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Infidelity and Misplaced Blame in the Muslim Community | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

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Infidelity is a major topic that too often, like many other embarrassing elements of our community, gets brushed under the rug. Imams routinely have to deal with couples where one spouse is being unfaithful. I don’t believe that it’s a greater epidemic in the Muslim community than society at large, but it is probably almost just as bad.

It is estimated that roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage (Buss & Shackelford 1997). Just like with any community, there are unique complications and considerations when dealing with an issue of this nature. In our community, we have the following :

A. As a defense mechanism, the cheating spouse will often talk his/her spouse down and belittle them in order to deflect from their own major sin while also gaining sympathy from the onlookers.

Under the influence of cultures that place unfair expectations and blame on the wife, many women are likely to be blamed for not keeping their husbands happy, even at times by their own families. This approach, of course, is completely devoid of any Islamic precedent or Prophetic tradition. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) never chastised the spouse of an adulterer for not doing enough to stop them from cheating.

According to John and Julie Gottman’s 40 years of marital research, there is one common denominator that tends to begin the cascade toward betrayal in a marriage: When one spouse attempts to connect with the other and the other spouse turns away from this while negatively comparing, this is the first step toward betrayal. A negative comparison sounds something like this, “Who needs this frustration? I could do so much better with someone else.” This type of belittling and justification, while imagining oneself as innocent, deteriorates trust and starts people on the downward spiral toward infidelity.

B. Often, men who are unfaithful will try to “right the wrong” by marrying the person they were unfaithful with, at times without even fulfilling the requirements of a marriage. This is where the all too common “secret” second wife comes into the picture.

Or many men ditch the first wife and make it seem like the woman they were cheating with just came into the picture. Alas, even the most practicing Muslims will forsake all principles and beliefs regarding Islamic marriage— holding weird Skype Nikahs — without the most basic conditions of a marriage contract being met. They will continue to beat up on the first spouse for “making them do it.”

The very idea of a secret marriage defeats the purpose. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to publicize the marriage for so many different reasons. One of them is that the man with a secret second wife often may have seven or eight other “second wives.” In a very awkward scenario that I witnessed a few years ago, a brother in the community sought the help of an Imam to pursue a sister who was secretly married to that very same Imam.

In looking at the research, how many affairs become lasting relationships? Dr. Frank Pittman, an expert on treating affairs, found that the divorce rate of those who marry the person they were unfaithful with is 75%. What was the major reason for these divorces? A lack of trust. How can you trust someone who chose to be with you by cheating on someone they had previously committed to?

Can’t Cheat Allah

A piece of advice to the brothers and sisters who are cheating on their spouses: There is no justification for adultery, and victim shaming here won’t save you from being held accountable by Allah on the Day of Judgment. No human being will bear the burden of another on the Day of Judgment. Seeking validation from backward cultural elements or friends that are just as unfaithful as you won’t change the creed.

Allah says in the Quran in Surah Al-‘Isrā’ 17:32

17_32

And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.

In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “The one who cheats is not one of us.” (Sahih Muslim).

Nothing that started with the deception of Shaytan will suddenly gain the blessing of Allah. If you were unfaithful, you need to sincerely seek forgiveness from your Creator and the people you’ve hurt with your infidelity. You need to fully accept blame for your sin, and start taking the necessary steps to try to fix things.

Heard It Through the Grapevine- Churning the Rumor Mill

A piece of advice to people who immerse themselves in rumors, there is nothing more sacred than a chaste person’s dignity or honor. Yes, there are many that are guilty of the crimes above. But to wrongly accuse one person is enough of a sin in the hereafter to doom you. I’m all for transparency and calling out these social ills, but I reject falsely projecting them on people without proper evidence.

Too Close for Comfort

A piece of advice to those who are starting to get too close and comfy with another person at work or school. The adultery of the private parts is the most severe manifestation of it, but you may already be committing adultery with your tongues, eyes, and hands. Even if you’re not physically cheating yet, you may already be emotionally cheating on your spouse. Don’t walk the footsteps of shaytan to a place of no return. Cut it off before it goes any further.

According to Dr. Shirley Glass, the dynamics of emotional infidelity result in sexual relationships in 80% of cases. Substituting emotional intimacy, friendship and empathy with someone else other than your spouse is not a “platonic” relationship; it is seeking one of the most essential aspects of a marriage outside of it.

Graced By A Cold Shoulder

And most importantly, a piece of advice to those who have been cheated on by their spouses and unjustly blamed for not doing a good enough job to stop your spouse from cheating. It is not your fault that he/she couldn’t save themselves from their lowly desires. Allah will not punish you in the hereafter, even if society unjustly does in this world. Even if you have made mistakes, no mistake justifies your spouse making THAT mistake. Don’t internalize society’s backwardness or your spouse’s devilish taunts.

Rise above it all.

Imam Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at SMU (Southern Methodist University). He is also the Resident Scholar at Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square. He holds a Bachelors in Accounting, a Bachelors in Islamic Law, a Masters in Islamic Finance, a Masters in Political History, and is currently pursuing a Phd. in Islamic Thought and Civilization from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

71 Comments

71 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mr H

    August 25, 2016 at 12:52 AM

    I’m sorry to say but it sounded only like men cheat on their spouses (though the article is written unbiasely, the examples are only of the men).

    In order for this discussion to go anywhere, it has to be fair to both genders.

    • Avatar

      Mrs. B

      August 25, 2016 at 6:28 AM

      Mr.H
      Seriously ? Thats what you got out of this artical ? Do you not get the point of the advices given. If you’re a male or a femake take this whole artical like if the person was talking personally to you. Naseehat is the best thing for a persons soul and mind. May Allah swt guide us and protect us from evil

    • Avatar

      sK

      August 25, 2016 at 9:47 AM

      there was a point about a woman who was second wife to an imam and another guy seeking to make her his second wife. Which makes her also “cheating.” Regardless of the examples used, the point of the article isn’t to “be fair ” to the adulterers, it is to guide all Muslims in such situations, and help us avoid them in the future inshallah.

    • Avatar

      Maliha

      August 25, 2016 at 9:47 AM

      And how exactly did you come up with that conclusion? Read again!

    • Avatar

      Nur

      August 25, 2016 at 1:25 PM

      Mr H.

      He’s talking about marriage. Ofcourse it’s male. Polygamy is commonly practiced in Islam. Duh..

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      August 31, 2016 at 10:47 AM

      Salaam Aleikum brothers and sisters. I would like to thank the brother for writing on this very sensitive topic.
      After reading all the comments to this post, Allow me to add some advice to that already suggested.
      In order to lead happier and successful lives as Muslims, we need to focus on what is the greatest thing in our lives! The goal of our existence. If you get this right, many things become clearer. Allah has allowed us to inflict misery on our own souls and those of our loved ones because we have prioritized the life of this world and its pleasures over the hereafter ”And Allah will never change a condition of a people until when they change what is within themselves.” Quran 13:11. We need to change our attitude and when we do Allah will in turn make our path clearer! You may be a little sad today, a bit poor tomorrow but if you remember Allah always , the indiscretions and justifications of others will never confuse you about the love Allah has for you as an individual and you will never lose hope of success in the hereafter. So if you have been treated unfairly today, just use this trial to come closer to Allah…..on the day of judgement, you may even be happy you got treated in this way….”Remember Me and I will remember you….” Quran 2:152. Allah promised you in the holy Quran! And the promise of Allah is true.I wish you all the love and Mercy and Guidance of Allah. For He is Often forgiving most merciful.

      • Avatar

        M

        December 6, 2016 at 12:22 PM

        I agree with you! We focus on this dunyia.

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        Mohamed Ali

        December 7, 2016 at 3:55 AM

        JazakAllahu kheyr brother Haroon
        You are 100% right, if we only be able to remember Allah often, Thank Him more for all his blessings, and not lose the purpose of our existence it will be easier to lead our life InchAllah.
        May Allah guide us, May Allah remember us in whatever way, to not despair of His mercy, to repent continuously to Him for our mistakes. May Allah forgive us all our sins, make us better people, light of guidance for others, protect us from the punishment of the grave, protect us from the fire and admit us in Jannah.
        May Allah soften our hearts and protect us from being Ignorant, from the fitna, form our desires.
        Peace and blessing upon the Last Messenger Muhammad, his family and his companions and upon all the Prophets and Messengers.
        Amin

    • Avatar

      Mr I

      December 6, 2016 at 10:52 AM

      You sound guilty bro

    • Avatar

      Linda

      December 6, 2016 at 8:04 PM

      He does say spouse, but he also states that a man keeps a secret wife. It is much easier for a man to gain that second spouse, than it would be for a woman. Without nitpicking the issue, the point he is trying to make is, don’t do it. Commit yourself to your spouse and work on making that union one that is for the sake of Allah.

