Connect with us

#Islam

Sharia and Reform | Dr Hatem Al-Haj

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Many ‘conservative’ Muslims feel instantly uncomfortable when they hear someone talk about tajdeed (renewal) of the religion. Some of us do this out of fear of the unknown. This is partly because our Ummah suffers from a great deal of weakness and disunity, which fosters an environment of defensiveness and mistrust. However, our fears that stem from the call to tajdeed may not be all unjustifiable. After all, many of the callers to tajdeed of the deen are utterly unqualified for the job.

They dismiss much of the established Sunnah, and defy the definitive implications of the text of revelation with complete disregard for the cumulative tradition. They are quick to dismiss the great jurists of Islam, claiming that they were but a product of their culture and were blindfolded by their biases. It also seems to the ‘conservative’ Muslim that much of the proposed tajdeed is simply an act of unconditional surrender to the mainstream modern culture, making the Divine instruction subject to the influence of people’s relative and changing thoughts and social constructs. However, the problem that may result from our timidity to contribute to this discourse about tajdeed is that others may hijack its banner, and all the people who are frustrated with the condition of the Ummah and yearning for a change will be tempted to follow them.

The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “Indeed, Allah sends for this Ummah, at the onset of every century, those who renew (literally: make tajdeed) of the religion for it.”[1] Therefore, the one who calls for tajdeed should not be denounced, since the first one to utter this term in this context was the Messenger of Allah (saws) himself. Rather, the discussion should revolve around the intended meaning of this tajdeed. Does it only mean ‘restoration’? If it does, why did the Prophet (saws) use it in the sense of ‘renewal’ instead, when there are Arabic words that specifically mean ‘restoration’? Also, ‘restoration’ sounds more suitable for a static structure, like a historic building that you want to bring back to its original beauty. Our deen is a living entity with one spirit, consistent objectives, and overarching maxims, but with a flexible legal framework that can appropriately engage with changing realities. ‘Renewal’ is thus the right word. But if it is about renewal, how can we ‘renew’ the religion? Does this mean we have the liberty to change the Divine instruction?

The default status in the religion is that it remains unchanging, and most of what is meant by ‘renewal’ is actually restoration done simply through reviving that which is original, and cleansing that which is unoriginal, such as the innovations and customs of people which conflict with the revelation. Aside from that, there is another type of renewal, and that is the ijtihâd-based renewal. This is what the scholars refer to by saying, “The change in rulings due to the change in times is not to be denounced.”[2] One example of this was when ‘Umar (ra) prevented al-mu’allafati quloobuhum[3] from receiving their share of zakât when he saw that Allah had empowered Islam and the Muslims during his blessed caliphate. In another instance, ‘Uthmân (ra) commanded during his caliphate that the stray camel be taken, sold, and its price kept for its owner. This was contrary to the original ruling, wherein taking stray camels is prohibited, but it was resorted to because of the moral deterioration that had occurred between the time of the Prophet (saws) and the time of the caliphate of ‘Uthmân (ra). Similarly, it was undisputed among the early Ḥanafi scholars that taking a wage for teaching Qur’an was unlawful; they later consented to allow Qur’an teachers to receive payment when volunteers became few in number – out of fear that knowledge of the Qur’an would be lost.

Did these greats change the legislated ruling? Never that, for the legislation of Allah is not subject to change. Allah, the Most High, says (what means): {They took their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah} (at-Tawbah 9:31), and the Messenger of Allah (saws) explained to ‘Adi ibn Ḥâtim (ra) that this occurred by following them in considering the unlawful as permissible and the permissible as unlawful.[4] Moreover, would this not be exactly what the Messenger of Allah (saws) prohibited when he said: “If anyone introduces into this matter of ours what is not from it, it will be rejected.”[5]?

Therefore, it is impossible that they changed the ḥukm (as it refers to the Divine khiṭâb or instruction), even if some of the scholars used that term, for they only meant the fatwa (religious edict) and not the actual ruling in Sharia. A single act can have two different fatwas because of the variant circumstances in different contextual scenarios.

