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The Forgotten Olympic Sized Sunnah of Hijama (Cupping)

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A pink yoga mat is laid out on the hard wood floor. In a crisp white coat Lani*, the hijama practitioner, takes the Made in Korea cupping set that I had pre-ordered online.

We go over the medical and liability forms covering diet, lifestyle, areas of pain, and medical history and hygiene. Lani* was trained by Hijama Nation; she took the friends and family version of the course. This 6 month online course culminated in a trip to their London headquarters where she presented her final paper.

The room is tranquil with the whispers of both patient and practitioner as we make dhikr and recite verses of healing. This is an act of worship.

shutterstock_185650580

Lani puts her hands on my back, praying for healing. “You have poor blood circulation, I will first do a dry cupping massage,” she says as she rubs olive oil on my back. I have had severe lower back ache and a pinched nerve. My first visit to Lani was 3 years ago. I rave about hijama because it is a forgotten Sunnah and have seen the results way before the Olympic craze —glad that it is getting the attention it deserves and hope some of the naysayers may actually give a try because, hey, Micheal Phelps does it.

The hadith that moves many to practice this sunnah is that every group of angels that the Prophet Muhammad passed on the night of the Isra said to tell the Ummah to do Hijama.” (Ibn Majah 3477) Muslims over centuries have always believed that it is their basic right and duty to practice Hijama. It is a forgotten sunnah and needs to be revived.


Muslims over centuries have always believed that it is their basic right and duty to practice Hijama. It is a forgotten sunnah and needs to be revived.


“Hijama” literally means “sucking” or bring something to its normal state. Hijama is the Islamic term used for what is known as “wet cupping”. This form of medicine has been practiced for centuries by many cultures, but Muslim physicians in the Golden Ages researched and refined it into a system.

Cupping is performed in several steps. The most common site for cupping is on the upper back between the shoulder blades, away from veins and arteries; though it can also be performed in other areas. Since I suffer from irregular menstruation, backache and elevated heartbeat, Lani* decides to cup me on the eight sunnah points on my back.

After 3 minutes, she takes the cup off, sanitizing the area, makes small incisions in the skin with a sterile disposable diabetic lancet, and places plastic disposable cup over my skin; repeating the procedure a few times. “People get scared of a razor, so I use this,” she says showing me a prick disguised in a pen. It is noted in al-Bukhari and Muslim that healing is “in the incision of a cupper.”

A sunnah hijama treatment involves the release of stagnant, subcutaneous blood from the point(s) being treated. Blood starts gathering in the cup and coagulates.

Muhib Rahman had hijama therapy done for chronic back pain. He had tried physical therapy and medication but the pain was reoccurring. He leads a physical lifestyle as the founder and trainer at Aqabah Karate, in College Park, MD. “Seventy percent of my pain went away; I don’t know if it was psychological but I felt better,” says Rahman. The effect was not immediate; Rahman says it took a few days to feel relief.

Hesitant about Hijama at first, especially concerned about the training of the person doing the therapy as there are many quacks, he finally received therapy when he was referred to a man who had done hijama on several people in his local community. “I would do it again, but the brother has moved out of state” says Rahman. His wife also had cupping done after childbirth.

Saba Syed’s (Umm Reem’s) move from the East Coast to the Middle East enabled her to get hijama treatment for her carpal tunnel. Her sister, who resides in Saudi Arabia had migraine headaches and had exhausted all medical options. When her sister started getting hijama on her head and stopped needing medication, Saba knew that she had to get it done. “The sister did hijama on some specific areas on my arm and shoulder and just after 2 sessions I was able to actually feel my fingers and the pain went away,” says Saba.

Practitioners say that the benefits of Hijama are many, among them detoxification of blood, stimulation of new blood formation, relieves Inflammation ad congestion. “As we age, we suffer from increased accumulation of toxins, stemming from poor diet and lifestyle, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals in our fruits, vegetables and meat, environmental pollutants and chemicals,” writes Dr. Sohail Qureishi on his Facebook page. He runs a hijama clinic overseas.

Finding a practitioner is one of the hurdles that many people who want to get hijama therapy done face. Most do not advertise or set up clinics as they do not have the necessary state licenses. There is a dire need for a self-regulating agency for hijama ractitioners similar to those that govern the Jewish ritual circumcision practitioners (mohelims). There are other barriers to entry —blood disposal services are very pricey and many Muslims doctors, who can practice it, don’t endorse the therapy due to lack of scientific research.

This is why many practioners only practice it on friends and family. Lani* is a friend of a friend of a friend. She wants to make the sunnah easy on people. She doesn’t charge any money or take any compensation. Although people are urged to follow the sunnah of not charging a set fee, patients are also urged to pay the therapist for their time. Some people take Lani* gifts of local honey & fruits, others present gift cards.

