your anger, your dishonesty, your lust, your pride, your stinginess, your harshness, your resentments, your stubbornness, your fears, your jealousy, your self-righteousness, your vanity. This list is never ending and it’s a lifelong process; the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be.

You must also get help for any serious problems that you fear might affect a relationship – instead of hoping these problems will go away with the ‘right partner’. If you have a pornography problem, seek out help and don’t be deluded into thinking marriage will solve that for you. If you have no control over your desires before marriage, you won’t magically gain control afterward. If you have a substance abuse problem, join a 12-step program. If you feel you are emotionally unhealthy, get help from a professional. Bottom line is, have your house in order before you decide to build a new one.

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

Be purposeful in your search but don’t make it the purpose of your life. The process of finding a spouse can become emotionally draining and overwhelming if you don’t do it in a healthy fashion. Understand that this process entails too many factors that are completely out of your control; things won’t always go your way, so don’t be too attached to the outcome.  The only things you control are your responses and actions, so just focus on putting your best foot forward.

A common mistake people make is they give themselves a timeline e.g. ‘I want to be married by X age, or by X year’. This only results in unnecessary pressure that can lead to anxiety and poor mental health; it can also force one to make imprudent choices. Everyone has a different timeline; have trust in God’s plan for you.

Anytime mental health is disturbed, stop and revaluate. Some signs of poor mental health include: obsessive thinking, inability to focus on your everyday affairs, compulsive attachment and clinginess, disturbed sleep, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, inability to multitask, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, and a loss of inner serenity. It is best to get help from counselors, such as those at Naseeha, if you feel stuck in this situation.

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

The measure you give is the measure you get back. Instead of worrying so much about what you want, focus on what you have to offer.

While you should certainly express your interest in someone you like, don’t taint it with desperation and neediness. If you’ve implemented the first point mentioned, you are already a confident and self-sufficient person. You will be fine no matter what. Focus on giving without expectation and building a healthy companionship. Be a giver and you’ll be surprised how easily you will attract the right people towards you. The ‘mindset of want’ is a self-defeating mindset: you might not find all the things you want in someone, and even if you did, there is no guarantee they’ll want you back!

4. Don’t overthink it

Living in a capitalist society, we’ve developed the bad habit of picking out people the same way we go shopping for a new product. We like to explore the market, do a cost-benefit analysis of various options, try to make sure the product isn’t damaged and hope to pick out the best possible item. We are careful about how we ‘invest our time’ and we try to ensure we can get an appropriate return on our investment. If we could, we’d ask for a money-back guarantee on people too!

Human hearts, unfortunately, cannot be picked out the way we choose commercial products. Each has its flaws and its strengths, you have to accept both the good and the bad; the pro-con list approach won’t work here. When we start taking this reductionist approach to relationships, we naturally get into overthinking, feel anxious and overwhelmed. With the widespread use of online dating, the choices seem limitless and it can seem impossible to try to figure out how to find the right person.

Marriage is a decision that’s to be taken with the heart; you have to rely on your guts and your instincts to steer you towards the person most suitable for you. This doesn’t mean throwing rational thought out the door, it means looking to your inner-self as the source of motivation for your decision making. It takes emotional intelligence and self-awareness to be able to determine what kind of a person you’ll be able to build a future with; it’s not always someone that looks best on paper. There are very few people with whom you’ll find compatibility and reciprocity, so don’t obsess over exploring as many possible ‘options’ with hopes of marking off all the items on your checklist.

We ultimately find the most fulfillment in caring for and taking responsibility for someone we sincerely love. So, look instead for the ingredients that will act as the foundations of love in your marriage. These could include the fact that you: enjoy someone’s company, find them beautiful, admire their character and kindness, respect them, find reciprocity in your interactions, have shared values and compatible temperaments. You are looking for that certitude, that good feeling in your heart; focusing on these factors will hopefully give you that and will get you out of the common mistake of overthinking and worrying.

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Click To Tweet

5. Work to bridge religious differences

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Personal levels of observance can vary vastly, even within members of the same family, so it can be challenging to find the right fit.

You will always find differences in religious observance and views between spouses. It is impossible, and foolish, to try to seek out someone at the exact same level. Some people might be more conservative than you, some might be more liberal. Do you really have to turn someone down because they don’t agree with your views on conventional mortgages? What if you like dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating, and they’re opposed to it? What if they don’t eat zabiha halal like you do? What if they don’t pray all the five prayers on time like you were raised to do so?

Given the unique circumstances we live in, we must be flexible and open-minded about resolving such differences. We ought to be careful when making a judgment about someone’s beliefs; we don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. Some of us were taught to honour God through worship and observing His law, some of us were raised with an emphasis on serving His creation with good character. People have their strengths and their weaknesses in faith; sometimes these are apparent, sometimes hidden. Your relationship with God is not perfect and neither will be your partner’s; we are all a work in progress.

If approached with kindness, mutual respect and a willingness to compromise, these differing religious views could be resolved in many cases. While sometimes people really are on extreme ends, most of us fall somewhere in between and can find a comfortable middle ground. It is often our stubbornness, self-righteousness and a parochial understanding of religion that gets in the way. Good people are hard to find, so don’t let suitable matches go because they don’t follow your exact flavor of religious observance. This is certainly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with tact and wisdom; it is advisable to seek counsel of more experienced people.

6. Don’t expose your past and don’t pry about someone else’s

If you have a past you are not proud of and it doesn’t concern your future relationships, you should not feel obliged to expose yourself. In fact, if this relates to sins of the past, it is actually prohibited to reveal your sins to someone else – even in the context of marriage. Shaykh Nuh Keller summarizes this pitfall well, “In Islam, to mention a sin is itself a sin. How many a person has been unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their previous life, and Allah punished them with disgust and contempt in the other’s heart that could never quite be forgotten! There is no barakah in the haram”.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be prying about someone else’s past and trying to dig up details on their misadventures. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us to have a good opinion of people; he warned against the destructive nature of suspicion and spying. He told us, “Beware of suspicion for it is the most deceitful of thought. Do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; Rather, be servants of God as brothers”

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

The prayer of seeking guidance, or Istikhara, is oft cited by those considering marriage. The mistake many make, however, is that we are really wishing for someone else to make the decision for us. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we find it difficult to make any. We hope for a divine sign or a miracle to happen that tells us that the other person is right for us and that we will live happily ever after with them.

Making big life decisions, emotionally prudent ones, is an important life skill that must be learned. These decisions come with inherent risks, uncertainties, and unknowns; there are no guarantees. If you habitually find yourself having a hard time deciding, it is likely due to external factors. It might have something to do with you, it might have something to do with the person you are considering. It is advisable to seek counsel if you are in this situation.

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Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #6: Is it Taboo to Talk About Sex?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Is talking about sex a taboo in Islam? Religiously, not at all. Culturally though, that's a different story.Click To Tweet
On one hand we are completely stone-walling sex or anything related to sex any issues that people can have with sex, and on the other hand we still live in this country, we still have TV, we still have books, we still have the internet, I don’t understand how these two, almost diametrically opposed philosophies on sex can co-exist in one person’s mind. Click To Tweet
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