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Who Really Are The Ones Possessed By Evil Jinn? |Dr Sh Mohammad Akram Nadwi

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by: Dr Sh Mohammad Akram Nadwi

The worst and the lowest of human effort is the effort of those who seek out fellow-human beings in desperate need – it may be grave sickness, dire poverty or ignorance – and exploit that need to extort money from them and enjoy dominance over them. Moreover, many who do this do it with the pretence that they are helping those whom no one else will help. If they believe this pretence, if they believe that they are good and intend good, then they are deluded. A clear, common example of this is the practice of loan-sharks who lend desperate people money at cruelly high rates of interest and claim to be providing a valuable social service. Even among Muslims there are people who do this though they well know that God has condemned lending in this manner: it is against the law of God to charge rent for the use of money, as if it were just a simple commodity like land or buildings or tools or other property of the kind that can be lawfully rented out. Nevertheless, the loan-sharks claim to be doing normal business, seeking an honest profit by renting out their property and carrying a business risk. This is a lie. If they really do believe this lie, it is as God has said (Surat al-Baqarah, 2:274): they have been so disoriented by the touch of Satan that evil appears to them as good, and goodness appears to them as foolishness: ‘Those who live on usury shall be raised before God like men whom Satan has maddened by his touch.

Satan and the evil jinn who obey him have no power to dispossess human beings of their will, but they do have power to course through their veins, to whisper suggestions into their hearts and minds. Thus the jinn can tempt and torment human beings but they cannot compel them. If a Muslim intends a good deed, the jinn cannot erect a physical barrier to his carrying out that intention, still less take possession of his will and make him commit an evil deed instead, or postpone or not do the good deed. What the jinn can do is, by their whispering, distract the Muslim from what he intends so that he does something else, or make him doubt his capacity to do the good he intends, or make him suspect his sincerity in what he intends. All that I have just said of what the jinn can do by way of ambushing human beings and urging them to deviate from doing the good they intend, human beings can also do – they too can do the work of the evil jinn. And yet, no one has ever claimed that one human being can ‘possess’ another human being, that is, control them from within so that they are no longer themselves.

In the Qur’an and Sunnah there is strong emphasis on Muslims encouraging one another in good deeds, and on preferring the company and the lifestyle of believers whose behaviour is consistent with their belief, who steadfastly preserve their religion through both teaching and practice. It hardly needs saying that when sickness of body or mind, or some disaster or grief, causes someone to lose their self-command, the duty of those around them is to offer comfort and kindness, to stand by and help them, to act for them until they regain their dignity and self-command as human beings. Through the whole of the way of life of Islam, private, individual acts of kindness or worship have a counterpart in public, collective acts of kindness or worship. The latter are mandatory, the former voluntary, and the pairing is mutually supportive – zakah and sadaqah, to give just one example. As Muslims we are not answerable only for our private thoughts, intentions and actions, but also for the culture and ethos in which our thoughts, intentions and actions have some influence. What we think and do informs what others think or do. If a person takes intoxicants (which is forbidden to Muslims) but never to the point of becoming intoxicated himself, he nevertheless contributes to the tolerance of intoxication in the culture around him, and is party to the consequences of intoxication in the lives of others.

It is fundamental to a sound conception of God to know that He is essentially and always good. It follows necessarily that His creation of life, especially human life, is also essentially and always good, even when that life is subjected to severe trial, and indeed every life is subject to its unique burden of trial and proof. It does not follow that trials and sufferings are in themselves desirable. They cannot be. But they are eventually good in that they bring out the best in human qualities of endurance, co-operative effort, ingenuity, and adaptiveness. God has endowed human beings collectively with quite extraordinary capacities and powers, enough to colonise every kind of environment on this planet, which indeed He created in such a way that it is hospitable to the exercise and development of those human capacities and powers. We are the only species that can survive well in extreme climates like arid deserts and ice-bound lands where vegetation disappears for most of the year. This versatility is made possible by the gift of language by which God distinguished properly and fully human beings from any others like them before.

The Role of Language

Language is the vehicle for our thoughts in response to experience or separately from experience, and for the storing, shaping, and sharing of thought between people and across generations. While we can conceive of thought that is not uttered, or not communicated, we cannot conceive of thought without some vehicle for it. There is no thinking without some language of some kind. Now whatever kind of language it is – speech and writing, the language of words, is only the most common kind – it has to be, to a considerable degree, separable from an individual thinking his or her thoughts. Language is collective, not individual: it is hard to see how thoughts could arise in the individual heart or mind if they could not be somehow spoken and then, if spoken, understood by (at very least) one other individual. However internal language seems, it is always necessarily an opening up to the external: if I can think and speak, it is because I know (or wish) that you can too; we could not have thoughts if we could not give them to each other. Everything to which we give the name ‘culture’ or ‘civilisation’ is a product of language. Like language, culture is not just prompted by experience; it functions separately from experience and it is itself something that we experience. Language and culture are constitutive of the human world through which we experience all that is outside of us, human or non-human. Language makes human beings capable and useful to each other; it also makes them vulnerable to each other. In particular, it makes them suggestible. If it were not so, words and images could not make us weep or laugh, could not inform our beliefs, desires and motivations, could not make us part with our money and our effort.