  2. Pingback: Infidelity and Misplaced Blame in the Muslim Community | Imam Omar Suleiman - MuslimMatters - What is Infidelity

  3. Avatar

    sumaira Rasheed

    August 25, 2016 at 3:48 AM

    Islam religion is the name of peace. All blames on Muslims are wrong.

  4. Avatar

    Mrs A

    August 25, 2016 at 9:02 AM

    Very comprehensive article with amazing advice.
    May Allah protect all of us from fitna
    Ameen

  5. Avatar

    Sadaf Afshan

    August 25, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    The fact that four wives are allowed in Islam is often misused as an excuse to cheat . Unfortunately, even practicing Muslim men justify adultery by portraying that they are simply looking (albeit secretly) for a second spouse to “follow the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH”, rather than admitting to the grave sin of zina. It has been rightly stated in the article that zina is not limited to physical relations but is also committed by the tongue, hands and eyes.
    Very often, men who indulge in adultery also act as martyrs who are trying to help a damsel in distress (rather than giving in to their desires) and it seems that the only way that they can do so is by putting their own wife in distress.
    It’s true that adultery is not limited to men but it’s most often seen that men are more likely to give in to their desires, especially since they can play the second wife card. May Allah SWT protect our families and keep us away from this grave sin.

    • Avatar

      M.

      August 25, 2016 at 9:49 AM

      BEAUTIFULLY ELABORATED

  6. Avatar

    Barbara Sarah Filaih

    August 25, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    Many Muslim men use the excuse of following the Sunnah by ‘taking a second wife’ usually someone they met in a haram way. Some men abandon their families dumping them on welfare and shacking up with the other woman. This behaviour is ignored by Imams after all these ‘brothers’ are ‘following the Sunnah.’ This could be labelled ‘Al la carte’ Sunnah – marrying a younger woman. I have yet to hear of a Muslim man including some English speaking scholars marrying either divorced or widowed sisters. I live in Ireland – there are now several divorced sisters. The Muslims like to brag that they came to Ireland in the 1950’s, to however there are no counselling or marriage guidance services. Many reverts are bullied into marrying ‘good men’ whom they hardly know. There are no real background checks done, nobody really knows whether they have a criminal record or even a wife & family in their ‘home countries.’

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      August 25, 2016 at 3:23 PM

      Y o u said that so right on the nail.
      And the same applies for women too. I had a so-called friend that was two-timing. Cut her off like a bad growth, I did.
      Many of the reverts- as you said- are bullied into marriages with people whim they know nothing about, except that this one says “he/she is a good brother/sister you should marry them.”
      Then get into it and find out everything isn’t what they were lead on to be. It’s worse for widowed and divorced reverts, of any gender. Culturally, it’s a disgusting occurrence that of someone is actually a good Muslim by heart and deed, but no longer married, they’re only less than 10% as good as an unmarried person, even if that person has questionable lifestyle or habits. Allah guide us..

    • Avatar

      Jamiela

      August 28, 2016 at 4:36 PM

      This is an unfortunate situation. I think a thorough ‘ background check’ is neccessary before marriage, including a bloodtest, you cannot be too careful thesedays. Background checks can be tricky because people dont want to defame another Muslim and information is always biased. Sometimes you have to do your best and ask the Almighty for guidance. If all the important requirements are there in a partner and just say Biesmillah, in the name of Allah. You would have done your best and whatever comes your way is God’s will.

  7. Avatar

    Abdullah

    August 25, 2016 at 11:13 AM

    Mr.H is indeed correct. Though the author didn’t directly say men are the only culprits, his one-sided usage of examples and pronouns might reflect that. Truly, for this issue to be discussed properly and objectively, one needs to address both sides without feeling the need to be unnecessarily sensitive to one demographic over the other. Any article that discusses the general concept of infidelity must not create assumptions of one gender’s guilt over the other.

    This article should have been more objective and not the characteristic “people-pleasing” article generated by a number of ulema to appease to highly sensitive masses.

    Also, that Buss citation seems a bit old.

    Good read though.

    Though comments are hidden by the dust this article kicked up, I can see them becoming men-bashing in nature since when everything clears.

    • Avatar

      Marium

      August 25, 2016 at 11:44 AM

      The article was intended for both husbands and wives, maybe you should re-read the article. He used examples for both genders and the reason the concept of the “second wife” was only applied to a male example is because in Islam only men are allowed multiple wives, not the other way around. So maybe before you start bashing this article and finding flaws in it, look at it from a neutral view and accept the fact that this is an issue in our community.

      • Avatar

        Zuma

        August 25, 2016 at 1:17 PM

        At least these guys now know how women sometimes feel when the Quran always addresses the ummah’s males lol but in actuality anytime something is said by Allah in a manner that seems to exclusively address men, Allah is addressing women too. Same way we should take the advice from this article to apply to both genders.

    • Avatar

      Jamiela

      August 28, 2016 at 4:45 PM

      Perhaps it is a bit one-sided, but is the reason not because this is so much more common amongst males? Women arent completely innocent, I know of a few cases where the woman is to blame, but many more where the man is guilty of cheating. I am no marriage councillor, so my opinion is not extremely well-informed, but this appears to be more of a male-issue than a female one. Allah SWT has created men and women differently, equal, but different. We may be swept into the western notion of feminism, but we can’t expect to apply every issue equally to males as females, it ignores our difference in nature.

      Take the lesson for its benefit, there is no need to be defensive.

  8. Avatar

    jkm

    August 25, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    When people cheat and it is because needs aren’t being met and there is a serious failure to communicate. There is a serious lack of accountability in all that are involved. There are no innocent victims here and we need to not stop pretending that there are. The reality is that there are halal solutions to this problem but when they are introduced they are often shot down under the illusion that a monogamous one woman marriage is the best route to go. This is what dooms a marriage from the start: unrealistic expectations, noisy people and severe lack of accountability.

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      August 25, 2016 at 3:25 PM

      You’re right
      That doesn’t excuse a cheater though. No excuses for that.
      Inatead, one needs to communicate that with the spouse instead of sneak around somewhere else.

      • Avatar

        KS

        August 25, 2016 at 9:31 PM

        I agree with Fatima. Cheaters always want an easy way out. They don’t want to work on the marriage or shed filthy habits they may have. Instead want to cheat and force polygamy; If that not possible then simply cheat.

      • Avatar

        monching

        August 26, 2016 at 7:36 AM

        Communication fail when wife has mindset of monogamy as the best, too much nealousy dims her faith, wanting only realities in this world

    • Avatar

      KS

      August 25, 2016 at 9:32 PM

      I agree with Fatima. Cheaters always want an easy way out. They don’t want to work on the marriage or shed filthy habits they may have. Instead want to cheat and force polygamy; If that not possible then simply cheat.

    • Avatar

      KS

      August 25, 2016 at 9:40 PM

      Cheaters only think about their needs and no one else’s needs.

    • Avatar

      Jamiela

      August 28, 2016 at 5:00 PM

      There are halaal solutions to this problem and ONLY HALAL solutions should be sought. Cheating IS NOT a halal solution. You want a second wife, do it properly, not without your first wife knowing, ive seen this happen before. Its halal, but sunnat says it shouldnt be secret for good reason. How are you going to spend time with wife#2? By lying to wife#1? Not spending equal time with both, which is also sunnat.

      I know a woman who is a second wife and very happy, they were inlove and he had an arranged marriage with the first wife. The first wife has children, the second wife never wanted any and is happy with the arrangement. It works out well in many cases, perfectly halal. This is the right way. Cheating is haram.

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      August 31, 2016 at 10:59 AM

      Well said JKM! Especially lack of accountability for our own actions before Allah. Which is what matters most.
      However some times the way we men talk about the ”solution” of polygamy makes it sound as if Monogamy is haraam!
      And like you pointed out the way many of our sisters talk about Polygamy is like it is haraam.
      But neither Polygamy nor monogamy will solve the problem of a heart that has mixed priorities for life on Earth….one that prefers the pleasures of this world over pleasing Allah.This heart will find its life miserable regardless of what aspects of shariah you choose to adopt…..Allah says in the Holy Quran ”Whoever turns away from my remembrance, for him will be a life of misery” 20:124.
      This is our real problem and the solution is clear..may Allah guide us!

