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Nobody Cares About Black Muslims, He Said

Umm Zakiyyah



I wrote the above entry in my journal because alone at home with a pen and paper is one of the few places I feel safe enough to be honest about my pain. The other places are when I am alone with Allah, when I am alone with those I love, and those whom I trust love me.

But recently I’ve been taking a few risks, sharing my heart in ways I never have before. It started, I think, with the decision to speak about feeling like I could no longer be Muslim, in the video I Never Thought It Would Be Me. That was a scary first step, but it was a necessary one because I felt trapped in my confusion and pain, and trapped in a life others had carved out for me. Then the words flowed a bit more easily, even if hesitantly, in Pain. From the Journal of Umm Zakiyyah, then Broken yet Faithful, and now Faith.

But it’s still hard, and I often cringe in knowing I’ve shown so much of myself. But today, for the sake of my emotional health and spiritual sanity, I feel I have no other choice.

The truth is, the most difficult part of the battle to be seen as human is the one waged against oneself. I was taught that I didn’t have the right to exist, and I’d believed it. Though no one used those exact words, it was instilled in me nonetheless. In circles of those who looked like me, I was taught that my existence had to be sacrificed for “the greater good,” for a Black legacy that was bigger than me. I was taught that internal hurts—those inflicted upon me by those who looked like me—had to be kept quiet because the admission would be seen by “them” as an opportunity to inflict more hurt.

But in my eyes, “they” inflicted hurt because of their own internal pain and spiritual depravity, not because I admitted to having pain of my own. Yes, “they” would use any opportunity to say I deserved to hurt, and I certainly didn’t want to give them more power over me than they already had.

But the problem is, this hiding of hurts (and thus giving oneself no opportunity for healing) is itself a grave hurt and a form of oppression, incited by a culture of systematic racism. It is the existence of racism that tells us that we do not exist like others do.

Besides, isn’t it the very definition of being human to have within you, individually and collectively, both good and evil? And is there any group of people who escape this part of human experience? What then, I wondered, was the point of denying my right to be seen as human too?

Equal Opportunity Evil

Here’s the problem with buying into bigoted untruths of the self and others: evil doesn’t discriminate. Shaytaan, as well as his army, views all human hearts the same: as opportunities for corruption and dragging them alongside him to Hellfire. He doesn’t care about the amount of melanin (or lack thereof) in the skin of human beings, the descendants of the one toward whom he felt destructive, envious pride. Ironically, Shaytaan sees us as we should see ourselves: as a single people, a single group, a single family of Adam.

When we, whoever we are, begin to believe evil has escaped us more than it has escaped others, or that good has come to us more than it has come to others, then we have joined Shaytaan and his army, and thus have given our hearts over to the same prideful disease that destroyed Iblis.

Black in the MSA (Muslim Student Association)

When I was in college, I was very active in the MSA. Ultimately, I served as Vice President one year and President another. During my four years in undergrad, I was often the only Black Muslim who participated consistently. But it was a fellow BSU (Black Student Union) member who approached me after class one day and asked if I would come to a speech by a man who had been part of the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. She showed me some of the man’s writings, and I was appalled. It listed in unapologetic horrid detail “scientific proofs” of the biological inferiority and pathology of Black people. In other words, it detailed how Black people, allegedly, had not fully evolved from apes and thus had underdeveloped intelligence and “inherently” violent and immoral ways.

I sat in the audience listening in shock to a speech by a man brought to the university on school funds. My only consolation was that we, the Black students, had come in groups, prepared to challenge him during Q&A. When I glanced around the audience, I was pleasantly surprised to see some members of the MSA in attendance. Like myself and the Black students, they were different shades of brown sitting amidst the predominately White audience though the MSA members were mostly Desi, from India and Pakistan.

When the speaker made a joke disparaging a Black student, I saw the reaction of some MSA members, and I did a double take. The MSA group was laughing and clapping. When the speaker spoke of Blacks and Latinos being inherently ignorant and mentally diseased and Whites and Asians being inherently intelligent and superior, the Desi Muslims roared in applause. When he spoke of the inherent inferiority of Black people, they nodded in agreement as their eyes lit up in an eager admiration that I associated with someone being in the presence of a beloved celebrity.

A Wake-up Call

I could say I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the speaker himself was originally from India. But that wouldn’t be true, and it wouldn’t be right. I was surprised, and I should have been. Why should I, or any believer, expect anything less than basic human decency from fellow believers in Allah?

But it hurt. I cannot deny that. These were the same Muslims who sat opposite me, an administrator of the MSA, to brainstorm events to bring together Muslims on campus. No wonder I was the only Black person who participated regularly. I was the only one who hadn’t gotten the memo. But since I’d been voted in as an administrator myself, in the eyes of the MSA, I had no right or claim to my pain. After all, how could they be racist when they voted in a Black board member?