The satans among jinn and humankind know this suggestibility well. They exploit it by whispering in our hearts and minds, so that we are tempted to desire and do what we know we should not, and tempted not to desire and do what we know we should. But, it is most important to remember, the doing or not doing remain our responsibility – we are answerable for our failures and, while there is strong hope, there is no certainty of forgiveness hereafter. When God wills a matter, He says to it Be! and it is. This is a Power exclusive to Himself. There is no boundary to what we human beings may will or desire, but having words for it will not make it be. Rather, there are processes and procedures that we must work through, in the right order and in the right place at the right time, with the right tools and with the right help from others, so that we achieve our desire or we come to realise that it is not achievable at all, or achievable by means unavailable to us at present. Because we can have words for a thing, it does not follow that this thing can be real. The persistent discrepancy between how intensely we desire or need something and our inability to make it happen leads often to wishfulness. Fantasies of power afflict people most severely when they are most aware of their incapacity. It is absurd that people are impressed by claims that a man is able to walk on the air or to walk on water, but they are impressed and flock to attend demonstrations of such feats. There is no point in them. Why would anyone with superhuman powers waste them on feats, the demonstrations of which can be duplicated by illusionists and charlatans? How much more useful than walking on water it is that people learn to build a bridge or a boat!

Advertising: Victory for Jinn

The condition of unsatisfied needs and desires is the fuel of modern advertising. It is a vicious craft, now performed with such skill that people are induced  to spend their (actual or borrowed) wealth on images with which the sale-objects are associated, are disappointed but then repeat the purchase when the same objects are re-packaged with a variant image. It is absurd – false eyelashes can express ‘the real you’ – but it must be effective since advertising expenditure is now a major component in the production cost of most mass-produced goods. This habituation of the great majority of people to wishfulness intensifies their frustration and their sense of incapacity to achieve what they believe they desire or need. It makes them less self-aware, less self-reliant, less active, less willing to improve themselves, less able to make common cause with other human beings to do good things together, and less aware of the world around them and how it works. In sum, the success of modern advertising makes people less aware of the reality of their lives; it renders them much more exploitable than people ever were in the past, and much easier to manipulate. Because people do not have the confidence to face reality, reality does not face them and does not prompt them to think for themselves. They let others think and imagine for them; they put their trust in experts who do not have their interests at heart. Although we have no need to use this idiom, we would be right to describe the success of advertising as a victory for the evil jinn, a sort of ‘possession’, since people are not themselves when they respond to advertising by spending their time and money while claiming that they know it is not true. They are right that it is not true; but if it is not true, why do they act on it?

​Among the most vicious and evil exploitations of human beings is exploitation of those who have physical or psychological health problems. Such people deserve our care, sympathy and love. For the drugs companies these people are a business opportunity and their aim is to addict them to their products, and they are succeeding in producing more difficult sicknesses among more people in more parts of the world, and by weakening people physically and psychologically, they make them more vulnerable to sicknesses, which increases their market. How much more vile than these highly organised, centralised, rationalised and bureaucratised predators are those dispersed Muslim preachers and scholars who fabricate lies, accuse the sick of being ‘possessed’ by the jinn, and claim expertise in releasing them from ‘possession’. Then, instead of offering to treat them free for the love of God, they charge exorbitant fees, beat them cruelly and, in many cases as reported to me, sexually abuse them. If anyone is possessed by demons, surely it is these vile predators on human suffering.

People face difficulties and problems of all kinds in their lives. Some deficiencies that people perceive in themselves and wish to change cannot be changed in fact, they can only be managed, accepted and lived with, with the help of family, friends and neighbours and, most especially, with faith and trust in God. But people in dire trouble are vulnerable to the suggestion that their trouble is the work of dark forces which, for the right sum of money, self-styled healers offer to correct by means of skills special to themselves.