To further clarify, let us take the example of receiving wages for teaching Qur’an. Its prohibition was a matter of agreement among the early Ḥanafi scholars, but then the practice was permitted by them later on. The question is, were the prohibition and permission with regard to the same thing? It appears that way, but upon taking a closer look, it becomes clear that we cannot equate between accepting a wage for teaching Qur’an at a time when many were enthusiastic about teaching it as an act of devotion (to Allah), and were supported financially from the state treasury, and a time when teachers were no longer sustained by the state treasury. In the latter situation, if they occupied themselves with teaching, their families would be lost, and if they occupied themselves with earning a livelihood, their students would be lost.

Thus, a particular scenario may call for a different set of rulings that suit it, and the mujtahid (the one who engages in ijtihâd) chooses from among them what is most suitable to it. Sometimes, the matter may fall between two rulings or two principles, in which case the judge attributes the matter to whichever of the two it seems closer. Closeness is determined either by technical deductions or through considering the ultimate objectives (maqâṣid) of Sharia, though it is preferred to give precedence to the ultimate objectives. This is obviously pertinent only to rulings which are affected by people’s customs and interests. Regarding this, Imam ash-Shâṭibi (may Allah bestow mercy upon him) said:

Rulings differing whenever customs differ is not really a difference in the Divine instruction itself, for the Sharia was revealed to be permanent and eternal. Hypothetically, were this world to remain without end, and the people remained liable [to uphold the Sharia] as well, the Sharia would not need any additions. In other words, whenever customs change, they would fall under another [different] principle of Sharia that would govern them…”[6]

In the example of taking wages for teaching the Qur’an, the first of the two principles was that there was no intention other than (the pleasure of) Allah in acts of devotion – and this supported the view of impermissibility in the first era; and the second was to preserve the Qur’an by teaching it to youngsters – and this supported the view of permissibility in the second era. The ijtihâd-based renewal considers the change of time and place, not because they are in themselves consequential to the rulings, but because they are vehicles of different circumstances that may be consequential to those rulings.

Some Practical Examples of Tajdeed

Sometimes we need to reexamine not only the rulings but the very terms we use, since the similarity of the name does not necessarily mean similarity of the named. For example, the prohibition of making a ṣoorah (translated as ‘picture’) of any being that can be said to have a soul: is this prohibition applicable to a photograph by virtue of the two things having a name in common in Arabic? Not likely. This still does not mean that they cannot share the same ruling. However, the prohibition of photographs (if one is so inclined) must be reached through analogy, and only if it meets the requirements.

Was war during the time of the Prophet like war is today? Lexically speaking, yes. However, we must ask ourselves if the one-on-one confrontation of thousands of individual soldiers sparring in a battlefield is like the mass and indiscriminate devastation that ensues from modern war. Should the difference be consequential? Should it make war an even remoter last resort? Did the early Muslims fight for humanity or against it? We are sure they fought and sacrificed their lives to achieve the cause of Divine justice and to liberate humanity from tyranny, to afford people the right to worship their Lord. If so, will the fact that most nations allow their subjects freedom of religion be consequential?

When the Prophet prohibited women from travelling alone, was travel then like travel now? Would a difference be consequential? It would, at least according to the scholars who rule as acceptable travelling with a safe company; they must have understood that there is some identifiable ‘illah (effective cause) for the prohibition. Sometimes, erudite scholars will even make the well-defined ḥikmah (wisdom/ultimate rationale) consequential to the rulings. Some may claim that, using the same rationale, we may also do away with hijab or the rules of proper conduct between the two sexes, since the human community has matured and it is safer for women to go out in whichever attire they please. This would be in defiance of the clear text and of the unchanging human nature as well. The Islamic rules of modesty were to protect women, men, and entire societies from an avalanche of evil that would result from failure to observe them. It must be also observed that the societies of the modern and ‘civilized’ humans of the twenty-first century, when compared to societies of earlier eras, are not experiencing lower rates of infidelity, family breakdown, rape, or psychological disorders related to sex. There is no level of education or cultural sophistication that has proved to be protective against any of these ills.

This religion has immense vitality, so there will never be a time where the mujtahideen fail at finding solutions for newly emerged challenges. All over the world, the change in living standards and conditions in the last two centuries has been immense. Some of these changes have had an enormous impact on family dynamics. In today’s world, if a woman had decided to stay at home for the interest of the family, and after forty years of marriage her husband divorces her, should he walk away with all of the family’s savings because it is ‘his’ money? Should she get half of it? What if this happened after only two years of marriage? Would that discourage many men from getting married? Is there a point of moderation between those two ends? The Sharia has in fact provided a solution, albeit controversial in this case, yet authentic and also supported by the apparent implication of the Qur’an, where Allah says (what means), {And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous.} (al-Baqarah 2:241) This provision is called mut‘ah, which may be translated as ‘bereavement gift’ or alimony. If we employ this provision and make it sizeable and commensurate with the duration of marriage and the socioeconomic status of the family, we can have a legitimate solution for a new challenge.