So I went home that day and said nothing about what I’d seen or heard. As far as I could tell, the Desi MSA members hadn’t seen me in the crowd, so after the event, I found my way out of the room and carried my heavy heart alone.

Nobody Cares About You

“Nobody cares about Black Muslims except Black Muslims,” an MSA member said to me months later when I suggested an event aimed at explaining the differences between the Nation of Islam and orthodox Islam. This member was Arab, and I’m sure, like the Muslim supporters at the racist speech, he meant no harm. “Good people” never do.

But they somehow manage to continually inflict it. And because they don’t mean to, our job is to suffer in silence, continuously. Because apparently, the only crime greater than good people inflicting pain is for hurt people to openly acknowledge that they hurt.

This is particularly the case if those hurt people are members of a group unapproved for full human existence. If you’re of a privileged group, you can speak of the hurt you felt when the people you hurt didn’t praise you enthusiastically enough for not hurting as much as they could.

Being Black and Muslim

I don’t like sounding like a victim because I am not. I am a hurting human being. But because I am not viewed as a full human being, when I speak of hurt, it is allegedly because I see myself as a victim. When others speak of hurt, it is because they see themselves as a human who is hurting.

Being Black and Muslim is not a victim experience. It is a human experience, and it is my human experience. And it hurts. And it’s not because I bemoan either gift (Blackness or Islam) that God has given me. It is because the suffering inflicted on me by my brothers and sisters in both humanity and faith due to their dislike of the melanin God has given me.

I don’t pretend to understand the fight that people are picking with God when they speak so condescendingly about the black and brown-hued creations of God. But I myself feel grateful for the gift of brown skin that my Lord has given me. If nothing else, it at least offers me that much more protection from destructive human pride.

Also, as I experience daily mistreatment from both fellow Americans and fellow Muslims, I am given the priceless reminder that this earth is not my home.



Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, cognitive behavioral therapist.

To learn more about the author, visit or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah writes about the interfaith struggles of Muslims and Christians, and the intercultural, spiritual, and moral struggles of Muslims in America. She is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, behavioral therapist. Her books have been used in universities in America and abroad including Indiana University-Bloomington, Howard University, University of D.C. and Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. To learn more about the author, visit



  1. Avatar

    Sister Suzanne

    April 10, 2017 at 2:46 AM

    Dear sister,

    You see only one side of the reality. Many Muslims, I am one of them, love the black people. If some of them are racists, this is their problem. They do not have only this problem, they have a lot of other problems, because they follow their corrupt culture instead of following the pure religion of God. We are all suffering from what Shaytan put in the mind of the people, but the truth is with us, the justice is with us, this is what makes us strong. Do not let your heart be hurt by this, have pity for them, because they are clearly on the wrong direction. May Allah bless you. I love you for the sake of Allah.

  2. Avatar

    Noorunnisa Ibrahim Kutty

    April 10, 2017 at 9:04 AM

    Dear sister, I am an Indian Muslim woman, although not from the USA. When I read of experience like yours, I just wish I lived there – not because I think it is a better place than my own home, but just to show my solidarity with my fellow Muslims of ALL races. When will Muslims understand that ‘Asabiyyah was HATED by the Prophet (saw), and that he will disown the people who practice it!? Let me tell you, Sister, that I admire you deeply for your ability to write honestly and beautifully, and let me also tell you I love you for the sake of Allah. May Allah bless you!

  3. Avatar

    Yo! Khary

    April 10, 2017 at 9:26 AM

    This is needed to be emphasised and ponder upon for all to reflect upon:

    “Here’s the problem with buying into bigoted untruths of the self and others: evil doesn’t discriminate. Shaytaan, as well as his army, views all human hearts the same: as opportunities for corruption and dragging them alongside him to Hellfire. He doesn’t care about the amount of melanin (or lack thereof) in the skin of human beings, the descendants of the one toward whom he felt destructive, envious pride. Ironically, Shaytaan sees us as we should see ourselves: as a single people, a single group, a single family of Adam”

    This is the truth as human beings need to accept.

  4. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    April 10, 2017 at 9:47 AM

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Sister,

    Thank you for writing so honestly and holding up a much needed mirror to the Muslim community. Racism is disgusting and, to my mind, quite incomprehensible. It just seems so utterly arbitrary; I would really like to know what the origins of it are.

