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10 Tips For A Thriving Marriage

There’s something you already know: that your marriage is worth investing in.

Everyone dreams of having a passionate and fulfilling marriage. Yet, few actually take the time to learn, plan, and invest in their relationships. Your crops will only yield as much as the effort you put into harvesting and nurturing them. The same applies to your marriage. Here are 10 tangible things you can do to improve your relationship, starting today!

DISCOVER

Taking interest in your spouse and learning more about them helps build a strong bond between the two of you. Your spouse will begin to feel that you truly care and love them so much that you want to know everything about them. From their childhood memories, to their embarrassing teenage mishaps, likes and dislikes, all the way to the journey that led them to marrying you; get to know your spouse intricately!

Tip: Create a questionnaire with 10-20 things you’d love to learn about your spouse. Print two copies, take your spouse out for dinner, take turns going through each question, and discover a whole new side of your spouse.

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ADVENTURE

Engaging in new and adventurous activities with your spouse will facilitate your marriage from becoming stale and mundane. Don’t always expect your spouse to help you plan everything out. Instead, keep them on the edge by teasing them with little tidbits about your next adventure.

Tip: Find a night on the weekend to drive somewhere where neither of you have ever been. Turn off the GPS and make it a joint mission to find a nice spot the two of you can gaze at the stars together. You can make an exception and use your GPS to find your way home afterwards. 

COMMIT

Sometimes we believe that marriage should come equipped with autopilot, and that everything should automatically function and take us along the scenic path we all anticipate. But marriage requires commitment; in the form of your time, your focus, and both your mental and emotional priorities. The reality of it is that marriage takes time and requires work, and the fruit of it will only be as sweet as the time we take to harvest and nurture it.

Tip: Take 10 minutes of every Sunday to plan out your week. No, I don’t mean your work and errands schedule. Instead, to work on a plan on how you’ll dedicate a portion of each day to your spouse, and what you will do for them, towards them, and with them.

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS

When we expect so much from others in life, they are bound to fall short of such. Many of us are taught and led to believe that getting married will solve everything in life; that it will fill every void present in our hearts, and that it will suffice for everything we need in life. Many studies have shown that such high expectations increase the likelihood of an unfulfilled marriage. Instead lower your expectations and increase your happiness.

Tip: Start your marriage with a small cup, as it’ll be a lot easier to fill. Lower your expectations and be pleasantly surprised!

UNPLUG

Learn to find time to unplug. No, I don’t mean unplugging your devices from the charger. I mean unplugging your devices from YOU. It has become an increasing issue nowadays that people have come to find their devices, specifically smartphones, as their closest companion. And many times it’s the first thing they look for when they wake up, and the last thing they see before they fall asleep. Think about it for a minute; when you’re browsing Facebook and Snapchat in bed, you’re bringing other people’s lives into the most intimate place in your home. Sorry Nike, but “just DON’T do it!

Tip: Create “off-limit zones” where your devices are not allowed, such as your bedroom and at the dinner table.

COMMUNICATE

Make time to express your feelings and your emotions with your spouse. And, equally as important, ensure you’re willing to listen and empathize with them in turn. Communication comes in many different forms, and it does not always have to be verbal. Even laying in bed, looking into their eyes, and just simply stroking their hair can be a powerful way of saying “I truly love you!

Tip: Find out which love language your spouse speaks, and make it a point to express your love accordingly. Read about the “5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and learn more from him in my interview with him in the “Secrets to Lasting Love” [see link below].

EXTEND

Don’t seek happiness from just your marriage. Happiness comes from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Through worshiping Him subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), take time out to grow spiritually and perform acts of worship. Extend your endeavors of finding happiness by interacting with the world, whether it is spending some leisurely time with friends, getting active with helping people less fortunate than yourself, or even coordinating a reunion with your childhood friends. Don’t confine yourself, as the world has so much to offer, and so much to receive from all that you are capable of giving!

Tip: Make a plan with your spouse where, one day, you’ll both go out separately and engage with others. Maybe a coordinated “guys-night-out and girls-night-out” will do the trick.