Some people may argue that the same changes of our world should warrant a change to the laws of inheritance. This would not fall under tajdeed (renewal), but rather tabdeed (annihilation). This is a fixed law in the revelation. It is explicitly stated. It is not contingent upon the customs and interests of people. Women do not always take half of what men take. This is only true in certain cases. However, if you make the proportion of inheritance equal in all cases, you must also relieve the men from their responsibilities towards the women of their households and kin. While certain people (not necessarily Muslims) may find this to be acceptable during different times or eras, it defies the distribution of roles that Allah has designated based on innate differences between the sexes that are not subject to change. Such a suggestion would have been absurd to Westerners in the nineteenth century, and still is to many people throughout the world.

At times, we have conflicting scholarly positions. Some opinions may be indispensable in our times, even if they are counter to the majority position. When there is nothing definitive in the Quran and the Sunnah to prevent us from choosing to go with an opinion that provides a solution to a contemporary problem, we ought to. For example, in the past, the jurists differed regarding the methods by which a claim is established in the Islamic judiciary. Some limited it to whatever has been explicitly stated in, or extracted from, the revealed texts. Others widened the circle of evidences to include whatever reveals the truth and paves the way for justice. For this reason, basing rulings on qarâ’in (corroborative evidences) was a matter of debate among the jurists.

The difference today is that forensic science has evolved to such a degree that judicial systems throughout the world are extremely reliant on it. Law experts call this type of evidence ‘tangible proof,’ and despite it being considered a largely modern phenomenon, it still falls under corroborative evidences. The question is, where should the Islamic judiciary stand regarding forensic science? Should it benefit from it? Should this benefit be limited to guiding the criminal investigator and enlightening the judge with important details of the crime? Or should these evidences be used by the judge, whenever they qualify, even in the absence of the customary evidences known to Islamic jurisprudence such as the testimony of witnesses, admissions, oaths, and nukool (refusal to take an oath).

I believe that a reasoned incorporation of the tangible evidences in what counts as admissible proofs is completely warranted. This was the position of luminaries like Ibn al-Qayyim[7], Ibn Taymiyyah[8], and Ibn Farḥoon[9], and of the remaining Mâlikis, in addition to Ibn al-Ghars[10] of the Ḥanafis, and some Ḥanbalis[11]. The use of qarâ’in is emphatically not like redefining the admissible proofs or equating the testimony of women in financial matters to that of men. These actions would be in defiance of a clear text, while using corroborative evidences is not. There is reason to believe that there are specific differences between men and women that made the testimony of two women equal to that of one man in financial matters, while a woman’s testimony is of the same or higher value than a man’s in other areas, such as childbirth and breastfeeding.

Sometimes we create rigidity, and fear of ‘walking away’ from what we created. Neither the Prophet (saws) nor ‘Umar[12] (ra) decreed that the tarâweeḥ prayer should be done in congregation, or that it should be eight or twenty raka‘ât or that one juz’ ought to be completed every night. In fact, Imam Mâlik and Imam ash-Shâfi‘i consider it superior if tarâweeḥ prayers are done at home. Yet today, we adhere to a particular number of raka‘ât in tarâweeḥ and/or a specific length for its recitation, without this being binding on us. Now, with the time for ‘ishâ’ starting very late in North America and other extremely northern or extremely southern lands during the summer, and the many differences between the era of the Companions and our own, should we adhere to a particular format for the tarâweeḥ when none has been designated by Allah, His Messenger, or even any of the Companions? Should there be more time for reflection in the local language over the meanings of what is being recited? Should there be more time left for socialization and creating a bond between the ‘Ramadan only’ congregants and their local masjid? I believe all of this is warranted. On the other hand, if someone said that we should do away with the tarâweeḥ prayers in congregation, then he would be calling for the cessation of an agreed-upon practice that has been ongoing since the time of ‘Umar (ra). Once again, that is not in any way a form of tajdeed.[13]

Some people want, via tajdeed, to diminish the role of the Sharia in guiding humanity. We believe that beyond the domain of worship and family law, the Sharia already leaves enough room for human thought and creativity, and it only provides guidelines and milestones to prevent people from being victims of their own and others’ prejudices, biases, and excesses. We do believe, however, that this general guidance is much needed by humanity. We believe that the Sharia must contribute to the discourse on contemporary issues such as corporate ethics, bioethics, environmentalism, and so on. This is an important aspect of the tajdeed we seek.