    Let’s get to work, brothers and sisters, on exorcising this demon from within our midst. Islam is so explicitly and unequivocally anti-racist, probably more so than any other religion. The Prophet (saas) explicitly stated that a white / light-skinned person has NO superiority over a black person. And Allah explicitly mentions on many occasions in the Qur’an that the differences in your tongues and *colors* are among the precious signs of His wisdom and power. Bilal (ra) was a black Ethiopian slave who was given the highest honors. Quraysh seethed when they saw him ascend the Ka’ba to call the adhan after the conquest of Mecca. How many Muslims alive today would have similarly seethed?

    We can do much better than this, and must. Malcom X saw better than this among Muslims. He wrote about it so eloquently, how Islam had managed to overcome the ugly racial divide he saw in America. But alas! The problem is still there. If not after 1,400 years, when will we ever learn? May Allah forgive us our collective sins and show us to the way of Truth. Ameen!

  5. Avatar

    Maham Meher

    April 10, 2017 at 10:54 AM

    I cannot believe that this actually happened to you, and to be very honest, I have nothing to say to comfort you but to sympathize with you. I myself am a Pakistani, and thanks to my parents who taught me how to love without seeing color. I respect people (whether or not they are brown or Muslims) to appreciate and acknowledge what they did and not judge them for who they are.

    Im truly sorry for what happened to you, and Im assuming this was in US college?

    I just wanted tot hank you for composing the first legitimate article that I read in which finally someone talked about this issue.
    It’s a shame those people who think this way still call themselves Muslims.

    I also wanted to let you know that my closest friends since I moved to North America have been black or white (both Muslims and non Muslims alike) because I purposely distanced myself from “my” people. I know their way of thinking, and how they will go to lengths to disregard some one based on a stereotype, but let me tell you, at the same time, there are also people who are trying to change this, or doing as much of the opposite to reduce stigma and ignorance.
    All in all, I have met some amazing Muslims in the time I spent here, who happened to be Middle Eastern, black, white and desi, and Im thankful to Allah that I did.

    As for you sister, I really hope that you don’t take this to heart, and that you find true support and real friends elsewhere.
    I would also like to say that please don’t quit MSA, simply because you don’t want them to see that they have gotten to you or that you will quit just because of them. If you are the only black, you have the honor of being the only actively working black student, and you should be proud of that and hold that status.
    Don’t worry about them, they will get their part of the punishment.

    Good luck!

  6. Avatar

    Joseph Ali Bin Muhammad

    April 10, 2017 at 11:05 AM

    The MSA like every other organization Muslims form is infiltrated by agents of sufyani and dajjal. That is who you describe in your article. By failing to understand the people you saw applauding the racist speech are not Muslims but are satanists posing as Muslims you put forth wrongful stereotypes of Indian and Pakistani Muslims. Shaytaan knows every trick. Arm yourself with knowledge and wisdom.

  7. Avatar

    Abu Bilal

    April 10, 2017 at 11:09 AM

    Assalamu aleikom dear sister, I don’t want to make this comment long so I say, your post moved me because I really thought that racism was only found among the elders that grew up during earlier times and that it has at least gone extinct in our younger society but I was wrong.. My sister I named my son after Bilal Ibn rabah, and how he was treated by the community of the prophet and sahaba makes me burst into tears for how far we are from that… I just want to say to any black Muslim or brown Muslim or any one treated with racism that is reading this, that I love you from the deepest part of my heart and that we are all equals in front of allah and that I ask allah that this sickness is cured from people.

  8. Avatar


    April 10, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    Wow I’m impressed. This actually brought tears. The ending was epic, this earth ain’t our home! May Allah ease our journey.

  9. Avatar

    Arab bro

    April 10, 2017 at 12:19 PM

    May Allah remove the stresses and pain from your heart and my fellow black Muslims like he removed the torture from Bilal. My Allah bring ease and tranquility into your heart and the hearts of my fellow black Muslims like he brought ease and tranquility into the heart of the mother of Musa.

    The pain is real.

  10. Avatar


    April 10, 2017 at 1:59 PM

    Asalamu Alaykum

    I am a Canadian Indian, my parents are from India. I can honestly and truly say that I have met black Muslims who are better mannered and softer than desi Muslims. Black Muslims who are more progressive than many of the desi Muslims that I know and encounter often. Isn’t Akhlaaq and activism more important than where one is from. Kudos to you sister for writing this piece. Salam

  11. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    April 10, 2017 at 2:28 PM

    It’s shocking to hear about the behavior of the students at that event. May Allah educate our Ummah, and bring forth a generation with pure hearts, who see and treat all human beings as equals regardless of race, tribe or nationality.

  12. Avatar

    Dr. Tariq

    April 10, 2017 at 2:51 PM

    I am a non-black Indian Muslim and I assure you that I feel as much love for black Muslims in my heart as for those who are white or brown. I’ve been trained never to discriminate on basis of color, race or country of residence and this is the teaching of Islam. If someone is discriminating on these lines he/she is simply not following Islam in true sense.

