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When He Leaves For Her: An Unaccepted Reality In Our Communities

MuslimMatters

By Umm Aasiya

I’ll never forget the morning I found out that my husband was having an emotional affair with one of my close friends. They were sharing intimate thoughts, desires, and feelings of love with each other. I paced back and forth in the living room where the memories we made were now broken.

My first reaction was to ask him. He wasn’t going to lie. After all, this was the man I trusted more than anything, and he would be the one that would have answers. Little did I know that he was also the man that was going to cause me extraordinary amounts of pain through the choices he made.

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See, Muslims assume that emotional or physical affairs never happen in the Muslim community. I assumed they didn’t either. But they do, and more often than we’d like to admit.

Things had been fairly normal between my husband and I. We had the usual arguments from time to time, but what marriage doesn’t have that? Nothing major had seemed wrong at all, so when I found out about my husband’s relationship with another woman, I blamed myself for it all. All the flaws I thought I had were suddenly magnified in my own eyes.

Why I Stayed

I am not a believer in the statement: “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” I wholeheartedly believe people have the ability to change when they’re given a chance, and sometimes that’s all some people need. A chance.

So I made the conscious decision to stay with my husband and give him another chance. I told myself that I wanted to work things through, that I wanted to stay and fight to save my marriage. I was determined to make it better than it ever was before. So I gave him one chance.

And another.

And another.

With each failed chance I found more details revealing the emotional involvement that was still ongoing. With each new detail, a wound that had barely started healing was torn open again. Each tear took longer to heal, and before I knew it I was on the road to self-destruction.

There were countless times my husband was dishonest about what was going on, but I believed him. My blind faith and belief in him came from the amount of trust I put in this man. I had married him based on faith and character, not for money or career. He played a big role within his community, and many spoke very highly of him.

He was such a good man, he had such high standards- and it was because of those high standards that I could not accept that he would consciously cause me so much pain. Therefore I blamed myself.

So did he.

I was made to feel crazy for having suspicions, even when my suspicions turned out to be correct. I was told I was the one that needed serious help, and that I needed to get my issues under control.

In my desperation to make things work I made myself extremely vulnerable. Some may even say I was being naïve. But there I was, ready and willing give all I had in me to save my marriage and the man I had committed myself to. At the end of the day, his heart was somewhere else, but I have no regrets. I know I did everything I possibly could in order to make my marriage work.

It Really Was For Her.

Soon after our divorce, he married her.

Finding out made me feel validated – I wasn’t a crazy woman for suspecting his emotional affair was ongoing. I wasn’t wrong for doubting him when he said he didn’t want her.

Being right was satisfying, but it also tore me apart. Seeing him get married to the woman who broke my home, my family, my life. This woman who had been my friend, my confidant. A sister of mine through Islam. It turned out this woman was really my enemy.

This woman told my husband how much she loved him. This woman wore my husband’s pajamas to bed at night. This woman was now living in the same space that I had shared with my husband.

The man I trusted, respected, and married believing I would spend my entire life with – he married this woman. And now, he was her husband instead.

I don’t know what was worse, living through the affair or being destroyed by the losing fight to save my marriage. I live in the pain of silence while they continue with their lives as though nothing wrong was done. People within my own community accept them and what they’ve done. His family, that I was once a part of, is silent about my disappearance and replacement.

Maybe. Just Maybe.

Maybe I should’ve spoken up instead of trying to protect him. Maybe I should’ve confronted her when I had the chance. Maybe I should’ve done something differently, maybe if I was just stronger…maybe maybe maybe.

I can make a long list out of things I should’ve or could’ve done differently. Or, I can accept that this was all part of Allah’s plan. Like all struggles we go through, we have to remember there is a bigger plan behind the things that happen to us.

Maybe we think we have the perfect plan for our lives… get married, have kids, have an amazing career, and when those things don’t work out for us, we fall into deep depression and disappointment. What we fail to see is that Allah took those things away from us because He is planning to replace what we lost with something better.

“Do they think that they will be left to say “We believe,” and they will not be tried?” [Ankabut:29].

We have to leave it to the One who has the power to create all good, and trust that He will give us good in ways that we never imagined.

 

To the Woman Dealing with Her Husband’s Affair:

“No person earns any sin except against himself, and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another.” Surah Al-Anam 164

If you’re currently in this situation, please put the burden of blame down before it sets in permanently. We’re all grownups here, and he should never blame someone else for his actions. Flaws in a marriage call for mercy, communication, and compromise – not infidelity.

“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.”