In the attempts by Muslim countries to re-normalize Islam’s position in the public sphere, they will have to answer many questions. In fact, we have to develop a new fiqh that is conscious of the new world we live in: again, without departing from the objectives of the law or the constants of the revelation. The relationship between the ruler and the ruled must be re-evaluated. The consensus reported about the prohibition of rebellion against the oppressive ruler must be re-examined – at least, its modern implications.[14] If we were to accept it, we must ask whether it applies to a sectarian effort to topple a ruler or a popular uprising by the nation. Would it apply to populist revolutions, even if they were unarmed? What if it were supported by ahl ul-ḥall wal-‘aqd?[15] Is there an effective alternative to end the tyrannical regimes that have become a signature characteristic of the Muslim countries?

What about the caliphate we reminisce about? Is it a central, federal, or confederal government? What is the plausibility of that? Could the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) serve that purpose, if it took gradual steps towards becoming more like the European Union, allowing willing Muslim and non-Muslim states to join – if they wish to? Denying Muslim countries the right to seek some form of unity and denouncing the very concept of the caliphate is simply succumbing to outside pressure. This is not a genuine tajdeed in the interest of Islam and the Muslims. On the other hand, expecting a return of an Abbasid-style caliphate is a form of rigidity that is bound to impede any progress towards Muslim unity.

The presence of large Muslim minorities in non-Muslim lands is not a recent phenomenon. However, the concepts of nation-states and secular governments are relatively new. There is a pressing need to normalize – and harmonize – the relationship between those minorities and their respective countries. This effort is a major part of the needed ijtihâd-based tajdeed. We need an authentic and realistic formula to reconcile between their religious allegiance and national belonging. Muslims in non-Muslim countries must not be seen as a Trojan horse or potential traitors by their compatriots, and they should not be that.

Finally, this ijtihâd-based renewal, which does not apply to ritual acts of worship or constants of our Sharia like the kaffârât (expiations), can only be exercised by the most distinguished mujtahid scholars of each era. If the matter is left to those who have not reached this degree of ijtihâd, the religion would fall into peril and be subject to distortion, and the enormity committed by non-scholars who engage in this is beyond needing to be mentioned. This involves the greatest calamity: forging lies about Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – and speaking about Him without knowledge. Allah (st) said (what means): {And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.} (al-Isrâ’ 17:36)

Therefore, what is required is the reunion between theory and practice, in light of the ijtihâd that preserves the constants but accommodates the changing variables. This is what existed during the days of the rightly-guided caliphate, and it is what enabled the Ummah to accommodate the Persian, Roman, Nabataean, Kurdish, Coptic, Berber, and other cultures which led to a civilizational, developmental, and cultural birth that has never been matched in the history of this world. All of that occurred without the religion itself being tainted with any distortion. But when this vigilant ijtihâd vanished, and that was specifically around the middle of the Abbasid era, the gap between theory and practice began widening until Muslim society became divided into groups: people of extravagance that have no care for religion; Sufis who mostly fled the trials of life by escaping into spirituality and monasticism – and some to mysticism – in search of what would satisfy their souls’ longing for truth; withdrawn scholars who were fixated upon serving the texts and literature; and masses that became lost when their leaders lost their compass. Correspondingly, there remained a scarcity of God-fearing scholars, committed to the spirit and letter of the deen, to purifying the interior (actions of the heart) and upholding the law, true beacons of light that – by Allah’s bounty – no era in the life of this Ummah may be void of. They are those who remained fighting to revive the true teachings of Islam that have been subverted by heedlessness and corrupted customs, and make these teachings guide the life of the Ummah once again.

I hope that some of the examples mentioned above clarify, to some extent, what I mean by tajdeed. Some readers may justifiably ask what my role is in this effort. It is understandable that ijtihâd-based tajdeed is the lot of the mujtahideen. However, the public can always engage in the restorative tajdeed. It is also the public that will establish foundations and institutions to foster ijtihâd-based tajdeed. If we are still struggling to build masjids, when might we have endowments that could support independent and authentic research institutes?