    • Avatar

      Josh

      November 3, 2016 at 8:44 PM

      No, when people commit ‘adultery’, its because they don’t fear Allah, not nearly enough, there are simply NO excuses for such behaviour, if your needs are not being met in a marriage then as Muslims and as decent human beings, there are ways to address such problems without indulging in such a grave and heinous sin, when someone chooses to commit such an act they are ENTIRELY responsible, hence why the punishment for the sin is on the perpetrator, not the other spouse,

      Allah has given us steps to take, regarding marital difficulties etc, his has also made divorce permissible when required, many brothers and sisters go through life with no spouse, by your thinking, that should excuse them in any acts of zina? wether you have one wife or 4, 1 husband or none, Zina/adultery is a CHOICE you make, blaming actions on circumstances isn’t going to hold much weight before Allah…

  9. Avatar

    Mr AR

    August 25, 2016 at 4:12 PM

    One of the major factors leading to an increase in infidelity among Muslims is forced marriages. A situation where a brother or a sister is married against their will to to his or her cousin from ‘back home’. The imported brother or sister is completely incompatible in terms of profession, interests, and culture. This creates a huge gulf between the two; instead of basing the marriage on shared interests, the differences just propel the artificial couple away from each other. One is constantly home sick and the other longs to be with whom he/she can connect culturally, professionally, or based on shared interests. While wading through such an emotional maelstrom, the aggrieved person comes across someone that catches their fancy and then one thing leads to another. It could be something professional: a lawyer impressed by another lawyer or something cultural: liking the same type of books. You get my drift…

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      August 31, 2016 at 11:11 AM

      I agree with you too Mr AR to some point. But that may be looking at things with a rather materialistic eye!A potential spouse does not become ”bad” simply because we did not choose them. Our knowledge of the world,what is best for us, what will lead us closer to Allah or what may doom our life is limited by our being only human! It may be that those things we want to pursue….which our ”forced partner” does not enjoy are actually not good for us(even if we desire them). And it may be that his or her interests which we do not share are indeed good for us….especially spiritually!
      If both spouses prioritise the remembrance of Allah, then no union will be greater than that,regardless of how you came to be married! Allah says”It may be that you hate a thing and it is good for you and that you love a thing that it is bad for you.And Allah Knows and you know not” Quran 2:216
      Let us all remember that insha Allah.

      • Avatar

        M

        September 2, 2016 at 9:25 AM

        You know there is also a possibility that forced-marriage partner may not really care about Islam, and follows cultural Islam instead, or a very different brand of Islam. There is also a possibility that neither ours nor there interest are ‘haram’, they just happen to be different. Either ways, may Allah make everything easy for us, and not put us in a position where we get inclined towards sinning.

      • Avatar

        Haroon

        September 9, 2016 at 2:18 PM

        You are right M, there are things in each specific relationship that may be too complicated for us to comprehend. But this is the the whole point of this world! Its a temporary trial! All the complications and differences our spouses may come with are part of this test regardless of how we got married! Infidelity on the other side is the worst grade a married Muslim can score in this temporary test! Divorce if a moderate fail!
        So we must try as much as we can to seek out Allah and get closer to Him the more difficulties we encounter in our marriage. Remember that Allah the Most Gracious, All Knowing, All powerful knows well when He allows any marriage to take place…regardless of the other more apparent human forces. And if we turn to Him, spiritually we can only become stronger and closer to our goal of life on Earth. Even if in the process we may hurt a little bit….or much. A life leaved with some sorrow here, sadness their all of which bring you closer to Allah is far better than one in which all our ” halal desires and interests” are fulfilled but we gradually grow so complaisant that we forget our true purpose on this world……and lose out permanently in the hereafter! Don’t you think? But Allah is Most Gracious Most Merciful!
        Allah reminds muslims thus “You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your lives; and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you…But if you patiently persevere and be pious, then surely this will be of great resolution.” (Quran Surat Al Imran 3:186)
        If our trials bring us closer to Allah, on the Day of judgement when we can see clearly on how short this life really is compared to eternity, we shall wish we got 1000 times more trial of this nature,……..if we forget our Lord and true purpose of our shot probational life……any comfort or satisfaction of even lawful desires will be useless to us….we shall wish we had got some difficulty at least in our marriage to turn us closer to Allah, to self restraint, to unconditional love of even those who seem to us too difficult to please today….May Allah make what is difficult today easier tomorrow…Ameen

  10. Avatar

    xyz

    August 25, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    I’m so glad this article has been published. I hope it’s widely circulated bc many Muslim men don\’t consider secretly pursuing or interacting with other women (without involving her wali) while being married as cheating. To them, it’s just a matter of exercising the privilege that God has given them. Enter imams who have sanctioned secret second wives ‘until the first comes to terms with it’ and women (ignorant or otherwise) who have no qualms about entering such relationships without pausing to consider the repercussions on the first wife, the children and family, and we have a formula for chaos within the community.
    Let’s all pause for thought and think how much each of these parties is contributing to the mess that Muslim families are increasingkly finding themselves in these days. It’s a global problem exacerbated by the social media and lack of islamic boundaries everywhere

  11. Avatar

    Fatima

    August 25, 2016 at 6:15 PM

    Thank you very much …This article is a reminder for me of the subtle ways Allah comforts .. may Allah protect you and your authenticity and bless you and your famity with the highest jannah

  12. Avatar

    xyz

    August 25, 2016 at 11:34 PM

    In Steve Harvey’s book ‘Act like a lady, think like a man’ there’s a chapter called Why men cheat in which he explores various reasons for infidelity. “The biggest reason of all: there’s a woman out there willing to cheat with him. That’s the truth no woman wants to face. Imagine if every woman said: “You’re married, I can’t do that with you.”

    enough said.

    • Avatar

      Aisha

      November 22, 2016 at 7:55 PM

      That shouldnt even be taken into consideration, excuse me for commenting. It doesnt matter if theres some woman out there willing to cheat with you. The blame is on the man still for cheating, because the spouse made a promis with the man, not with the woman thats outside the relationship. Just another excuse men use to explain cheating. Assalamualaikum

  13. Avatar

    SAS

    August 25, 2016 at 11:59 PM

    Thank you, Sheikh Omar, for bringing up this very important topic, and not skidding around it. We need more data on why infidelity occurs among Muslims (and non-Muslims for that matter), if we’re ever going to improve this situation. I have to say, this is a serious concern for women in particular when seeking to marry, partly because society is more inclined to turn a blind eye to men having affairs before (and after marriage), but also because of the abuse of polygyny. I’m amazed at how many people are willing to go for illegal “marriages”, just as long as they can call them “marriage”, instead of admitting to themselves that they’re fornicating/adulterating. This goes for women as well as men, although women are more often the victim because they weren’t aware of the first marriage, or of the second (and counting) “marriage”. Thank you for bringing up the point that imams engage in this frequently as well, as well as justify secret “marriages” by saying the couple just needs a couple of male witnesses. But then, the purpose of a witness is to bear witness. So how is it that witnesses are expected to keep silent on the issue? Again, we need to survey people and ask why and how they’re justifying it, and to better educate the Muslim community at large about marriage rulings, as well as to their legal rights. Women should also know that they have the right to stipulate in their marriage contracts that they also hold the ability to divorce their husbands (without having to go to court, especially where courts are known to automatically side with the men), or to set conditions for divorce in advance.

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 9, 2016 at 2:44 PM

      Salaam SAS, I agree with you that we may need to explore some of the social complexities that have made married life generally and among muslims difficult today. However like i pointed out earlier, the results of this studies and the man made solutions we design to alleviate our condition may not help us spiritually come closer to Allah. This is the whole point of this temporary World. The best research will yield only limited superficial knowledge with little or no spiritual bearing on our souls. This is because we are humans with but limited knowledge and capacities. Allah reminds us in the Holy Quran of our limits ”They know but the outer (things) in the life of this world: but of the End of things they are heedless”. Quran AL Rum 30:7
      A better solution may therefore come from turning closer to Allah in every condition in our marriage confident of His Mercy, unlimited Knowledge and power.
      Another point must be highlighted here. Just because a certain man or woman has abused the law and guidance of Allah to oppress his/her spouse on this temporary world does not mean that he/she has ”won” as we call it. Noooo .That is looking at things like a disbeliever whose only hope is life on this world and its temporary pleasures……and schemes
      Indeed the spouse you have oppressed using all the tools men(and women) have corrupted (including ”islamic laws” to fulfill their desires may be the real winner…..due to her patient perseverance, her sincere night prayers to Allah, her sincere yearning for His Pure love and Mercy.
      My advice then. Make sure that when you turn to the Quran, you seek the restriction of your own desires, and rights for the sake of Allah for a happy hereafter….many things will get clearer for you…..
      Many apparent injustices will feel you only with gradually more gratitude towards Allah and more faith, patience, remembrance…..you will not feel that sad that someone turned you to your Lord and cherisher….you will win in the end regardless….in a big permanent way. May Allah make it easy for us.