-Sheikh Omar Suleiman, Infidelity and Misplaced Blame…,

Take care of yourself. Do not neglect your emotional, mental, or physical well-being. Build yourself back up and remember that Allah does not burden any one more than they can bear.

“Allah does not place a burden on a soul greater than it can bear.” Surah Baqarah, 286

It will feel unbearable at times. You may feel like ending it all, or feel like you have nothing left to live for, but in those vulnerable moments, remember that no one understands your pain more than Allah.

When others run out of words of comfort, or begin to understand your pain, remember that Allah understands your heartbreak.

Be Bigger: Allah says: “And who is better in speech than the one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims.’ And not are equal the good deed and the bad. Repel evil by that which is better.” [Fussilat: 33-34]

No matter how much it hurts, keep this in mind: We are commanded to repel evil by doing that which is BEST. It will be hard, but it is crucial that you remember that the reward given to those that have patience in times of hardship is a reward given without measure.

There is a fine line between being patient and staying no matter how bad his treatment of you gets, and how little he cares about rebuilding your trust. If you see no hope for a change to the positive, you should stand up for yourself and know that Allah has something better in store for you.

Dr. Neil Warren, author of Triumphant Marriage, says: “…75 percent of all divorces involve marriages in which at least one partner is emotionally unhealthy.” No matter how much you would like to or how much you try, if the unhealthy individual is not willing to own the problem, confess it, or seek personal restorations, the marriage is headed for disaster.

To the Woman Involved with a Married Man:

No matter how much you try to convince yourself that what you’re doing is justifiable, it is not. If a man is married, regardless of what excuses he gives you, it is not okay to get emotionally or physically involved.

Put yourself into the situation of the woman whose husband you’re “having a good time with.” Could you trust a man who snuck behind his wife’s back? Knowing that he treats his wife in such a way, how could you trust him if you were his wife instead?

Know that this man left his first wife by lying and cheating on her. Know that you are not safe from such behavior.

If you do go through with it all and marry this man, know that you are responsible for destroying the life of another woman and breaking up a family. Congratulations, you’re doing shaytaan’s work for him.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension between people); the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: “I did so and so.” And he says: “You have done nothing.” Then one amongst them comes and says: “I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife.” Shaytaan goes near him and says: “You have done well.” He then embraces him” (Sahih Muslim; narrated by Jabir Ibn ‘Abdullah).

Even if you care nothing for the betrayed wife, remember that you’re trying to marry someone who cheated on their spouse. Someone who didn’t like what they had at home so they went looking for something better. When your honeymoon wears off, will he go looking for that better someone?

It doesn’t really matter who started it. It doesn’t matter if you were tricked and didn’t know at first that he had a wife at home waiting for him. At the end of the day, Allah knows all the details, He is constantly watching, and everything will be laid out in front of you on the Day of Judgment. Stop it while you still have control, and gain some dignity.

If you don’t do it for anyone else, do it for Allah’s sake. Remember, “…He is with you wherever you are, and He is seeing of what you do.” (57:4)

End the affair to please Him, and He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will give you something better.

The Only Way is Up.

In the end I’ve learned that once you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. I can say now that life after such a sordid affair does get better, but, it only gets better with time. In the moment everything is happening you will feel broken and shattered, but everything you go through has a purpose, and it will make you stronger than ever before if you let it.

When we hit our rock bottom, we have to remember that if we turn to Allah, He will make a way out for us, no matter how lost we may feel. My personal journey and struggle is still ongoing but I see glimmers of bright and sunny days ahead, InshaAllah. I will continue to persevere.

I see now the chance that Allah has given me to make myself into a better person, one who has Allah as a Protector, Guide, and Confidant. I am learning to leave it all to Allah, because at the end of the day He knows what’s best for us and we know nothing. In Him I put my trust, and let all those that trust, put their trust in Him. (12:67)

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                  Mental Health & COVID-19: Light, Guidance, & Much Love | Part 1

                  Insha’Allah, you and your loved ones are safe & healthy. May Allah swt protect us all from COVID-19, Ya Hafidh, and open the way for our spiritual growth, Ya Fattah Ya Rabb. No doubt, we are living in very challenges times, and many in our community are suffering. As such, my intention for this two-part series is to provide some beneficial perspectives and practical strategies that will make your emotional journey safer & easier, insha’Allah.

                  And a journey it surely is. We are on a very long hike up a very steep mountain. And we have only two choices about HOW we approach this challenge: unskillfully or skillfully. If we wear flip-flops, and fail to pack water and snacks, we will have a very difficult time reaching the summit. And if we do, we will be in very bad shape. If we wear good socks, sturdy hiking boots, and our backpack is well-stocked, not only are we likely to reach the summit, but reach it in great shape. This is what I want for our beloved community, insha’Allah.