Let the revival begin by individual repentance, purification of the hearts and intentions, learning the religion from its pristine sources, commitment to righteousness and correctness, and finally, a discerning ijtihâd that allows the Sharia to continue its role in showing humanity a balanced and holistic path to success in this world and the one to come.

[1] Collected by Abu Dâwood and al-Ḥâkim, who authenticated it on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. Sunan Abi Dâwood, verified by Muhammad Muhyid-Deen ‘Abdil-Hameed. Dâr al-Fikr, 4/109.

[2] Majallat al-Ahkaam al-‘Adliyyah, Article 39. This was also stipulated in different wordings by some of the most erudite scholars of Uṣool, such as Ibn al-Qayyim, ash-Shâṭibi, ash-Shawkâni, and others.

[3] Al-mu’allafati quloobuhum (at-Tawbah 9:60) are new or non-Muslims whose hearts the Muslims hope to win over.

[4] Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubrâ (10/116) in the chapter on [The Manners of the Judge, and What the Judge Rules By], Mecca: Dâr al-Bâz, 1414H.

[5] Ṣaḥeeḥ al-Bukhâri (2/959) in the chapter on [Treaties: Agreeing Upon Unfair Terms Nulls the Treaty], Beirut: Dâr Ibn Katheer wal-Yamâmah, (3rd ed., 1407H) – and Ṣaḥeeḥ Muslim (3/1343) in the chapter on [Verdicts: Nulling False Rulings and Rejecting Innovations], Beirut: Dâr Ihyâ’ at-Turâth al-‘Arabi.

[6] Al-Muwâfaqât by ash-Shâtibi. Verified by ‘Abdullâh Drâz, Beirut: Dâr al-Ma‘rifah, 2/217.

[7] See his books I‘lâm al-Muwaqqi‘een and aṭ-Ṭuruq al-Ḥukmiyyah.

[8] See the two previous books, in addition to al-Inṣâf (10/233) by al-Mirdâwi, al-Furoo‘ (6/85) by Ibn Mufliḥ, and as-Siyâsah ash-Shar‘iyyah (p. 136) by Ibn Taymiyyah.

[9] See his book Tabṣirat al-Ḥukkâm fee Uṣool al-Aqḍiyah wa Manâhij al-Aḥkâm: the second section, regarding the types of evidences.

[10] See Hâshiyat Ibn ‘Âbideen, 5/354.

[11] These are mentioned in order of the strength of their support for the use of qarâ’in and the scope of its use in their ijtihâd.

[12] ‘Umar (ra) found the Companions praying in the masjid in small groups, so he simply brought them together and had Ubayy lead them in prayer. Many of the ṣaḥâbah continued to pray at home. Some of them, including Ibn ‘Umar, considered it inferior if done at the masjid in congregation.

[13] An even more absurd suggestion we have heard is to make the tarâweeḥ start before ‘ishâ’.

[14] The first one to report it was Ibn Mujâhid al-Baṣri (d. 370 AH). It was contested by many scholars. Ibn Mujahid (raḥimahullah) was a resident of Basra, a city deeply traumatized two centuries earlier by the defeat of Ibn al-Ash’ath, which cost it the lives of many of its eminent scholars in their fight against the Umayyads. One may ask if there is a basis in the Revelation that made them agree on this edict in the fourth century AH. If there is, how could it have been missed by all of the previous generations of the righteous predecessors and suddenly become so clear to them? If this agreement was based on reasoning related to public interest, which is most likely, then as Shaykh Shaltoot points out, such is the only consensus that may be abrogated by another upon the change of circumstances.

[15] Literally, ‘the people of authority.’ They are the elites, somewhat equivalent to today’s ‘representatives of the people,’ or the ‘senate.’ Traditionally, they were the princes, scholars, tribal chiefs, leaders of the army and various professions.