  13. Avatar


    April 10, 2017 at 2:56 PM

    As Salaam Alaikum sister, I am not surprised, after being shocked myself by an online article that warned fellow muslims to be aware of blacks as the article related a Hadith about a black man who would destroy the Holy Kaaba! I re-read the Hadith as I’d never read it before, how could I have not seen that? I questioned many about it and felt saddened about how Prophet Muhammad (saw) had a dream in which he saw a skinny black man destroying the Kaaba, but the story online was very racist. I was troubled, I no longer looked at foreigners the same. I prayed, I cried, it remained on my heart until one day I asked a fellow muslim of whom I had not seen or heard from in many years about it and he asked me what do you think of it? I answered the same question I’d once asked him, In Sha Allah, I said, one day there will be no need for any symbol, location or direction in which to turn to worship Allah. He said you have answered your own question sister! My answer was from Allah and it surprised even me. And as we must exit this world, Allah’s Will is all that remains. Allahu Akbar!

    • Avatar

      Yusuf Smith

      April 11, 2017 at 1:44 PM

      As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

      I believe I have heard another version of that hadeeth, namely that a specific Ethiopian or Abyssinian ruler will destroy the Ka’aba before the End of Time. Not merely “a Black man”. As we know, central Ethiopia and parts of Eritrea remain Christian to this day; the number of Black African Muslims is much larger, and about a third of the population of Ethiopia itself is also Muslim.

  14. Avatar

    slamet riyadi

    April 10, 2017 at 6:53 PM

    Assalamu’alaikum, I am a Muslim from Indonesia … don’t be sad my brother. We are all brothers, we are all equal before God. Let us pray for one another. Although we are far apart, although we had never met, but I know that we are brothers. Keep the spirit … we all pray for you.

  15. Avatar

    slamet riyadi

    April 10, 2017 at 7:03 PM

    Assalamualaikum, I am a Muslim from Indonesia. I was thrilled to read your story. Do not be sad my brother, we all have weaknesses, and also I have many weaknesses. Let us pray for one another. In order for us to be strong and mutually reinforcing. I hope you are always in the protection of Allah

  16. Avatar


    April 10, 2017 at 7:49 PM

    Selam Alaikum Umm,

    I definitely understand your pain, and it’s important to recognize and validate it, without jumping to ‘explain’ the ‘why’ as a way to ignore the injustice.

    I came upon this article via a friend, and it amazes me how just some small details of history can illuminate a deeper understanding of the human race, and can actually prevent all this avoidable racism. I still don’t get why people choose to speak ignorantly, and I’m curious to learn what are their actual underlying fears.

  17. Avatar

    Aisha P

    April 11, 2017 at 12:50 AM

    I love your honesty Masha Allah. I am a convert, my skin is very light and I have only felt welcome and comfortable in Masajids that are mostly African American. Unfortunately the closest one to me is 25 miles from my home and 15 miles from my office so I don’t even get to attend Jummah unless I take a half day off of work. As much as I wish the environment in the 5 Masjid close to my home would change, it won’t. They will always be cultural or anti convert, etc…. And as much as they say they want you involved, they disregard you’re ideas. So what I have done is, like you, not give up on my relationship with Allah and I joined and have become active (as the token Muslim) in the Racial Justice committees. I Love it… and I feel like I am actually making a difference in our nation through the will of Allah.

  18. Avatar


    April 11, 2017 at 2:32 AM

    I was so shocked to read this; I didn’t expect that young people, young so called Muslims would be like this! How horrible! But then again, they were probably non-practising Muslims, cause I can’t believe a practising Muslim is racist. In that case it would be even logical, as they probably don’t pray, so if they can disobey Allah so easily… and Shaytaan is around them the whole time as well, may Allah guide them.
    Then IF they were practising Muslims, something went completely wrong. I mean, somebody who knows about Bilal r.a., who knows about Musa ‘alaihi essalaam (about whom is said he’s dark skinned!), about ‘Isha ‘alaihi essalaam (superdark skinned according to the soundest narrations), and OUR OWN FATHER ADAM ‘alaihi essalaam! Either they’re superignorant or they’ve got a giant problem which might block their entrance to Jannah. The same problem Shaytaan had: feeling better than someone else because of their creation. LIKE THEY CREATED THEMSELVES OR CHOSE IT THEMSELVES -_-‘. How ignorant can a person be..
    Anyway sis, be strong and DO speak out definitely. May Allah guide us all.