Intention of Goodness

​In reality almost all difficulties and illnesses are the effect of causes in plain sight, which can be put right in the normal ways without resort to (horribly expensive) magical procedures. Also, as I have acknowledged, there are some illnesses for which the causes are not (yet) known or not so well understood that intervention to cure them is feasible. In these cases, we show patience and kindness, and we admit our ignorance, and we resort to prayer. In better times, those of our true scholars who believed in jinn possession and in procedures to alleviate it, did not resort to violently thrashing the sufferers or abusing them sexually. They intended good, not harm; kindness, not exploitation; they did not adopt haram means to achieve halal ends. They prayed intently, recited the Qur’an, counselled patience to the sufferer and their family. Because there was a firm, justified belief in the devoutness and sincerity of such healers, it was not unreasonable to hope for some degree of relief from the exercise of their authority and care. Having said that, I would remind people that charlatans have always existed in all communities, even among the Muslims of old – some of the anecdotes recounted by Jahiz would suffice to illustrate the general human weakness.

It is our duty to study the realities around us and solve the problems that we face in light of those realities. We should prefer to rely on the faculties of observation, experience and reason that God has given in such abundance to humankind, and for which we do not thank Him abundantly enough when we have resort to charlatans to cure our ills. No doubt we must also pray for God’s help, while making every effort to ensure that all the open, public and known means of solving a problem are being conscientiously engaged. We direct prayer only and exclusively to God. What we are explicitly forbidden to do is to believe that other human beings have acquired special, supernatural powers, or that they have special privileged access to God. If we believe that, we will produce in our communities frauds and charlatans who will exploit us, take our time and money, and sometimes dishonour our women, while giving us nothing in return except increase of misery. The special responsibility and special authority of prophethood ended with the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, because what God revealed by him is sufficient for humankind for the rest of time. His life-experience, which is authoritative for all believing and practising Muslims, included illness, his own and those of his Companions: his resort was to prayer and patience and the medical knowledge of his time, which Muslim scholars after him greatly expanded. Should that not suffice for those Muslims who, as the Qur’an commands, think, reflect and ponder, and put their trust in God?

​People do suffer psychological and emotional problems which lead them to behave in strange ways, as if they were no longer in command of themselves. Most of the time the strange behaviours express profound depression and disorientation brought on by sustained neglect and mistreatment by the person’s near family, or the result of chemical imbalances in the body or some malfunction or undetected injury in the brain. Trained doctors can usually prescribe drugs that will calm the person down so that the other processes necessary to healing can begin. It is utterly stupid, cruel and useless to beat a person senseless and claim that a demon is being driven out. The person is only being beaten and hurt even more, nothing else. Even worse is when some of the charlatans claim that sexually abusing the person will drive out the demon. This is disgusting, immoral and irreligious in the extreme. No one should submit to this. On the contrary it is a crime of assault and rape that should be reported to the authorities and appropriately punished. As with most illnesses any treatment should be motivated by kindness, not by greed, sexual lust and the pleasure of dominance. The treatment should be invited by the care and concern of the family of the person who is ill, and they should never entrust treatment to anyone who seeks exorbitant fees and offers violence and worse suffering as a cure. Of just such a person it is permissible to say, figuratively, that he is the one who is demon-possessed.

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Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi is an Islamic scholar from the Indian city of Jaunpur and a graduate of the world renowned Nadwatul Ulama (India) where he studied and taught Shariah.Shaykh Akram is a Muhaddith of the highest calibre who has specialised in Ilm ul Rijal (the study of the narrators of Hadith). He has Ijaza (licenses) from over 600 scholars. Shaykh Akram Nadwi has a doctorate in Arabic Language and has authored and translated over 25 titles on Language, Jurisprudence, Qur’an and Hadith.In May 2010, he completed a monumental 457-volume work on the lives of female scholars of Hadith in Islamic History. Also now available in English is Madrasah Life (2007) the translation (from Urdu) of his personal memoir of a student’s day at Nadwat al-Ulama.Shaykh Akram is the recipient of the Allama Iqbal prize for contribution to Islamic thought. As a leading scholar steeped in traditional Islamic learning and in modern academia, Shaykh Akram is a former research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford.He is the Dean and the Academic Director of the Cambridge Islamic College.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    November 20, 2017 at 4:16 AM

    This article is so difficult to read in its present formatting.

  2. Avatar

    Usman

    November 20, 2017 at 1:12 PM

    In medicine, there is a philosophy that “It is more common for common things to present uncommonly, than something uncommon to present commonly or uncommonly.” A repeated reading of that sentence is necessary to understand the basic premise espoused. But another way of stating it is that when you hear hoof beats, look for horses and not zebras.

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#Life

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

covery islam story
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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

charity
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I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

1. My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

3. Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

dardir

4. People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

5. Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

6. It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

7. Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

8. It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

9. Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

10. Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Tawakkul- a leaf falling
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While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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

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