THINK THRICE

The saying goes that you should always think twice before you speak. But many times, while we’re charged with our emotions, even that doesn’t hold us back from unleashing words that can leave wounds for a lifetime.

Tip: If there is some pressing thing you need to get out of your system, write it out and keep it to yourself privately. Check on it in a week and, most likely, you’ll want to shred it before anyone else comes across it.

LITTLE IS BIG

Many times we’re lead to think and believe that the most appreciated of things we do are the ones that are the largest or the most expensive. But for most people, it’s really the amount of thought that went into planning or gifting something. A simple handwritten letter capturing your innermost feelings and your relentless love towards your spouse for example, is a gift that can penetrate the heart and reside therein forever.

Tip: Buy a pack of sticky notes and write short love messages for your spouse. Stick them in the most random of places: the bathroom mirror, the milk carton in the fridge, inside his briefcase, on top of the washing machine, on the edge of the shoe rack, inside her purse, or even a heartfelt card underneath their pillow.

ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

Being grateful can truly transform your life. There are countless studies showing how maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve both your psychological and your physical health in so many ways. It allows you to see the world in a whole different light and one where you can always see the good in everything around you. Thriving relationships have at least five times more spoken appreciations than critical comments. Research has proven that happy couples succeed by finding ways to express their appreciation for each other.

Tip: Take the 30-day gratitude challenge and cultivate a gratitude mindset. Grab your copy here (Nobleblessings.com) and transform your life

 

BONUS. Learn the Secrets to Make Your Love Last!

There’s something you already know: that your marriage is worth investing in. Despite knowing that, many of us believe marriage should be something that we just know, that engages autopilot, and shouldn’t require much effort on our part. It should just work and, somehow, the pixie dust that was sprinkled on our hearts the day we got married should last us forever. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of love. Love requires knowledge, nourishment and nurturing. That’s why I’ve spent years compiling the essential secrets, from both relationship experts around the world and also based on my research and experience from speaking with hundreds of individuals and couples; all to help you with your marriage, insha’Allah.

Tip: Sign up for my exclusive “Secrets to Lasting Love” course today, and master your relationships! And since your relationship is special, here’s a special limited-time code to get $20 off. 
Link: http://courses.duniashuaib.com/p/secrets-to-lasting-love
Coupon Code: “MASTERMYMARRIAGE

 

Sr. Dunia is a certified marriage educator, host of Deen with Dunia, motivational speaker, lecturer and author. She combines the Qur’an, Sunnah and psychology to help Muslims who are striving to create and maintain a harmonious relationship between their deen and dunya. Dunia is passionate about helping Muslims in their relationships. In addition to her focus in providing psychoeducation, she has been doing extensive research to pinpoint the problems in Muslim marriages in the West and to help find practical solutions. To learn more about her and her work visit her website: DuniaShuaib.com, and to catch her weekly livestream follow her on Facebook Facebook.com/DeenwithDunia

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Dunia is a psychoeducator, author, speaker, and host of Deen with Dunia. She has a passion for helping people, and continually strives to do so by providing high quality psychoeducation in a way that is easily accessible to the entire Ummah. She is on a mission to empower Muslims by integrating the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, as well as principles of psychology.

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    Gender Relations

    Loving Muslim Marriage Episode 10#: Do Angels Curse the Wife Who Refuses Sex?

    It is often heard that the Prophet said that if a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses him, that the angels will curse her until the morning. There are a lot of ways that people understand this, but what is the right way of understanding this Hadith?

    Join us with Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jandga to talk about this commonly mistranslated, misunderstood narration.

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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.

    Continue Reading

    Gender Relations

    Loving Muslim Marriage Episode 9#: Islamic Validation of the Female Orgasm

    There is a cultural misconception that pious Muslim women are somehow disassociated from sex, that sex is a Muslim man’s right, but a Muslim woman’s obligation. Where does Islam actually stand on the sexual rights of women in marriage?

    Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

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

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

    Continue Reading

    #Life

    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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    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.

    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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    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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