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Dr. Hatem Al-Haj has a PhD in Comparative Fiqh from al-Jinan University. He is a pediatrician, former Dean of the College of Islamic Studies at Mishkah University, and a member of the permanent Fatwa Committee of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muhammad Siddique

    August 8, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    An absurd article cloaked in pseudo-scholarship. Any reputable Muslim scholar knows that the reality has to conform to Islam and not Islam to the reality. All those early people like the Arabs, Persians, Romans, Africans, People of the Sub-Continent, upon accepting Islam, became part of the Islamic culture. Even the non-Muslims residing in the Muslim lands during those times identified themselves as the citizens of the Islamic State, their culture was Islam, their religion whatever it may be. This “scholar” needs to look up the definition of culture, Parsons offers a good definition, but any good sociology textbook might do. I am most disappointed with Muslim Matters for publishing this rubbish non-sense on their site. When majority of the Muslims the world over are calling for Shariah in the Muslim lands and unity based on the Islamic ruling system, the Khilafah,(and are dying and being oppressed in record number doing that), this author has the nerve to suggest EU like union. Has he been sleeping through the Brexit? And the ensuing EU crisis? He finds the return to the Rightly Guided Khilafahs constraining when Rasul Allah (saaw) has categorically told the Muslims to emulate them.

    • Avatar

      BA MT

      August 8, 2016 at 4:22 PM

      You know, you can get your point across without being so insulting. That’s what a true person of knowledge would have done, but clearly you are not so I don’t blame you.

      You are wrong about the allegation of conformity of others to the Islamic Culture. And the term “Islamic Culture” is a loaded term that even you – the one who’s arguing for it – can’t define. So your whole argument is moot.

      Peace.

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 8:39 AM

        Culture is a binding knot that holds a people together and is transmitted from one generation to the next. Talcott Parson gets into further details of norms, customs, beliefs and so on. Islamic Culture emanates from an idea about life and a method to implement that idea in life, i.e., the Islamic ideology. I was not insulting but was harsh in my comment because I found the article insulting. It is couched in a language that may make it sound sophisticated or “intellectual” but end of the day there is nothing here.

        • Avatar

          Hamayoun

          May 27, 2019 at 12:57 AM

          Salam, have you ever met Sheikh Hatem? Have you sat with him and discussed shariah? Have you studied at the same level as him? If not, then kindly do not refer to his writings as “pseudo-scholarship”. I have met him (he lives in my state), and talked to him about issues, and know and recognize his genuine scholarship.

    • Avatar

      Mohammed

      August 8, 2016 at 8:57 PM

      It’s very evident that you have completely missed the point of the article. The author is not suggesting that we completely change Islam to ‘conform’ to anything. To the contrary, he repeatedly speaks against changing the constants in our deen. Additionally, if you had read this article with an open mind and at the same time understood the role of the Khilafa then you would have had no problem in entertaining this concept of a union like entity.

      Please enlighten yourself by knowing that Dr. Hatem is not the first and last scholar to suggest such an understanding.

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 8:21 AM

        One of these constants is the ruling system in Islam, namely Khilafah. It is one of the greatest obligations of Islam. The “union like entity” is an innovation and does not come from Islam. OIC was a Western idea, most likely the British because they used their agent, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, to establish it and thereby tried to control Muslim voices calling for Shariah and justice and OIC has only diverted Muslim energies to fruitless endeavors, an organization led by despots and dictators and the worst among the Muslim Ummah. Understanding the reality of Muslims today requires deep thought in light of the Quran, Sunnah, Ijmah as Sahabah, our history and the knowledge of the many plots by our enemies against Islam and the Muslim Ummah. Khilafah is the only option that allows the Muslims the world over and the weak, ill treated, oppressed and the Non-Muslims a hope not constrained by limits of human reason and abilities because this ruling system comes from The Creator of all, Allah (swt).

    • Avatar

      Abu Abbaad

      August 9, 2016 at 11:54 AM

      “Therefore, what is required is the reunion between theory and practice, in light of the ijtihâd that preserves the constants but accommodates the changing variables. This is what existed during the days of the rightly-guided caliphate, and it is what enabled the Ummah to accommodate the Persian, Roman, Nabataean, Kurdish, Coptic, Berber, and other cultures which led to a civilizational, developmental, and cultural birth that has never been matched in the history of this world. All of that occurred without the religion itself being tainted with any distortion.”