She books her appointments according to the lunar calendar, as each patient is given a time of day that is most beneficial for their treatment.

According to the e-book published by Hijama Nation, “the reason behind practicing Hijama at certain times was that it depends on the gravitational pull and the levels of fluid/water inside the human body at certain times of the month. Just as the moon effects the tide of the ocean, it effects the human body. Therefore, cupping should be performed on odd days of the lunar calendar when the forces of the moons assist in removing the dead blood cells.”

According to hadith, the best time to perform hijama is during the third week of the lunar month. The Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Whoever performs cupping (hijama) on the 17th, 19th or 21st day (of the Islamic month) then it is a cure for every disease.” [Saheeh Abu Dawud].

People who get treatment expecting overnight miracles will be disappointed as hijama is considered a preventative therapy. “If a person in their twenties get treatment every 6 months, they can prevent the onset of diabetes, heart disease etc,” says Qureishi.

Hijama is spiritual healing, a spiritual process more than a physical process, and qualified therapists suggest finding a practitioner who understands the difference. Practioners also use hijama to remove or significantly reduce the impact of possession and black magic, based on the sunnah of the Prophet. It is recommended in the area beneath the neck and in between the shoulders (al-kahil) and the two areas on the neck just beneath the ears (al-ahda’ayn).

3-glass-cups-2

James M. McConnell, is the author of the book Hijama versus Cupping. He believes that hijama should not be practiced without ijaaza as it is ancient religious healing and the healer should be vetted for moral and spiritual mettle. He received his ijaaza in Syria and has been providing Hijama services for free for thousands of people in Virginia. He also gives lessons.

Dr. Zahra Ahmad of the Dar us Salam Clinic does not practice Hijama but says that she does want to learn about it as is it a confirmed Prophetic Tradition. “I just cannot wrap my head around the science, but will make an effort to understand it.”

The Journal of Contemporary Islamic Studies says the future of hijama lies in scientifically grounded studies to elevate it from a folk remedy to a valid therapy.

I know hijama has been a God-sent for my back pain and I hope all the doctors I know get trained in this ancient form of healing.

More hadith on Hijama:

Anas ibn Maalik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger r said, “Indeed the best of remedies you have is cupping (hijama)…” [Saheeh al-Bukhari (5371)].

Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “If there was something excellent to be used as a remedy then it is cupping (hijama).” [Saheeh Sunan abi Dawud (3857), Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah (3476)].

Anas ibn Maalik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger r said, “When the weather becomes extremely hot, seek aid in cupping (hijama). Do not allow your blood to rage (boil) such that it kills you.” [Reported by Hakim in his ‘Mustadrak’ and he authenticated it and Imam ad-Dhahabi agreed (4/212)].

Jaabir ibn Abdullah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure.” [Saheeh Muslim (5706)].

Feature image:hijamalondon.com

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

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amer

    August 12, 2016 at 1:00 AM

    Due to a lack of studies on Hijama in the West it is not very popular, however there seems to be a bunch of published studies in China from what I’ve gathered (in Mandarin though) as it’s pretty popular over there.

    I think it has less to do with the points you pointed out.. bad blood/toxins and the lunar cycle affecting our blood cycle… and more to do with the blessings on the 17th, 19th, and 21…

    But it really is interesting, we gotta ask the Chinese to share their insights on the matter lol.

  2. Avatar

    Aly Balagamwala

    August 12, 2016 at 1:14 AM

    I have been getting cupped on and off for 3-4 years in Karachi where this has seen a revival and more people being trained and more using the service. Results are great. I was getting general points done only and my lower back but this year planning to address some more serious issues.

    Last month I took advantage of a bald head post umrah and got points on my head done and my sinuses and chest immediately felt clear despite suffering from mild bronchitis at that time.

    I plan to work more actively with practicioner from next month to improve symptoms of mild carpal tunnel and asthmaic tendencies in-shaa-Allah.

    • Avatar

      Mahmud

      August 15, 2016 at 12:48 AM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Awesome

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala

        August 30, 2016 at 10:31 AM

        WaAlaikum Assalam Wa Rehmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu

        Indeed….

    • Avatar

      AYEINA

      August 15, 2016 at 9:36 AM

      Indeed. There has been a significant rise in Hijama in Pakistan. Even seen a huge spike in Lahore and Islamabad as well. Alhamdulillah.