  14. Avatar

    Zaka

    August 26, 2016 at 1:39 AM

    Great Article, JazakumAllah Khyra for awareness and taking your precious time to write one. May Allah guide us and keep us sincere.

  15. Avatar

    YIR

    August 26, 2016 at 2:20 AM

    Thanks for this article. May ASW bless you for that. I have never heard something like “secret marriage” until today,subhana Lah. but my question is, how should a married man go about getting a second wife without emotionally cheating his wife. because, one needs to approach a lady and propose to her before getting married to her. thanks.

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      Jamiela

      August 28, 2016 at 5:14 PM

      The decent thing to do would first be to speak to his wife and obtain her blessing, if possible, otherwise she may hear it fron someone else before her husband tells her and this would erode trust in the marriage. If a man believes that he is capable of having more than one wife, he should be brave enough to do it the proper way, despite the probable emotional meltdown of the firstwife on hearing about this(our notions of love have become westernized and we do not expect that our husbands will ever want to look at another woman, and I include myself), but this is not historically the way love is viewed in Islam. It is a modern woman’s expectation, but something that should be understood by her husband. He will have to deal with however she feels about this situation and it will not be pleasant, but if he is determined, perhaps it will work out, it does sometimes, even in our modernworld. Sorry this is only my own feelings on the matter. Perhaps the Sheikh can elaborate further.

      Also, the man is expected to spend equal time and money on both wives, it is not an easy thing to do properly and I think very few men can, but some do.

      • Avatar

        Shabana

        December 4, 2016 at 7:48 AM

        Agree with you sister. Today`s modern world has made women so possesive that they can`t accept a second wife.

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 9, 2016 at 3:31 PM

      Salaam YIR. You raise an important question which may be difficult to answer in a short post. It may also be even more difficult to answer in the context of the current atmosphere in which our own desires and interests have become part of Islam. May Allah enable me to attempt a sincere reply. I hope it helps you if you are searching for a second wife.Not that am recommending this as a ”good solution” to a problem i know nothing about.
      1.I shall be blunt on this one. There is nothing like ”emotional cheating” if both your intentions and actions are sincere to marry a second wife. You have got the permission of the Quran to marry her with or without the consent of the first wife.

      However it is not Haram to consult your current wife in any matter that may affect both your lives. It may indeed be highly recommended in some cases if you ask me.This may be before or after your marriage to the second wife.It is not to seek her permission but to show sensitivity, love and mercy to your wife. Allah said in the Holy Quran ”And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” Noble Quran 30:21
      But like i mentioned before, the purpose of Life on earth is not the fulfillment of all our desires and rights that Allah has granted us. No. Seek first your spiritual development and closeness to Allah in whatever circumstances Allah has put you in at the moment, before seeking to satisfy all the lawful desires that Allah has knowingly permitted you to enjoy!
      You will not be perfect but if you put the love of Allah and His pleasure (rather than our own) beyond everything, many things will be easier on this world.
      I did not quote other Quran verses related to this subject intentionally because they would raise more questions than we can answer in this context at the moment.
      Finally as you consider your choices, remember that even one wife if Halal! Being patient with some of the aspects of her that you find displeasing or unsatisfactory at the moment, and doing this purely for Allah’s pleasure may land you directly into Jannah Firdausi Halidina Fiiha(For ever)…and you know what you will find there when you get there………..
      No pleasure on this earth can be compared to the pleasure of Allah with us on the final Day of Judgement….
      May Allah make it easy for Us to stay on His straight path.

  16. Avatar

    Mohammad Khan

    August 26, 2016 at 11:25 AM

    I like the way the article was written. The article is fast and clear and unapologetic, which is what needed most nowadays for the issues like this. We need voices which are clear and strong. Straightaway, the idea of further oppression of the victim by the guilty party is stated. The idea that we bond good emotions with bad acts (Too Close for Comfort)(cheating your spouses just by tongue, eyes, ears, etc.) is also mentioned very clearly. The topic is a huge one, but the writer wrote a relatively short article, and yet still managed to accumulate so much knowledge and advices and made the article full of much, much wisdom. We really, really need much more articles and discussion like this. May Allah (S.W.T) benefit all behind these giant efforts of bravery.

  17. Avatar

    Jiminy Cricket

    August 27, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    Why are imams trying to act like feminists now too? This is a man-bashing article that makes it sound that women do no wrong. Whatever keeps the speaking income coming in for our “religious” leaders is the only end goal and imams like this know that you have to be a PC progressive to get speaking invitations.

    • Avatar

      SOA

      August 27, 2016 at 1:16 PM

      Jiminy cricket,

      I’m a woman and I didn’t do anything wrong…. Explain that?!

      • Avatar

        Akh

        September 6, 2016 at 10:37 AM

        Does that mean that women will never do anything wrong? You missed the point of what he was saying

    • Avatar

      Jamiela

      August 28, 2016 at 5:24 PM

      Jiminy Cricket, men are by-nature, the way they have been created, more prone to cheating. Why is the four-wife rule there and there is no need for a 4-husband rule? Your average female has no such desire. This physiology, not being progressive, feminist, men are different to women, some women do cheat, but are outnumbered by the number of men who cheat in my personal experience of being a human being and noticing these things. This article is not about blaming men, but about looking for solutions to this problem. Women are weaker in other areas, but that is a different discussion.

      • Avatar

        Josh

        November 3, 2016 at 9:32 PM

        Physiology does not dictate that women have no desire to cheat….. at all… that is why they do cheat?!!
        people who don’t fear Allah cheat, and commit all kinds of perversions, there is nothing that makes either sex more inclined to commit adultery/fornicate except lack of fear of Allah…. Mankind has not been created more inclined to disobey Allah then womankind….

        There are a number of reasons why women are only permitted to be married to one man at a time, these reasons upon thinking are fairly obvious, levels of desire vary greatly in Men and Women, carnal desires alone are NOT the reason why women are limited to one spouse at a time, if this were the case, limiting them to only one husband, while their desires may well surpass their husbands, and shocker the desire for only one man, would be an oppression, furthermore if carnal desires were the ONLY reason Allah permitted ( some) men polygamy, this would in turn be oppressive towards the women folk…..
        The Islamic doctrine regarding polygamy is far more sophisticated then your theory…..

        The average non Muslim female, cannot be compared to the average Muslim female, and this is the same for men, wether we are married or not married, there are no excuses for infidelity/fornication period.

        Lastly – Men are the SAME as women, although the sexes have some differences, we are not differing species, with respect this constant rhetoric, ‘Men and women are different’ just serves to cause animosity and alienation between the sexes, so does the thinking that women are sexually weaker then men, whilst this might be true for you, or for a great number of women, there are also a great deal of women who are being ostracized by this line of thinking, made to feel ashamed/dirty…. it needs to stop!
        Mens desires are often in my opinion, highly exaggerated, I often wonder, what on earth women must think of us Men, if they were to take us as we often are discussed, as if we are some rampant dogs, with the inability to control ourselves.
        There have been many studies which offer statistics that demonstrate men and women are almost as guilty as one another in regards to infidelity, however, it is not a competition, adultery is a sin, that both men and women engage in regardless of percentages, therefore it should be addressed in a manner that acknowledges this.

      • Avatar

        Arjmand

        December 6, 2016 at 5:19 PM

        Thank you Josh, thank you.

  18. Avatar

    pleasure destroyer

    August 27, 2016 at 3:44 PM

    it seems that the burqini ban,,,is a move to cause more infidetly and the likes….do you have on tv sex shows in the user states, like the rest of the civilized world?…emotions taking over me so sorry….oh they are clever….work done on emotions and the like….suppose the chemists and the likes are busy in making more abnormal behaviours more rampant…Allah al mustaan al ma yasifoon.

    beware of thoughts….reminder to myself too. As adultery and fornication is also in the look. so first for me and you and the second against…..