                  As Muslims, it is crucial to remember that the ultimate summit is the hereafter. Truly, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our goal and pleasing Him is our aim. Truly, everything we do or fail to do here has an impact there. For many people, this haqq is much more difficult to remember and actualize when their day-to-day challenges are daunting. This is why historically and traditionally, in times of crisis, Muslims have always sought the nasiha of wise elders. Imam Muhasibi, the father of Islamic Psychology, developed this crucial, beautiful science in response to the human needs of his students. Sadly, the loss of these teachings as a widespread living tradition has contributed in large part to the widespread mental-health problems that have been plaguing our community for a very long time, which have now been exacerbated by COVID-19.

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

                  Here’s a good metaphor. The science of nutrition teaches us about our body, the properties of different foods, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum physical health. Likewise, the science of mental health teaches us about our heart and mind, the impact of specific activities, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital psychological nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum mental health. Lack of knowledge about Islamic Psychology and the absence of the vital psychological nutrients have taken a huge toll on our community. The stories I hear would probably shock you. They would certainly break your heart. Especially the stories of our young people, who are my top priority. Insha’Allah, the wake-up call of COVID-19 propels us to reclaim en masse this lost part of our spiritual heritage, so we can reclaim our vitality and nobility as the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

                  To continue with the metaphor. Working one-on-one with an experienced nutritionist is very different than reading a book about nutrition. With the former, your nutritional program is specifically tailored to your particular problems, challenges, habits, and temperament. The same is true when it comes to mental health. So I must manage your expectations honestly and honorably by saying that it is not possible for me to do in two articles for the general public what I do one-on-one in my private practice as a psychotherapist, life-coach, and spiritual mentor. Truly, there is a palpable, powerful, fitrah-based alchemy that can only happen when two human hearts link-up in real time. That said, in the same way that reading and learning about nutrition is very beneficial, so too reading and learning about mental health, especially now.

                  Working Skillfully with Difficult Emotions

                  No doubt, COVID-19 has unleashed a wide range of very difficult emotions. People are struggling with tremendous anxiety, uncertainty, fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, confusion, grief, despair, and in some cases, a full-blown crisis of faith. So let me explain a little bit about emotions and how to work with them skillfully  

                  One of the foundational principles of cognitive-behavioral psychology is called ‘reframing.’

                  It is the process of deliberately thinking differently about our situation. Reframing it. The fact is, the lens through which we view our circumstances makes all the difference in the world insofar as how we feel. Thoughts are like the front wheels of the car and feelings are like the back wheels. We must be in the driver seat, steering intentionally. Whichever way the front wheels turn, the back wheels follow. So paying attention to our thoughts moment by moment, and making sure they are aligned with the Qur’an and Sunnah, is crucial. The mind is a like a muscle that MUST be trained through specific exercises, and our tradition is rich in the techniques for doing so. Truly, we must hit the spiritual gym regularly. The heavy lifting of muhasiba (self-reckoning) and muraqaba (mindfulness/meditation) are not optional. If these are not already a consistent part of your spiritual practice, NOW is the time to take them up. You will be so happy you did!

                  Here’s a good metaphor. If you are a longtime couch potato, even a flight of stairs leaves you huffing and puffing. If you are in good shape, you’re able to jog around the block easily. If you’re in great shape, you’re able to leap over the hurdles like a gazelle. For many, COVID-19 has been like asking a couch potato to run a marathon. So we need to get in the best spiritual shape possible as quickly as possible. To that end:

                  The Centering Exercise 

                  Every time you notice that you are feeling sad, anxious, fearful, angry, hopeless, helpless, impatient, frustrated, confused, or depressed, here’s what to do.  

                  • Turn off your devices and put them in another room.
                  • Close your door and put a “Please do not disturb.” sign on the doorknob. Lay down.
                  • Close your eyes. Turn your attention to your heart. Remember the Hadith Qudsi, “Heaven and earth cannot contain me but the heart of my faithful believer is where I reside.” Truly, Allah is closer than our jugular vein. (50:16)
                  • Take some slow-deep breaths. On the out-breath, silently recite “La illaha.” On the in-breath, silently recite “il Allah.” After a few minutes, notice the shift in your state. Notice the deep connection between ‘self’ and ‘breath’, not just experientially, but also etymologically. They both derive from the same Arabic root, transliterated nfs.   
                  • When you are centered, mentally review what you had been thinking about that gave rise to the difficult emotions.  Then do a ‘search and replace,’ deliberately and intentionally replacing your dark thoughts with the Light of The Qur’an or Hadith. Here is one example: Search: “I’ll never get through this.” Replace: “Allah never burdens a person with more than he is well able to bear.” (2:286)