  19. Avatar


    April 11, 2017 at 7:32 AM

    I am Desi, I know how you feel. These so called D’esi’s can be very cruel and subjective when it comes to color. I myself am desi of Pakistan and do not feel comfortable around them because I am brown as well. What a shame that as a Muslim, they are denying Allah’s creation and thus making fun of Allah SWT. Brother thank you for sharing your story and stay strong. Black have brains and intelligence, what they have lacked is opportunities which is a huge determine of success. Those who called themselves Muslims, desi, white have just shown lack of intelligence by their applause, and laughs making fun of Allah’s creation. These people are ignorant, not well informed and lack intelligence to underdtand and appreciate Allah’s creation.

  20. Avatar

    Syed h

    April 12, 2017 at 1:39 PM

    The Shining Light (pbuh).

    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    The world was illuminated by your arrival so bright.
    Your life shines brighter than the brightest sunlight.
    No words can express the beauty of its might.
    Every aspect every angle so serene and right.
    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    Memories beautiful memories come to me.
    As I go through the journey of your blessed life.
    First there is Badr, the day Allah called Yaum ul Furqan.
    When you begged Allah for victory crying all through the night.
    Allah loved those words of yours begging His mercy.
    For the 313 unarmed who were ready to fight and fight.
    AbuBakr (ra) stood up saying go Rasoolallah go.
    We are with you whatever the battleground however tight.
    Then it was Umer (ra) crying out in union with Siddiq.
    Go Rasoolallah go, you will find us by your side.
    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    These words these emotions pleased you very much.
    But you looked towards the Ansar waiting inspite.
    Sa’ad bin Muadh stepped forward and said firmly.
    O Rasoolallah we will jump in the oceans if you say so.
    We are steadfast in wars and ever upright.
    Victory came your way my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    Down the lane of memory comes another sight.
    So beautiful, so memorable that it stands outright.
    When Khaled, Amr bin Aas and Uthman came together.
    To accept Islam and hold on to it tight.
    The words You said have a fragrance unexplained.
    ‘Makkah has thrown out its gems’ your voice held delight.
    O Rasoolallah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    To me the final beauty is the scene at Makkah.
    That same Makkah you had to leave overnight.
    But you were now returning as a Hero my Nabi.
    Your entry in that city is engraved in me deep inside.
    Your head was bent low in humility and humbleness.
    With Osama bin Zaid sitting behind, holding you slight.
    On your blessed lips was praise and glory for Allah.
    The one and only whose beloved you are infinite.
    O RasoolAllah (pbuh), my Nabi, my Shining Light.
    Umm Imad.

  21. Avatar


    April 14, 2017 at 9:44 AM

    Salaam Sister. Shatyan is a racist; he believes he’s better than humans because he’s made of fire. It’s strange that the non-Black brothers and sisters didn’t find it offensive when the speaker said their ancestors were apes. It would require them to reject what the Quran teaches in order approve whatever pleasantries the speaker spoke about their race. Shaytan will not cease to trap any of Adam’s (pbuh) children.

  22. Avatar

    Muqeet Ahmed

    April 15, 2017 at 7:10 AM

    Being Black and Muslim is not a victim experience. It is a human experience, and it is my human experience.

  23. Avatar

    A SA indian Muslim men

    April 16, 2017 at 12:35 AM

    My sister in Islam
    This has been a brilliant article with true living facts that needed to be mentioned. This incident is one of many that I see daily. There is no justification and no excuse. Really enjoyed the part of how could we be racist when we voted a black MSA member, exactly like we named our son Bilaal.
    What I enjoyed most is the comments, my dear people there is No justification and No excuse.

  24. Avatar


    July 12, 2017 at 8:43 PM

    Mash’Allah! This story hit home for me! As an African American Muslim, I have personally experienced racism and culturism in muslim communities, in particular where the majority of people are from abroad. Ramadan was hard. The sisters all sat together chatting in Urdu, just ignoring me..I felt very uncomfortable and I attend this masjid regularly. I have come to the conclusion that we African American Muslims need to form our own identity and stop trying to fit in!

  25. Avatar

    run 3

    March 30, 2018 at 4:00 AM

    Regarding this post, with major depression, unfortunately, I have a severe negative connection with the Quran. Even though I’ve memorized a lot of it from when I was connected to it, when I remember Allah, the depression increases. So while the Quran has made the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم grow old in a positive way, the stress from trying to recite Quran and pray has taken the life out of me and too made me grow old and unable to worship Allah and work and live.

  26. Avatar


    May 26, 2018 at 5:57 AM

    As an African American I have experienced so much racism, including from an Arab teacher who told others in the class not to speak to me or pray near me. This is just some of the things that has happened to me. I have had many years of abuse from many Muslims and cannot take anymore. We are told in the Quran that
    the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said in his last sermon “No Arab is superior to another Arab, nor a non arab superior to a non arab: A white man is not superior to a black man neither a black man is superior to a white man, except by piety alone.”