  19. Avatar

    Arshad

    August 28, 2016 at 12:29 AM

    Quite frankly, the only one who can avoid an affair is the one that is about to have one.

    Affairs are almost always with friends and co-workers. That’s because the people you work with and those you spend leisure time with are usually in the best position to meet your most important emotional needs. But in the world of the internet, total strangers can also meet your emotional needs through chat rooms and e-mail.

    Check this article below, under the heading “Escaping the Jaws of Infidelity: How to Avoid an Affair”

    http://www.marriagebuilders.com/graphic/mbi5024_qa.html

  20. Avatar

    M

    August 30, 2016 at 1:27 PM

    I sort of agree with jkm and Mr. AR on some level. There is definitely a reason behind the infidelity, mainly the lack of communication between the spouses and yes, forced marriages. There need to be resources for people so they can deal with these issues. With forced marriages, there isn’t much that can be done. Both parties are basically stuck in the situation as divorce is a taboo topic and so is the consent of the two individuals actually getting married.

    I don’t understand why the second marriage is being classified as a form of infidelity. I mean, would you rather want your husband to have an unlawful relationship with another woman instead? He’s taking responsibility for her which is actually honorable. The only problem with these relationships is the secrecy. Which I believe the husband is keeping because of, again, the taboo. Instead of divorcing the first wife and leaving her to fend for herself and her children he’s actually choosing to take responsibility for both, isn’t that a good thing? If the husband can provide equal treatment to both wives I believe such relationships can work out.

  21. Avatar

    Fritz

    September 5, 2016 at 2:01 PM

    Of course its always more worthwhile dealing with the root cause rather than the actual symptoms.

    Punishing your spouse by withholding intimacy is one sure way to drive them to cheat. And of course this doesn’t just mean physical intimacy, but emotional intimacy as well. As men can be just as aloof to the latter as women are to the former. In our secular societies, using sexuality to manipulate the other is seen as ok – as this was the tool used to “hook” the other partner in the first place.

    Sadly some of these values/ideas have crept into our communities. Of course you don’t share the blame of adultery, but whats the value of winning a blame game and losing a marriage.

    There are many other reasons of course, but lets not overlook the elephant in the room.

    • Avatar

      Akh

      September 6, 2016 at 10:32 AM

      Akhi/ukhti… I recommend reading what is prescribed in the Quran for you to do when your spouse is persistently insisting on doing something that you must get them to stop doing.

  22. Avatar

    Akh

    September 6, 2016 at 10:28 AM

    There is no excuse for infidelity. The is a difference between your reasons for doing something and your excuse for doing something. There is no doubt that you had reasons for fornicating with someone else. You almost never doing anything without a reason. But that doesn’t mean that your reason is a legitimate excuse. Your spouse isn’t fulfilling your desires anymore? Guess what… You’re not an chimpanzee. You are a human and a muslim one at that. You acknowledge that Allah swt created you to worship Him (by obeying Him). And that He created the realities of these world to test you and that he won’t leave you to say that you believe without testing you. You weren’t created to get your filthy fix of whatever it is that makes you itch. So in conclusion… Just because you were tested in that specific manner whether it’s desiring someone else or getting bored with what you have… As someone who claims to be a muslim… There is nothing to excuse your filth. Both sisters and brothers. Don’t want to be with that person anymore, pursue a divorce. Simple.

    • Avatar

      Josh

      November 3, 2016 at 8:51 PM

      Exactly, I am truly shocked at ‘Muslims’ giving reasons as to why cheating is so prevalent for Muslims,

      Forced marriage
      Lack of opportunity for Polygamy
      Getting Bored of your spouse
      Feminism
      People with big mouths
      Marital problems

      Er…. have you all forgot, that we are supposed to be Muslims??? there are ZERO excuses for disobeying Allah

  23. Avatar

    Linda

    October 9, 2016 at 2:41 AM

    Very enlightening topic as it relates to what Im facing currently with my marriage . My situation is indeed very depressing that after 24 years of marriage . Im 53 and he’s 56 years .
    with 3 kids ( grown up all attending medical school ) my husband suddendly surprised his whole family as well myself by declaring marriage to a woman with whom he was online chatting for almost 3 years now . The woman also is an adulterer as she was married that time when she was chatting with my husband, however have recently divorced maybe by June/July this year –then my husband proposed marriage to her in August. Nobody from his own family members were informed hence now situation became chaos , as his whole family is not accepting the marriage as well as the woman . Just bit worried because my husband seems to have misunderstood the meaning of having 2nd wife — or just pretending to be dumb because of his selfishness . Allah said polygamy is acceptable provided that you are financially stable and should be fair to both parties , which unfortunately its not in the case of my husband which he is ” ZERO ” when it comes to financial matter. We do not have yet our own house and I am the one supporting for the educational needs and other expenses of our kids whom currently studying abroad . Though we never fight on money because I know how much is his salary and alhamdulallah I am better paid off than him . How could he do this to me ??have spent most of my life for the family and has been loyal to him for this 24 years of marriage . I never been engaged into chatting or texting . The blame is on me because I’m always fighting and arguing it seems with him … why ?? because of his addiction on online chatting with this woman .
    Appreciate if I could have some comments /advise please from you brothers /sisters .
    Do I have to fight for this marriage or let go or means I will leave my husband . though they have no fix plan yet of their marriage . His relatives are saying that there will be no Marriage but I dont what to expect anything on this situation .By the way our kids is not aware yet about whats happening as we do not want to disturb their studies.. This is really heart breaking and i dont know what to do ??

    • Avatar

      Anon

      October 17, 2016 at 11:46 PM

      Stay strong Linda. I would advise to take this to a local community leader whom you trust, and also has a strong foundation in Islamic sciences. If the situation is truly as you describe, then Allah swt will iA reward you on the day of Judgement for your patience, chastity, steadfastness. From what I read, you have given the best of your life to be with him, and you are being betrayed in return. He seems to have committed adultery on an emotional level, which can sometimes feel worse than the real act – and committed it with another one of the same!

      Use this hurt and opportunity to get close to Allah, who will never betray you, and give you ease in this world & next iA

  24. Avatar

    Alisha

    October 18, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    We are holding the next Muslim Marriage Events Manchester on Sunday 13th November 2016 at Royal Nawaabs, Manchester.

    The event is acting as an intermediary for people who are seeking marriage partners. The setting is very much open to all individuals to speak with each other. However, we will have advisors that will support individuals who feel shy or need an intermediary between their discussions.

    Inshallah we will also be supporting women who feel they need to be in a segregated environment.
    Please bear in mind these events are going to be conducted in a professional manner.

    An attempt to ensure that there is an equal ratio of the sexes, hence spaces are limited to first come basis. Should you feel you need to speak to someone and arrange for bookings please contact one of our advisors, details are as below. Please forward to all Muslim brothers & sisters who are looking for marriage.

    Please note we do not offer services for 2nd wives to the brothers.

    These events are open to all single muslims, divorced muslims and widowed muslims
    3 course Buffet Meal and soft drinks Included.
    For more info please call Alisha on 07737309349 or visit http://www.muslimmarriageevents.info

    • Avatar

      Linda

      October 23, 2016 at 12:43 AM

      Thanks Anon for your advise , yes indeed I was emotionally betrayed and its like somebody has stabbed you at the back then reaches your heart .Might time take to heal but inshallah with Allah’s ( SWT ) support and guidance I will be able to move on . I told my husband that it wont be
      easily for me to forgive what both of them has done to the family and I will be carrying this till my graveyard ..
      Great lesson as well for me to have this problem as my relationship with Allah became more closer and stronger (SWT ).
      Inshallah … shall keep you posted whatever will happen ..as I already involved Allah in solving our problems .

      Good day All and be strong enough to fight any temptations that will come your way . Praise be to Allah .
      Allah Kareem.

      • Avatar

        Waheeda

        December 7, 2016 at 12:36 AM

        Dear Linda, So sorry for your situation. May Allah bless you with patience and the wisdom to make the right decision for yourself and your children. Ameen. Please seek counseling and help with your local masjid or community center regarding this matter. If you choose to stay in the marriage you are in no way obligated to provide for your husband or his wife. Take care of yourself and be strong when dealing with him about your finances and your rights as his spouse and mother of his children.

  25. Avatar

    ifat saeed

    December 6, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Very nice article very well put..