  3. Avatar

    Binte Yousuf

    August 12, 2016 at 6:15 AM

    It was just yesterday that I was crying over my sicknesses having tried every form of oral medicine. This comes as a cool breeze and a wonderful reminder! Indeed, Fazakkir Inna Fa’atiz Zikra :) May Allah bless you immensely. I also did some research today and found this useful link – http://www.ummah.co/cupping-therapy-hijama-remedies-from-the-sunnah/

    I have a query which is of urgency. I am not sure if this is the right platform but right now, this is where I can ask. I understand that he Sunnah dates are 17th,19th and 21st of lunar months. And also, Monday, tuesday and thursday are the only days of week when Hijama is beneficial. What if the Sunnah dates (17,19,21) fall on the days of week other than mon,tues and thurs? What should be given the preference. Any answer to this with reference is appreciated.

    • Avatar

      S_

      August 13, 2016 at 5:23 PM

      Preference should be given to (17, 19, 21) of the lunar month. One of these three will indeed fall in Sunnah days as well and it does.

      “Whoever performs Hijama cupping in the 17th, 19th and 21st day (of the Islamic Lunar month), then it is a cure for every disease”. [Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah (3861)].

      Ibn-Sina explained the prevailing thought at that time on the best timing to perform Hijama: “Some authorities advise against the procedure at the beginning of the lunar month, because the humours are not yet on the move or not in a state of agitation; also against performing it at the end of the (lunar) month, because at that period (of the cycle) the humors are less plentiful. The proper time according to them is the middle of the month (when the humors are in a state of agitation) and during the time when the moonlight is increasing (when the humors are on the increase also). During that period the brain is increasing in size within the skull, and the river-water is rising in tidal rivers”.

      Simply only bad/toxic blood will be removed during this time.

    • Avatar

      Yasser Zia

      August 20, 2016 at 2:57 PM

      As salaam alaikum. In our clinic we follow the opinion of Imam Ahmed as reported in Ibn Al-Qayums book “Tibb An-Nabawi” where he said that Hijamah at any time is beneficial.

      You have to be careful not to try to interpret the hadith yourself as some of them conflict with each other.

      See this link for more details:

      http://hijamahworks.com/uploads/3/4/3/1/34311700/4246549_orig.png

  4. Avatar

    Arshad

    August 14, 2016 at 9:28 PM

    Mashallah, sister has written a very good article, I really liked it.

    Though, on a lighter note, which lunar calendar should be followed for 17, 19 & 21 days ?

    • Avatar

      Binte Yousuf

      August 18, 2016 at 12:59 AM

      The normal Islamic lunar calendar!Its Dhul-Qadah right now in lunar calendar

  5. Avatar

    Bahjeh Rizeq

    August 15, 2016 at 11:34 AM

    Assalaamualaikum,

    It’s a great thing to see a beautiful holistic and prophetic therapy being revived all over thr world. I’ve been practicing hijaama in USA (northern VA to be exact) for a little over a year now Alhamdulillah and had the pleasure of serving a wide array of people for their health needs, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

    You can visit my website and social media accounts
    I am also certified and licensed by Hijaama Nation as well as the Pastoral Medical Association.

    http://www.hijaamahealing.com
    Facebook.com/hijaamahealing
    Instagram.com/hijaamahealing

  6. Avatar

    Khalid

    August 17, 2016 at 11:07 AM

    I got hijaamah done in Pakistan recently. الحمد لله it cured my hypertension problem.

  7. Avatar

    Omer

    August 18, 2016 at 7:50 AM

    The act of perfoming Hijama is a Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad صل الله عليه و سلم and it is extensivly reported in a wide collection of authentic ahadith.
    Hijama was a common practice of the Prophet Muhammad صل الله عليه و سلم and his companions for the treatment of a range of ailments as well as a form of body maininance and health promotion.

  8. Avatar

    Yasser

    August 20, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    BarakAllah feek for the research and summary!

    Anyone in a healthcare related profession should seriously consider learning Hijamah. If not for practical use, at least to understand it’s role in health management. Some of the leading online courses are:
    – simply hijama
    – the optimum cure
    – hijama nation
    – ICAHT
    – DIY Dry Cupping (disclosure: I created this course)

    We have been in practice over 5 years and Alhumdulillah have affected the lives of over 1000 people. May Allah accept and grant you shiffa, Ameen.

  9. Avatar

    MA

    August 23, 2016 at 8:01 PM

    There is no scientific evidence for cupping as a medical treatment. Your evidence is largely anecdotal. I would like to see more evidence on that hadith. Seems made up. It could be that the Prophet did use cupping but because it was a medical treatment back then. Science has moved on. So should you.

  10. Avatar

    shaks

    December 3, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    As-Salaam-Alaikum wrwb,
    Can hijama be performed on a new born baby and specially on a baby with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

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#Life

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

covery islam story
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“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.
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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

charity
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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. 

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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

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

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.

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

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