    I just wished that this was implemented by all Muslims and all Muslims are aware of this but still carry on being “racist”, hateful, divided and segregated. I still practice Islam (for now) but have decided yet again to stay away from Muslims.
    Islam is not a religion of peace !

  27. Avatar


    March 10, 2019 at 10:19 PM

    I think it would be more beneficial for MM to talk about African scholarship. I don’t see much changing until all Muslims have a greater appreciation for the richness and power of African Islam. MM has limited itself to talking about Black Muslim experiences which are valuable but not the whole picture. Why not talk more about Africa and its history of Islamic Scholarship and Righteousness? This will penetrate the hearts of Muslims because it has the scent of iman.


  28. Avatar


    June 17, 2019 at 12:51 AM

    I am very sad because of this, everyone has equal rights and that is the fairness between people and people

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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware





Modeling Mindfulness


“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.


Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette.
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences.
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association:

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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A Code of Conduct To Protect Against Spiritual Abuse

Danish Qasim



Code of Conduct for Islamic Leadership, Institutions

When there is a claim of spiritual abuse, the initial reaction of concerned Muslims is often to go to another Muslim leader and expect that leader to take care of it.  Most of the time, however, religious leaders in the community have no authority over other religious leaders who are found abusing their position. Many of these leaders feel a foreboding sense of powerlessness to exert change, leaving those who abuse, to do so freely and with impunity. 

There have been attempts by some leaders to take action against abusive religious figures. However, when this happens, it is usually followed by a public or ‘in-group’ campaign against the abusive figure, and the abusive figure and his supporters return in kind. This becomes messy, quickly. There is name-calling, mud-slinging, and threats, but in the end, it amounts to nothing, in the end, leaving everyone involved to make their own decision as to whether or not to continue support for the alleged perpetrator. Other religious leaders may know the accused is guilty, but due to friendships or programs they wish to continue doing with the accused, they will cover for them, especially when there is only a perceived low level of evidence that the public could ever discover it. 

There are several methods and excuses through which abuse is covered up.

The Wall of Silence

In cases of tightly knit groups, whether Sufi tariqas, super Salafi cliques, activist groups, or preachers who have formed a team, the abuser will be protected by a wall of silence, while the victim is targeted, maligned, and ostracized for speaking out against the leader. They, not the abuser, are held accountable, liable, and blamed. While the abuser is expected to be ‘forgiven,’ the victim is socially shamed for a crime committed against him or her. More often than not, the victim is intimidated into silence, while the perpetrator is left free to continue abusing. 

The Kafir Court Rationale

There have been countless situations when there have been legal claims made against a transgressing spiritual leader, but through coercion and pressure, the shaykh (or those close to him) will be able to convince his victim that they are not allowed to go to kafir court systems to solve issues between Muslims. Ironically, these same shaykhs see no difficulty signing legally binding contracts with other Muslims they do business with, or when they give classes, which stands to reason, they are perfectly fine accepting the same ‘kafir court’ as a source of protection when it is for themselves. 

Stop Hurting the Dawah Plea

In other cases, when the disputes are between fellow students, or representatives of the shaykh and those lower ranking students, the shaykh himself is able to get on the phone with the disgruntled victim, give him or her special attention, and convince the person to drop it and not pursue justice, as that may ‘hurt the dawah.’ Sometimes, the shaykhs will ostensibly push for Islamic mechanisms of justice and call for arbitration by other religious figures who they know will decide in his favor. It is critical not to fall victim to these arguments. 

Your Vile Nafs Culpe

Far too often in these groups, particularly the more spiritually inclined ones, everyone will acknowledge the abuse, whether illicit sexual behavior, groping, financial fraud, secret temporary marriages, or bullying by a Shaykh, but steadfastly invoke the ‘only prophets are perfect, and our Shaykh is a wali–– but he can make mistakes’ refrain. Then, when those seeking recourse dare disclose these issues, even when there is no dispute about the factuality of their claims, they are browbeaten into compliance; told their focus on the negative is a sign that they are ‘veiled from the more important, positive efforts of the group, and it is they who should overcome their vile nafs.’ With such groups, leaving may be the only solution. 

Pray it Away Pretext

Sometimes, a target of abuse may go to other teachers or other people in the community to seek help, guidance, or direction. The victims hold these teachers in high regard and believe that they can trust them. However, instead of these teachers acting to protect the victims, the victims are often placated, told to pray it away. They are left with empty platitudes, but nothing concrete is ever done to protect them, nor is there any follow-up. 