  26. Avatar

    Essam Rashid

    December 7, 2016 at 3:23 AM

    Sheikh Omar Suleiman just blew the lid of infidelity in various forms. Just to add, physical infidelity also includes self pleasure which Dispossesses the Spouse (Wife/Husband) of their physical right in Islam on the cheater either be married or single. Further, there is nothing is Islam (HARAM) such as opposite Gender friendships or companionship (excluding the Mahrams) which again dispossesses the Spouse (Wife/Husband) of their emotional right in Islam on the cheater either be married or single.

  27. Avatar

    Salma

    December 14, 2016 at 12:01 PM

    I wonder how the situation would be if women were allowed to have more than one husband as well…..

    • Avatar

      polygimous by nature yaqoob

      December 31, 2016 at 2:39 AM

      dear sister salma, medically that would be the cause of many diseases and problems…but apologies may be you did not intend that responded answer……

  28. Avatar

    Sister in islam

    November 12, 2018 at 2:06 PM

    Good article. But it is not always only the husband who is unfaithful. More often I see married women falling into this. I would hope you could speak more of that too, in future articles. And also about women / men who try to allure married husband / wife into a relationship. Many people doesn’t back off trying to seduce another, even if they know they are married. Woman rapist are increasing. Many aren’t even interested in marriage. It’s just about the «private part» for them.

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#Life

Challenges of Identity & Conviction: The Need to Construct an Islamic Worldview

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He squirmed in his seat as his Middle East history professor–yet again–made a subtle jab about Islam, this time about the jizyah.  This professor claimed to be pro-Arab and pro-Islam and was part of a university department that touted itself for presenting history and narratives that are typically left out of the West’s Eurocentric social studies sequence. Still, she would subjectively only present an Orientalist interpretation of Islam. Ahmad* sighed. He felt bad just thinking about what all his classmates at this esteemed university thought about Islam and Muslims. He was also worried about fellow Muslims in his class who had not grown up in a practicing household-what if they believed her? He hated how she was using her position as the “sage” in the room to present her bias as absolute truth. As for himself, he knew deep down in his bones that what his professor was alleging just could not be true. His fitrah was protesting her coy smile as she knowingly agitated the few Muslims in her class of one-hundred-fifty.  Yet, Ahmad had never studied such topics growing up and felt all his years of secondary education left him ill-equipped as a freshman in college.  He tried to search for answers to her false accusations after class and approached her later during office hours, but she just laughed him off as a backward, orthodox Muslim who had obviously been brainwashed into believing the “fairy tale version” of Islam. 

***

Asiyah* graduated as class valedictorian of her Islamic school. She loved Biology and Physics and planned to major in Engineering at a top-notch program. While both family, friends, and peers were proud of her (some maybe even wishing they were in her shoes), they had no idea of the bitter inner struggle that was eating away at her, tearing her up from the inside out. Her crisis of faith shook her to the core and her parents were at their wits’ end. While she prayed all her prayers and even properly donned her hijab, deep down she felt……..sort of….……atheist.  Physics was her life–her complete being. She loved how the numbers just added up and everything could be empirically proven. But this led to her greatest anguish: how could certain miraculous events during the time of the Blessed Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) have occurred? How could she believe in events that were physically and scientifically impossible?  She felt like an empty body performing the rituals of Islam.

*names changed

***

An Unwelcome Surprise

Islam is a way of life. Its principles operate in every avenue of one’s life. However, English, History, Science and Mathematics are often taught as if they are beyond the scope of Islam. It is commonly assumed that moral teaching happens, or should happen, only in the Islamic Studies class. Yet, if we compare what is being taught in the Islamic Studies class with what is being taught consciously or unconsciously in other classes, an unwelcome surprise awaits us. Examining typical reading material in English classes, for example, reveals that too much of the material is actually going against Islamic norms and principles. Some of the most prominent problems with traditional English literature (which directly clash with Islamic moral and ethical principles) include: the mockery of God and religion, the promotion of rebellion against parents and traditional family values, the normalization of immoral conduct such as lying and rude behavior, and the condoning of inappropriate cross-gender interactions. Additionally, positive references about Islamic culture are either nonexistent or rare. Toxic themes of secularism, atheism, materialism, liberalism, and agnosticism are constantly bombarding our young Muslim students, thus shaping the way in which they view and interact with the world.

Corrective Lens: The Worldview of Islam

We need our children to develop an Islamic worldview, one that provides a framework for Muslims to understand their world from the perspective of the Qur’an.  It is impossible for the Islamic Studies classes alone to successfully teach Islamic behavior and nurture moral commitment unless the other classes also reflect the Islamic worldview- an outlook that emphasizes the idea that all our actions should be focused on pleasing Allah and doing good for ourselves and others. Therefore, the majority of what is taught in all academic disciplines should be based on Islamic values, aiming to improve the life of the student by promoting sublime ethical conduct. The unfortunate reality is quite the opposite: a typical child in a school in the West spends a minimum of 576 periods (16 periods of core classes/week * 4 weeks/month * 9 months) of classroom instruction annually on academic subjects that are devoid of Islam and contain minimal teaching of morality that aligns with Islamic principles. How much Islam a child learns depends on whether their parents choose Sunday school, Islamic schools, and/or other forms of supplementation to provide religious knowledge. However, rarely does that supplemental instruction undo the thousands of hours of the atheistic worldview that children soak in by the time they finish high school through the study of secular subjects. By not having an Islamic worldview and not having Muslims’ heritage and contributions to humanity infused into the teaching of academic subjects, we witness the problems experienced by the likes of Ahmad* and Asiyah*–problems that plague modern Muslim youth.

Identifying the Unlikely Suspect

This realization is perhaps the missing piece in the puzzle when it comes to our bewilderment: how are large swaths of youth from some of the kindest, sweetest, practicing Muslim families going astray and getting confused? When we shepherd our flock and find one or more of our “sheep” lost and off the beaten path, we think of the likely suspects, which include negative influences from peers, family, movies, social media, etc. We may even blame the lack of inspiring role models. We are less likely to suspect that the very literature that our children are consuming day in and day out through our well-intentioned efforts to make them “educated” and “sophisticated” could cause them to question Islam or fall into moral abyss.

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible. Each of you is a shepherd and each is responsible for his flock.”

Islamic Infusion in Academic Study as a Solution

There have been efforts across the globe to infuse Islam into academic study of worldly subjects. Universities such as the International Islamic University of Malaysia(IIUM), which has a dedicated “Centre for Islamisation (CENTRIS),” is an example. At the secondary school level, most brick and mortar Islamic schools do offer Arabic, Qur’an, and Islamic studies; however, few Muslim teachers are trained in how to teach core academic subjects using principles of Islamic pedagogy.

How exactly can educators infuse an Islamic perspective into their teaching? And how can Muslim children have access to high quality education from the worldview of Islam, taught by talented and dynamic educators?

Infusing Islam & Muslim Heritage in Core Academic Subjects, According to the Experts:

  • Dr. Nadeem Memon, professor of Islamic pedagogy, states that for a pedagogy to be Islamic, it should not contradict the aims, objectives and ethics contained in revelation (Qur’an) and should closely reflect an Islamic ethos that is based on revelation, the sunnah of the Prophet(pbuh), and the intellectual and spiritual heritage of his followers. It should also effectively develop the student’s intelligence (`aql), faith (iman), morality and character (khuluq), knowledge and practice of personal religious obligations (fard ain) and knowledge, skills and physical abilities warranted by worldly responsibilities and duties (Ajem, Ramzy and Nadeem Memon, “Prophetic Pedagogy: Teaching ‘Islamically’ in our Classrooms”)
  • Dr. Susan Douglass, expert in Social Studies, promotes a panoramic study of the world by global eras–emphasizing the interdependence of nations–rather than an isolationist civilizations approach (which in Western societies focuses only on Western civilization). Such study includes Islamic history and Muslims’ contributions to humanity throughout the ages.
  • Dr. Freda Shamma, pioneer in promoting culturally inclusive and ethical literature, emphasizes that English classes should carefully select literature aligned with Islamic moral values and include works by both Western authors and those from other cultures, i.e. literature that 1-features Muslim main characters and 2- is authored by Muslims.
  • Dr. Nur Jannah Hassan at CENTRIS, stresses that Science classes should be designed to awaken the student’s mind, to inspire a complete awe of and servitude towards the Creator and Sustainer, to instill the purpose of creation, vicegerency and stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants, to enable students to decipher God’s Signs in nature and in the self, to infuse responsibility in sustaining balance and accountability, and should include Muslims’ legacy in the field.
  • Dr. Reema alNizami, specialist in Math Education, advocates that Math classes should instill creative thinking, systematic problem solving and an appreciation of balance; include a survey of Muslims’ contributions to the field; and utilize word problems that encourage charitable and ethical financial practices.