                  As individuals, we each have our own particular dark thoughts. NOW is the BEST time to fix them. I lovingly encourage you to get a blank journal, so that each time you do The Centering Exercise, you can make note of what you observed, what you learned about yourself. Write down each dark thought and then write down each Rx of Light from The Qur’an or Sunnah. Having a personal journal gives you a concrete means of reinforcing your new thought patterns. 

                  We know from our neuroscience that the human brain possesses ‘neuroplasticity’, which is the capacity to be shaped, molded, changed. As such, the more often you do The Centering Exercise, the more your thinking patterns will change. This is how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created us, mash’Allah! It’s really quite amazing to realize that the Qur’an we’ve been given provides Light upon Light from The Lord of The Worlds. And the Sunnah is that Light fully actualized to perfection, mash’Allah. The fact is, no matter how dark a room may be, if we light just one candle, it illuminates the space. Mash’Allah!

                  Parents, once you get the hang of The Centering Exercise, please please teach it to your children! Insha’Allah, make it the new normal in your household, transforming discord and upset into harmony and peace.

                  Say “Ameen!”

                  Divine Reminders

                  Insofar as reframing COVID-19 in the broader sense, I offer you this lens, this Divine Reminder, with much love. May it shift your state from embittered to empowered. My beloved sisters and brothers, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our Rabb, our Teacher, and COVID-19 is the Test we’ve all been given. Every single human being on the planet. We all woke up one day, walked into the classroom of Life, and got handed a pop quiz. The purpose of which is to show us the places where we weren’t prepared. This is great! Because the trumpet is absolutely going to sound, and we surely want to be ready. As long as we’re breathing, we have time to prepare. This is great!

                  Say “Ameen!” 

                  Beloved ones, we have the incredible privilege of being students of The One Who Knows Everything, including The Future and The Unseen.  It is very bad adab to question the teaching methods of our Teacher or to complain that we don’t like the Test.

                  This was the fatal mistake of Bani Israel that we are reminded 17x/day not to emulate. On the contrary, what we want to be asking ourselves is: “What must I do to pass this Test with flying colors, to ace this Exam?” Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between.” (38:27)  This pandemic is not some random event. It has a divine purpose. There is deep meaning in it. 

                  There is also enormous rahmah in it. Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “…My mercy embraces everything.” (7:156) The Divine Physician has dispensed this bitter medicine to heal us. To heal the whole world from its longstanding imbalances and injustices. Surely, it is no accident, the timing of COVID-19 vis-à-vis the murder of George Floyd and the global response it has galvanized.  Surely, every human being wants to and deserves to breathe.

                  COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the whole world. Ours to do as students is to be fully present in each moment, to practice mindfulness (muraqaba), so we can be deeply receptive to the Lessons we are meant to learn (muhasiba). Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) Beloved ones, NOW is the time for global tawbah (repentance). As the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), this is our Divine Assignment, individually, collectively, institutionally. 

                  My vision and personal commitment is that we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of this, insha’Allah. I can say this with great confidence because first and foremost, I know that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not out of business! The presence of The Presence, the power of the Names & Attributes, are as robust as ever. 

                  We are being summoned to recognize our hubris and turn our hearts in humility toward The One Who Is In Charge, The One Who Calls The Shots, to The One Whose Decree we surrender. Humbly. Readily. Insha’Allah, NOW is the time to actualize the last part of Hadith Jibreel about qadr. The fact is, what’s happening around us is what’s happening, and this is always in the hands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). HOW we respond to what’s happening is entirely up to us.

                  What I want for our community is the best possible response, the most skillful and beautiful response, the response that will be of maximum benefit here & hereafter, insha’Allah.

                  I can also say this with great confidence because time and again, working with Muslim refugees who have been through horrific trauma, I have seen with my own eyes how absolutely amazing human beings are. How resilient. How courageous. How creative. How capable of transforming sorrow into joy, lemons into lemonade, compost into roses. This is what I want for you, my beloved sisters and brothers.

                  No doubt, on any long and arduous journey, in addition to having the right equipment and supplies, having an experienced trail-guide makes all the difference. There is dangerous terrain you want to avoid, and beautiful vistas you don’t want to miss. In my experience over decades, I have observed that human beings thrive when we are given the right tools and the loving encouragement to master them.  So let me give you now some very practical guidelines to help you navigate skillfully, so you can extract from these precious days of your life what is meaningful & transformational. 