The Forgive and Forget Pardon

They are told to forgive…

Forgiveness has its place and time, but at that critical moment, when a victim is in crisis and requires guidance and help, their wellbeing should remain paramount. To counsel victims that their primary job and focus at that pivotal juncture is to forgive their abuser is highly objectionable. Forgiveness is not the obligation of the victim and for any teacher or religious leader to invalidate the wrong that took place is not only counterproductive but dangerous––even if the intention behind the advice came from a wholesome place.

The Dire Need For A Code of Conduct

It is very easy to feel let down when nothing is done about teachers who abuse, but we have to understand that without a Code of Conduct, there really isn’t much that can be done when the spiritual abuse is not considered illegal. It is the duty of Islamic institutions to protect employees, attendees, and religious leaders. We also must demand that. 

Justice is a process. It is not a net result. This means that sometimes we will follow the process of justice and still come up short. The best thing we can do to hold abusers accountable for our institutions is to set up a process of accountability. A code of conduct will not eliminate spiritual abuse. Institutions that adopt this code may still cover up abuse, in which case victims will need to take action against the institution for violating the code. This code of conduct will also protect teachers who can be targetted and falsely accused.

As members of the community, we should expect more.  Here is how:

  •  Demand your Islamic institutions to have and instill a code of conduct. 
  •  If you are in a group outside of an institution, get clarity on the limits of the Shaykh.
  •  Understand that anyone, no matter their social status, is capable of doing horrible things, even the religious figures who talk about the importance of justice, accountability, and transparency. 
  • When it comes to money, expect more from your leadership than emotional appeals. Fundraising causes follow trends, and while supporting good causes is a positive thing, doing so without a proper audit or accountability is not. It lends itself to financial abuse, mistrust, and misappropriation.  

Establish a Protocol

A lot of hurt can be saved and distrust salvaged if victims are provided with honest non-judgment. Even in the event that there is a lack of concrete evidence, a protocol to handle these kinds of sensitive situations can provide a victim with a safe space to go to where they know they won’t be ignored or treated callously. We may not be able to guarantee an outcome, but we can ensure that we’ll try.

Using Contract Law to Hold Abusers Accountable – Danya Shakfeh

In cases of spiritual abuse, legal recourse (or any recourse for that matter) has been rare due to there being no standard of conduct and no legal means to hold abusers accountable.  In order to solve this problem, our Code of Conduct creates a legal mechanism of enforcement through contract law.

The reason why contract law is important and applicable is that the law does not always address unethical behavior.  You have heard the refrain “Just because it is legal, it does not mean it is ethical.” The law, for varying reasons, has its limits. Although we associate the law with justice and morality, the law and justice and morality are not always interchangeable and can even be at odds with each other.  

Ultimately, specifically in a secular society, the law is a set man-made rules and sometimes those rules are arbitrary and actually unfair. For example, there is a class of laws called ‘strict liability’ laws. These laws make a defendant liable even if the person committed the offense by accident.  One example of strict liability law is selling alcohol to a minor. In some states, even if the person tried to confirm the minor’s legal age, the seller could still be held liable for the offense. On the flip-side, there are is a lack of anti-bullying laws on the books in the United States. This allows employers to cause serious emotional damage to employees, yet the employer can get away with such offensive behavior.  Accordingly, the law does not always protect nor is it always ‘just.’

On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

This is one of the reasons that victims of spiritual abuse have had little success in having their claims addressed at a legal level.  Because abuses are not legally recognized as such, there is often no associated remedy. For example, when a woman enters into a secret second marriage only to find that the husband is not giving her all her Islamic legal rights, that woman’s recourse is very limited because the law does not recognize this as abuse and does not even recognize the marriage.

Further, if a victim of spiritual abuse is abused due to religious manipulation unless the abuser engaged in a stand-alone crime or civil claim, the victim also has no legal recourse. For example, if a religious scholar exploits a congregant’s vulnerabilities in order to convince the congregant to turn over large amounts of money and the congregant later learns that the Islamic scholar did not really need the money, he or she may have no legal recourse.  This is because manipulation (as long as there is no fraud) is not illegal and depending on how clever the religious scholar was, the congregant would have no legal recourse. Our way of solving this problem is by using contract law to set and enforce the standard for ethical behavior.

Use of Institutional Handbooks

Whether people realize it or not, institutional handbooks are a type of contract. Though an attorney should be consulted in order to ensure that they these documents are binding, policies do not necessarily need to be signed by every party nor do they need to be called a “contract” in order to be legally binding.  By creating institutional handbooks and employment policies that relate to common issues of spiritual abuse, we can finally provide guidelines and remedies.