Technology Enables Access to Islamically Infused Schooling for grades 6-12

Technology has now enabled this Islamic infusion for middle schools and secondary schools to become a reality on a global scale, alhamdulillah. Legacy International Online High School, a college preparatory, online Islamic school serving grades 6-12, whose mission is “Cultivating Compassionate Global Leaders”, offers all academic subjects from the Islamic worldview. Pioneered by leading Muslim educators from around the globe with background in Islamic pedagogy and digital learning, Legacy is the first of its kind online platform that is accessible to:

  • homeschooling families seeking full-time, rigorous, Islamically infused classes
  • Public school families looking for a part-time Islamic studies or Arabic sequence
  • Islamic schools, evening programs, and Sunday schools that are short-staffed and would like to outsource certain courses from the Islamic worldview
  • Schools and entities needing training/workshops to empower Muslim educators on how to teach from the Islamic worldview

Alhamdulillah, Legacy IOHS is an accessible resource for families with children in grades 6-8 who are seeking curriculum and instruction that is Islamically infused.

Strengthening Faith & Identity in College and Beyond

For those seeking supplementary resources to address the most prevalent hot topic issues plaguing young Muslims of our times, Yaqeen Institute, whose initial publications were more targeted towards a university audience, is now working to make its research more accessible to the general public through both its Conviction Circles initiative and its short videos featuring infographics.

Another online platform, California Islamic University, offers a comprehensive course sequence which allows college students to graduate with a second degree in Islamic studies while simultaneously completing their undergraduate studies at any accredited community college or university in the United States. Qalam and AlMaghrib Institute also offer online coursework in Islamic studies.

What We Hope to Avoid

While volunteering at his son Sulayman’s* public school with ten student participants, Ibrahim* was saddened when he met a young boy named Chris*. When Chris met Ibrahim, he piped up and eagerly told Ibrahim, “my grandparents are Muslim!” Through the course of the conversation, Ibrahim realized that he knew Chris’ grandparents, a very sweet elderly couple (and currently very practicing) who had not made the Islamic worldview a priority early on in their children’s lives. A mere two generations later, Islam is completely eliminated from their family.  *names changed

Our Resolve

Legacy IOHS recommends the following to Muslim families/educators and Islamic schools:

  1. Instill in our children a strong grasp of the foundational sciences of Islam, while preparing them with the necessary contemporary knowledge and skills
  2. Teach our children in their formative years to view the world (including their “secular” academic study) through the lens of Islam
  3. Follow this up with relevant motivational programs that assist them in understanding challenging issues of today and coach them on how to respond to the issues in their teenage years.

We pray that with the above, we will have fulfilled our duty in shepherding our flock in a comprehensive way, with utmost care. It is Allah’s help we seek in these challenging times:

رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ

‘Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate after You have guided us. Grant us Your mercy: You are the Ever Giving. [Qur’an 3:8]

 رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

‘Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring. Make us good examples to those who are aware of You’. [Qur’an 25:74]

يَا مُقَلِّبَ القُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِيْ عَلَى دِيْنِكْ

“O turner of the hearts, keep my heart firm on your religion.”

Freda Shamma has a M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Ed.D. from the University of Cincinnati in the area of Curriculum Development. A veteran educator, she has worked with educators from the United States, South Africa and all over the Muslim world to develop integrated curricula based on an Islamic worldview that meets the needs of modern Muslim youth. She serves as Curriculum Advisor for Legacy International Online High School.

An avid student of the Islamic sciences, Zaheer Arastu earned his M.Ed from The George Washington University and completed his training in Educational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. his experience in Islamic education spans over 15 years serving as both teacher, administrator, and dean of innovation and technology. He currently serves as the Head of School for Legacy International Online High School.

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Grit and Resilience: The Self-Help vs. Islamic Perspective

Omar Usman

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grit

I don’t really care about grit.

Persevering and persisting through difficulties to achieve a higher goal is awesome. High-five. We should all develop that. No one disagrees that resilience is an essential characteristic to have.

Somehow, this simple concept has ballooned into what feels like a self-help cottage industry of sorts. It has a Ted talk with tens of millions of views, podcasts, keynote speeches, a New York Times best-selling book, and finding ways to teach this in schools and workplaces.

What I do care about is critically analyzing if it is all that it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: I don’t think so), why the self-help industry aggressively promotes it, and how we understand it from an Islamic perspective. For me, this is about much more than just grit – it’s about understanding character development from a (mostly Americanized) secular perspective vis-a-vis the Islamic one.

The appeal of grit in a self-help context is that it provides a magic bullet that intuitively feels correct. It provides optimism. If I can master this one thing, it will unlock what I need to be successful. When I keep running into a roadblock, I can scapegoat my reason for failure – a lack of grit.

Grit encompasses several inspirational cliches – be satisfied with being unsatisfied, or love the chase as much as the capture, or that grit is falling in love and staying in love. It is to believe anyone can succeed if they work long and hard enough. In short, it is the one-word encapsulation of the ideal of the American Dream.

Self-help literature has an underlying theme of controlling what is within your control and letting go of the rest. Islamically, in general, we agree with this sentiment. We focus our actions where we are personally accountable and put our trust in Allah for what we cannot control.

The problem with this theme, specifically with grit, is that it necessitates believing the circumstances around you cannot be changed. Therefore, you must simply accept things the way that they are. Teaching people that they can overcome any situation by merely working hard enough is not only unrealistic but utterly devoid of compassion.

“The notion that kids in poverty can overcome hunger, lack of medical care, homelessness, and trauma by buckling down and persisting was always stupid and heartless, exactly what you would expect to hear from Scrooge or the Koch brothers or Betsy DeVos.” -Diane Ravitch, Forget Grit, Focus on Inequality

Focusing on the individual characteristics of grit and perseverance shifts attention away from structural or systemic issues that impact someone’s ability to succeed. The personal characteristics can be changed while structural inequalities are seen as ‘fixed.’

Alfie Kohn, in an article critical of Grit by Angela Duckworth, notes that Duckworth and her mentor while studying grit operated under a belief that,

[U]nderachievement isn’t explained by structural factors — social, economic, or even educational. Rather, they insisted it should be attributed to the students themselves and their “failure to exercise self-discipline.” The entire conceptual edifice of grit is constructed on that individualistic premise, one that remains popular for ideological reasons even though it’s been repeatedly debunked by research.

Duckworth admitted as much in an interview with EdSurge.

There was a student who introduced himself having written a critical essay about the narrative of grit. His major point was that when we talk about grit as a kind of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ personal strength, it leaves in the shadows structural poverty and racism and other things that make it impossible, frankly, for some kids to do what we would expect them to do. When he sent me that essay, of course, I wanted to know more. I joined his [dissertation] committee because I don’t know much about sociology, and I don’t know much about this criticism.

I learned a lot from him over the years. I think the lesson for me is that when someone criticizes you, when someone criticized me, the natural thing is to be defensive and to reflexively make more clear your case and why you’re right, but I’ve always learned more from just listening. When I have the courage to just say, “Well, maybe there’s a point here that I hadn’t thought of,” and in this case the Grit narrative and what Grit has become is something that he really brought to me and my awareness in a way that I was oblivious to before.

It is mind-boggling that the person who popularized this research and wrote the book on the topic simply didn’t know that there was such a thing as structural inequality. It is quite disappointing that her response essentially amounted to “That’s interesting. I’d like to learn more.”

Duckworth provides a caveat – “My theory doesn’t address these outside ­forces, nor does it include luck. It’s about the psychology of achievement, but because psychology isn’t all that matters, it’s incomplete.” This is a cop-out we see consistently in the self-help industry and elsewhere. They won’t deny that those problems exist, they simply say that’s not the current focus.

It is intellectually dishonest to promote something as a key to success while outright ignoring the structures needed to enable success. That is not the only thing the theory of grit ignores. While marketing it as a necessary characteristic, it overlooks traits like honesty and kindness.

The grit narrative lionizes this superhero type of individual who breaks through all obstacles no matter how much the deck is stacked against them. It provides a sense of false hope. Instead of knowing when to cut your losses and see a failure for what it is, espousing a grit mentality will make a person stubbornly pursue a failing endeavor. It reminds me of those singers who comically fail the first round of auditions on American Idol, are rightly ridiculed by the judges, and then emotionally tell the whole world they’re going to come out on top (and then never do).