                  Practical Strategies

                  When it comes to protecting our physical health from the pandemic, there are certain steps we MUST take. Likewise with our mental health. As such, here are some practical strategies, culled from thousands of pages of research and decades of experience. My focus is on parents, whose job has never been more difficult. And with the new school year right around the corner, this guidance is extremely timely. 

                  Boundaries: Set clear boundaries regarding where and when devices can be used. This applies to everyone in the household, kids and parents alike. Parents, as your elder who loves you, I am reminding you that YOU are the CEO of your home. YOU are the policy maker. YOU are in charge. NOT your kids or their devices. So take charge!

                  • No devices for kids 0-3. These guidelines are from the American Pediatric Association. 
                  • No devices at the dinner table* or in the bedrooms.
                  • No devices until after Fajr. Better yet, after breakfast.
                  • All devices put away 1-2 hours before bedtime. Plugged in in the kitchen to recharge.
                  • Limit on-line entertainment and socializing to 1 hour/day MAX.
                  • Schedule tech fasts ½ day weekly, and 1-2 full days monthly, on a weekend.
                  • An occasional family-time movie is fine on the weekend. Choose something meaningful, uplifting, thought-provoking, heart-opening. Pop some popcorn. Make tea. Engage in a special time afterward to really talk together about your experience. *Getting in the habit of real-time-face-to-face conversations is crucial. If you start when your kids are young, it will lay a strong foundation for their teenage years, when they desperately need wise, trustworthy, caring adults who really know how to listen from the heart.

                  Nature: Spending time in nature is the very best thing you can do for yourself and with your family. There are reams of data about the stress-reducing effects of being outdoors, especially in the woods. There are also reams of data about the benefits of exercise, not only for physical health, but for mental health. Given all the extra sitting everyone is doing during COVID-19, regular exercise is not optional. 

                  Furthermore, if your kids are schooling from home and you are working from home, everyone will surely need some breathing room, some physical and emotional space from one another, some time every day in solitude, unplugged from their devices. Spending alone-time in nature is the perfect solution. 

                  For family-time activities, unplug from your devices and enjoy these delightful experiences. They will engender tremendous awe (khushu’) and deepen your heart-connection with your Rabb, The One Who Created you and all the beauty around you. Subhan’Allah.

                  • Take a 15-30 minute family-walk every night after dinner before homework.
                  • Go hiking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, kite-flying, or camping on the weekend.   
                  • Set up bird feeders in your yard. Learn their names and identify their songs.
                  • Go out nightly to look at the stars. Learn the names of the constellations.
                  • Watch as many sunrises & sunsets, moonrises & moonsets as you can. 

                  As Muslims, our worship is guided by the natural cycles Allah put in place. The sun is our clock. It tells us when to pray. The moon is our calendar. It tells us when the new month begins. Sighting the moon is an act of worship, mash’Allah.

                  Divine Reminders

                  Our beautiful Qur’an teaches:“We will show them Our Signs (ayat) in the universe and in their own selves, until it becomes clear to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth.” (Fussilat 41:53)

                  In this ayah, we are taught the two beautiful gateways into the sacred: the macrocosm of the universe, and the microcosm of the self. Both of these gateways open into the direct experience of Allah’s presence. 

                  As Muslims, we have been invited to spend time in this dunya in the company of The One Who is Love (al-Wadud). The One Who is Strength (al-Aziz). The One Who is Peace (as-Salaam). And on & on. What could be more beneficial during this time of crisis? Alas, calling upon our Rabb by His most Beautiful Names, with urgency & sincerity, is one of the Lessons we must learn from COVID-19.  My prayer for our community is that people do not squander the opportunity to connect in a deep, meaningful, intimate way heart-to-heart with Allah because they can’t put their phone down or turn their computer off. Insha’Allah, I will address the subject of digital addiction in the second article, as it plays a huge role when it comes to mental health issues.

                  Closing Du’a

                  Ya Habibi Ya Allah. Please grant us oceans of fortitude and mountains of strength Ya Sabur Ya Aziz. May we be dutiful beautiful students who strive with all our might in jihad al akbar to pass this test with flying colors, to ace this exam. May we, the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), love one another like he loves us, and strengthen one another every step of the way. May we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of COVID-19, reclaiming the standard of Insan Kamil as the Index by which we measure our lives. Ya Dhal Jalali wal Ikram.

                  Say “Ameen!” 

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

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

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