When an employee at an institution violates the institution’s policies, this is a “breach of contract” that can result in firing or even monetary damages. In other words, the policy is that document which victims and institutions can use to back their cases when there are allegations involving abuse.  Policies can also hold institutions themselves liable for not enforcing the policy and remedies as to victims’ abuse. Policies also serve the purpose of putting the community and their beneficiaries and patrons on notice as to what is expected of them.

Our Code of Conduct is the most comprehensive of created ethical guidelines for Muslims leaders and institutions for making spiritual abuse remedies actionable. We believe it will provide remedies to victims that would otherwise not be available through other legal means.  By binding the parties to a contract, victims and institutions can take these contracts, along with the abusers, to court and use the contract to fill in the gap for appropriate behavior that the law otherwise does not fill.

Download the Code of Conduct For Islamic Leadership By In Shaykh’s Clothing

Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse

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#Current Affairs

The Environmental Cost Of War With Iran

Abu Ryan Dardir



war with Iran

Report after report shows how planet Earth may reach a point of no return. An analysis written by Ian Dunlop claims the planet cannot be saved by the mid-century if we continue on this path. And yet here we are marching towards a war with Iran.

When we think of climate change, we rarely think of war. On June 12th, 2019, Brown University released a report declaring the Department of Defence to be “the world’s largest institution to use petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.” Burning jet fuel for transportation of troops and weapons make up 70 percent of the Pentagon’s emissions.  Ironically, earlier this year the Pentagon released a 22-page report to Congress stating the ⅔ of their mission-essential installation in the US are vulnerable to flooding, and ½ are susceptible to wildfires. To no surprise, Trump rejected those findings at the time. The Pentagon is now concerned with the impact climate change has on their “foreign missions.”

war, iran, America, Climate change, pentagonWith tensions high with Iran, and several thousand troops are expected to be deployed, if war with Iran is to happen, it may lead us to a more damaged planet that may not recover. This makes the Pentagon guilty of killing people and the earth. The Department of Defense has consistently used between 77-80% of the entire US energy consumption. We see spikes during times of massive war (since America is in a constant state of war), like in 1991, 2001, and so on.

Here is a list of the seven significant sources of greenhouse emissions done by the Department of Defense:

  1. Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
  2. War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.
  3. Emissions caused by US military industry   — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
  4. Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum,   namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
  5. Sources of emissions by other belligerents.
  6. Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
  7. Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including   Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.

This impact on the climate is just the portion from America, in the Iraq war, 37 countries fought alongside America, and 60 are allied against ISIS. There is a way to calculate those emissions as well.

The Rules of War

Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) instructed his soldiers:

  1. Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
  2. Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta)
  3. Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)
  4. Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. (Al-Muwatta)
  5. If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam. (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
  6. Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
  7. Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle. (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
  8. Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience. (Sahih Muslim)
  9. No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire. (Sunan Abu Dawud).
  10. Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and not to do wrong even if they commit evil. (Al-Tirmidhi)

A verse in the Holy Qur’an

4:75 (Y. Ali) And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”

How does this potential war against Iran play into all this?

Our first call to action is to organize an anti-war rally. This type of work is weak in America, and virtually non-existent within the Muslim community.

فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ أَمَّا هَذَا فَقَدْ قَضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَنْ رَأَى مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُنْكِرْهُ بِيَدِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏.‏

Abu Sa’eed said: ‘As for this, he has fulfilled what is upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. Whoever is not able, then with his tongue, and whoever is not able, then with his heart. That is the weakest of faith.”‘

War with Iran will be a Greater Mistake than War with Iraq

Historically, anti-war sentiment in America has grown over the years. When the Iraq war first started only 23% thought it was a mistake, today it is close to 60% that believe the war is a mistake. Yes, this is in hindsight, but that it is also growth. The reason the anti-war movement is feeble in America is that there is no platform for the campaign to grow. Both parties are guilty of starting wars or taking over the wars from the past administration. Whether we do it alone as an individual or as a group, we should do everything we can as privileged members of this planet to save and protect those that can’t defend themselves.

There is a famous quote of the famed boxer Muhammad Ali when explaining why he wasn’t fighting in the war. He said, “…I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.”

Fighting Earth

With that said, there is a significant interest in the region for more than just fuel and resources. It is truly a problem, our operations in the Gulf is to address our dependency on Persian oil, and the fuel that is used to address our dependence is to protect those resources and access to them. One estimate is that America spends $81 billion annually defending the global oil supply. They do this because the DOD feels its dependency will make it vulnerable on a larger scale.

In 1975 America decided to take away the fear of losing the resources and developed the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” and in 1978, they created the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Their only purpose was to defend US interest in the Middle East. This, in turn, leads to extractivism of resources and supplies. (Which will be explained in a future article).

This war can be the end of all wars as it can accelerate us to the point of no return in regards to climate change.

A war with Iran is a war with Earth and all who live on it.

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