Overconfidence, obstinance, and naive optimism are the result of grit without context or boundaries. It fosters denial and a lack of self-awareness – the consequences of which are felt when horrible leaders keep rising to the top due, in part, to their grit and perseverance.

The entire idea of the psychology of achievement completely ignores the notion of morality and ethics. Grit in a vacuum may be amoral, but that is not how the real world works. This speaks powerfully to the need to understand the application of these types of concepts through a lens of faith.

The individual focus, however, is precisely what makes something like grit a prime candidate to become a popular self-help item. Schools and corporations alike will want to push it because it focuses on the individual instead of the reality of circumstances. There is a real amount of cognitive dissonance when a corporation can tell employees to focus on developing grit while not addressing toxic employment practices that increase turnover and destroy employees physically and emotionally (see: Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer).

Circumstances matter more than ever. You’ve probably heard the story (of course, in a Ted Talk) about the famous marshmallow test at some point. This popularizes the self-help version of delayed gratification. A bunch of kids are given a marshmallow and told that if they can avoid eating it for 5 minutes, they’ll get a second one. The children are then shown hilariously trying to resist eating it. These kids were then studied as they grew older, and lo and behold, those who had the self-discipline to hold out for the 2nd marshmallow were far more successful in life than those who gave in.

A new study found that a child’s ability to hold out for the second marshmallow had nothing to do with the ability to delay gratification. As The Atlantic points out, it had much more to do with the child’s social and economic background. When a child comes from a well to do household, the promise of a second marshmallow will be fulfilled. Their parents always deliver. When someone grows up in poverty, they are more attuned to take the short term reward because the guarantee does not exist that the marshmallow would still be there later. The circumstances matter much more than the psychological studies can account for. It is far easier to display grit with an entrepreneurial venture, for example, when you have the safety net of wealthy and supportive parents.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post that grit discourse is driven by middle and upper-class parents wanting their spoiled kids to appreciate the virtues of struggling against hardship. Unfortunately, this focus on character education means that poor students suffer because less money will then be spent on teaching disadvantaged students the skills they need to be successful. Sisyphus, she notes, had plenty of grit, but it didn’t get him very far.

Strauss asks us to imagine if a toxic dump was discovered near Beverly Hills, and our response was to teach kids how to lessen the effects of toxins instead of fixing the dump.

The grit discourse does not teach that poor children deserve poverty; it teaches that poverty itself is not so bad. In fact, hardship provides the very traits required to escape hardship. This logic is as seductive as it is circular. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is seen as a virtuous enterprise whether practiced by Horatio Alger’s urchins or Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs (bootstrapping is a common term in technology finance circles). And most importantly, it creates a purported path out of poverty that does not involve any sacrifice on the part of the privileged classes. -Valerie Strauss

This approach is a way to appear noble while perpetuating the status quo. It provides the illusion of upliftment while further entrenching the very systems that prevent it. We see this enacted most commonly with modern-day Silicon Valley style of philanthropy. Anand Giridharadas has an entire book dedicated to this ‘elite charade of changing the world’ entitled Winners Take All.

The media also does its fair share to push this narrative. Stories that should horrify us are passed along as inspirational stories of perseverance. It’s like celebrating a GoFundMe campaign that helps pay for surgery to save someone’s life instead of critically analyzing why healthcare is not seen as a human right in the first place.

Islamic Perspective

Islamically, we are taught to find ways to address the individual as well as the system. Characteristics like grit and delayed gratification are not bad. They’re misapplied when the bigger picture is not taken into account. In the Islamic system, for example, a person is encouraged not to beg. At the same time, there is an encouragement for those who can give to seek out those in need. A person in debt is strongly advised to pay off their debts as quickly as possible. At the same time, the lender is encouraged to be easygoing and to forgive the debt if possible.

This provides a more realistic framework for applying these concepts. A person facing difficulty should be encouraged to be resilient and find ways to bounce back. At the same time, support structures must be established to help that person.

Beyond the framework, there is a much larger issue. Grit is oriented around success. Success is unquestionably assumed to be a personal success oriented around academic achievement, career, wealth, and status. When that is the end goal, it makes it much easier to keep the focus on the individual.

The Islamic definition of success is much broader. There is the obvious idea of success in the Hereafter, but that is separate from this discussion. Even in a worldly sense, a successful person may be the one who sacrifices attending a good school, or perhaps even a dream job type of career opportunity, to spend more time with their family. The emphasis on individual success at all costs has contributed to the breakdown of essential family and community support systems.

A misapplied sense of grit furthers this when a person thinks they don’t need anyone else, and they just need to persevere. It is part of a larger body of messaging that promotes freedom and autonomy. We celebrate people who are strong and independent. Self-help tells us we can achieve anything with the right mindset.

But what happens when we fail? What happens when we find loneliness and not fulfillment, when we lack the bonds of familial solidarity, and when money does not make us whole? Then it all falls on us. It is precisely this feeling of constriction that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to God and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord, and it is they who are rightly guided.” (2:155-157)

Resilience is a reflex. When a person faces hardship, they will fall back on the habits and values they have. It brings to mind the statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that patience is at the first strike. He taught us the mindset needed to have grit in the first place,

“Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him, and if he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him” (Muslim).

He also taught us the habits we need to ensure that we have the reflex of grit when the situation warrants it –

“Whoever would be pleased for Allah to answer him during times of hardship and difficulty, let him supplicate often during times of ease” (Tirmidhi).

The institution of the masjid as a community center provides a massive opportunity to build infrastructure to support people. Resilience, as Michael Ungar writes, is not a DIY endeavor. Communities must find ways to provide the resources a person needs to persevere. Ungar explains, “What kind of resources? The kind that get you through the inevitable crises that life throws our way. A bank of sick days. Some savings or an extended family who can take you in. Neighbours or a congregation willing to bring over a casserole, shovel your driveway or help care for your children while you are doing whatever you need to do to get through the moment. Communities with police, social workers, home-care workers, fire departments, ambulances, and food banks. Employment insurance, pension plans or financial advisers to help you through a layoff.”

Ungar summarizes the appropriate application of grit, “The science of resilience is clear: The social, political and natural environments in which we live are far more important to our health, fitness, finances and time management than our individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. When it comes to maintaining well-being and finding success, environments matter. In fact, they may matter just as much, and likely much more, than individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. A positive attitude may be required to take advantage of opportunities as you find them, but no amount of positive thinking on its own is going to help you survive a natural disaster, a bad workplace or childhood abuse. Change your world first by finding the relationships that nurture you, the opportunities to use your talents and the places where you experience community and governmental support and social justice. Once you have these, your world will help you succeed more than you could ever help yourself.”

The one major missing ingredient here is tawakkul (trust in Allah). One of the events in the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that epitomized grit, resilience, and perseverance was the Battle of Badr. At this occasion, the Companions said, “God is enough for us: He is the best protector.

“Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector,’“ (3:173)

This is the same phrase that Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), while displaying the utmost level of resilience, said when he was thrown into the fire, and it was made cool.

There is a core belief in Islam about balancing between fear and hope. Scholars advise when a person feels despair, they should remind themselves of the traditions that reinforce hope in Allah’s forgiveness. When a person feels themselves sliding further and further into disobedience to Allah, then they should remind themselves of the traditions that warn against Allah’s punishment. The focus changes depending on the situation.

Grit itself is a praiseworthy characteristic

There is no doubt that it is a trait that makes people successful. The challenge comes in applying it and how we teach it. It needs a proper level of balance. Too much focus on grit as a singular predictor of success may lead to victim-blaming and false hope syndrome. Overlooking it on the other hand, enables a feeling of entitlement and a victim mentality.

One purpose of teaching grit was to help students from privileged backgrounds understand and appreciate the struggle needed to overcome difficulty. Misapplied, it can lead to overlooking systemic issues that prevent a person from succeeding even when they have grit.

Self-help literature often fails to make these types of distinctions. It fails to provide guidance for balancing adapting the advice based on circumstance. The criticisms here are not of the idea of grit, but rather the myopic way in which self-help literature promotes concepts like grit without real-world contextualization. We need to find a way to have the right proportionality of understanding individual effort, societal support, and our reliance on Allah.

Our ability to persevere, to be resilient, and to have grit, is linked directly to our relationship with Allah, and our true level of trust in Him.

To stay up to date with more articles from Omar, sign up for his email list at http://ibnabeeomar.com/newsletter

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Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim

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trust

Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outright uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

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