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 7:45 AM

        What are the constants and variables in Islam? Is Islam some mathematics or science course? Islam is a complete way of life. It has systems that govern life: political system, economic system, social and cultural systems. The role of the human mind is to understand the revelation (Quran and Sunnah) by confining the mind totally to it. Islam does not allow the human mind to wander in the implementation and aims of Shariah. In sciences and administration, the human intellect can be imaginative. Furthermore, Islam has a unique culture (a binding knot), that is transmitted from one generation to the next. Rasul Allah (saaw) has said, “Islam dominates and nothing dominates Islam.” Islam does not accommodate other cultures, it aims to conquer peoples hearts and minds, and the conquered become part of the Islamic culture. No ideology in the world can risk accommodating other cultures because by its very nature, ideology is comprehensive and seeks expansion and domination, otherwise it will wither and die. The civilizations you have mentioned like the Persians, the Romans, were conquered by the Muslims, and upon accepting the Islamic ideology, they became part of the Islamic culture that emanates from the Quran and Sunnah.

  2. Avatar

    Altaf Ghori

    August 8, 2016 at 11:14 PM

    I agree with you a 100% Dr. Hatem. Nicely written article that totally makes sense!!!!

  3. Avatar

    Baraa

    August 9, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    An excellent article and thought provoking article. May Allah bless and preserve Sheikh Hatem.

  4. Avatar

    Spirituality

    August 9, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I think it’s very useful in this case to know a little bit about the author of this article. I hate to say it, but some MM articles are written by authors without much Islamic knowledge and scholarship. This is not the case here….

    (Info below from his website):

    Short Bio
    Dr. Hatem al Haj
    Degrees Islamic
    PhD in Comparative Fiqh from al-Jinan University, Tripoli, Lebanon, Grade: summa cum laude
    (excellent). Master’s Degree in Islamic law (Sharee’a) from the American Open University, Grade: summa
    cum laude (excellent).

    Medical
    Board Certification in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics.
    M.B., CH.B. (Equivalent to MD) Graduated with Honors from Alexandria University Medical School, Alexandria, Egypt
    Jobs
    Currently, Dean of the College of Islamic Studies (English) – Mishkah University.
    Currently, Attending Pediatrician (Part-time).
    Memberships
    Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA), Member of the Permanent Fatwa Committee
    The Building Blocks of Islam, President of the BOT.
    North American Imam Federation (NAIF), Member
    American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow

  5. Avatar

    someone

    August 10, 2016 at 7:37 PM

    salaam alaykom

    ma-sha-Allah. a very nice article and informative.

    first I am surprised, as to the rhetoric used in the article….I did not truly know to what extent one could talk about such things…..I’m talking from my memory bank now, as I read the article a couple of days ago now! secondly it is truly humbling to read, as even though Allah’s knowledge compared to ours as humans is like an ocean and ours being a drop from the beak…etc. and also remembering the trees and the 7?! oceans +, but as to why it humbled me, and perhaps it is not right to say, as to make my self look even more foolish, but let me just say…majority went right over my head…..Subhan al-Aleem. and has made me ponder many things, so jezak Allah kul khair.

    may I ask a question?….there must be a body of ulema in the world, but as we are so divided and sorry for saying so, but back to question if I may, to what extent to they have an influence when they gather? and with the above mentioned and perhaps I do not understand many things…etc, but what do they discuss?…and are they our great ones working behind the shadows, like satan and his allies doing the same too?..with the latters being the opposite of the great ones obviously…..

    with that said, with out any disrespect to any scholar or aalim these days, and may be it is just me but we the average day muslims can not get access to the hiers of the prophets!….internet..is truly not a good place, I’m sure it is aware?…..’ask the sheik’ days in institutions and masajid would be a great thing to see? any kind of easier access to be made available! (i.e. allotted times)..even though that is not any solution but I am glad to put something forward, but I suppose satans now know…..!!! no matter what la yaseebna ila ma katib lina Allah……

    peace unto you

  6. Avatar

    someone

    August 10, 2016 at 7:42 PM

    sorry I meant by the rhetoric about current day events and politics……

    is there any where one could direct one to find out where one can find what is politically correct to say and what is not?..because sorry wrong place but I hate homosexuality and paedophilia and whether that is a crime as long as it is not a sin to say I do not like the actions of them- I really do not care! and just to add if I may- hate the sin but not the sinner…..

  7. Avatar

    Omer

    October 22, 2016 at 2:21 AM

    Excellent Article. .Very Well Written!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.
Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Continue Reading

Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

charity
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

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. 

1. 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. 

2. 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

3. 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. 

dardir

4. 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

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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

9. 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.

10. 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. 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Continue Reading

#Islam

He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Continue Reading

Trending