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Social Media And The Struggle for Tomorrow

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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Muslims have never gotten over losing Andalusia (Spain) to the Reconquista. No discussion about Islam and Europe can take place without us pining like BoAbdil – the last Muslim ruler of Granada who cried like a child as he was exiled from his homeland. We lament about how we brought enlightenment to Europe and then managed to find ourselves totally eliminated from the Iberian Peninsula.

BoAbdil – the last ruler of Granada

If only we knew.

We cry at the loss of Andalusia and rarely reflect on the true enormity of what happened. The whole of South America, the Philippines and indeed the Americas were conquered or “discovered” by the forces of Catholic Spain shortly after they sent the Muslims packing. Were it not for our own ability to play ourselves, the world would look very different today.

The next Andalusia?

Today, we are in the midst of making another monumental mistake. And it may end up making the loss of Andalusia look trivial by comparison.

This mistake, this error, this battle that we cannot afford to lose is for the control of the Social Media narrative about us and our faith. The advent of the Social Media revolution is no less a game changer in the history of the world than the Industrial revolution before it. And just like the Industrial revolution made previously insignificant nations into world powers and reduced world powers into colonised outposts, the Social Media revolution will do the same.

Until just over a decade ago, the control of information – and therefore the levers of power – were in the hands of the wealthy and elite few. It was Fox News, CNN, and the BBC that set the agenda on TV. It was the Washington Post, Time Magazine, The Times of London and Le Figaro that set the agenda on Newspapers and Magazines. The editors of these channels and publications and their owners could decide whether a genocide was worthy of coverage or not. They could choose to paint a leader as a villain that needed to be deposed or a hero that needed to be obeyed. In the court of public opinion, they were the power behind the thrones, pulling all our strings.

Today, their dominance is almost over. Instead, we get our information and news from Social Media. The BBCs YouTube channel has just over 1 Million subscribers whereas Zoella (a lifestyle blogger just out of her teens) has more than 10 Million. Fox News has over 15 Million Twitter followers while Justin Beiber has more than 90 Million. The numbers are staggering, but it is a fact that individuals and small operations are having their voices amplified and heard on Social Media at a level that was previously virtually impossible.

The possibilities are amazing. For the first time, we can talk about ourselves rather than being talked about by pundits from other communities or by talking heads with their own agendas. We could put across discussions regarding long held grievances without having it filtered through the lens of a news organisation with a biased eye. For once, marginalised sections of the Muslim community could speak for themselves rather than be spoken for by “community leaders.”

While this is a great thing for transparency in the sharing of information and giving more power to the people – there is a huge downside to this whole enterprise.

The next Reconquista?

The individuals and organisations that are proving most adept at exploiting Social Media for their own purposes are those at the extremes of society. The extremists amongst the Muslim who advocate violence against civilians and organise to carry out acts of terror are possibly the single most effective and coordinated group of Muslims online. There may be far more Muslims sharing a Mufti Menk tweet or a catchy video by Maher Zain, but it’s the extremists that are getting things done. They are using Social Media to not only propagate their ideas, but to coordinate them. [1]

But even these precocious violent new kids on the block are being left in the shade by the white nationalist–Nazi-Anti-Muslim brigade. [2] You can’t fail to spot them if you’re ever online. You can see them commenting on every article, sending torrents of vile abuse towards anyone who stands in their way and backing each other up to the hilt.

A recent study by the George Washington University study on extremism “revealed that the social media presence of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis is growing at an exponential rate. According to the study, the white nationalist movement on Twitter increased by a whopping 600 percent, surpassing that of ISIS sympathizers.” [3]

What happens if we lose the social media war?

If we lose the social media war against extremism, the best-case scenario is that we continue down the slippery slope we’re on now. We see ever increasing attacks followed by reprisals, followed by attacks.

That is the best-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario would mean the marginalisation of the middle ground to such an extent as to have profound psychological, political and theological consequences for generations to come.

No pressure.

To put it bluntly, the longer the moral majority of both Muslims and non-Muslims remain disunited, disorganised and lacking in coordination – the longer the extremists on both sides of the spectrum will continue to set the agenda, be the loudest and most persistent voices in the room and ultimately succeed in their quest for a clash of civilizations.

Organised evil will always defeat disorganised good. However, if the good got organised… well, that would be a whole different ball game.

References:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/25/social-media-extremism-and-fears-we-are-losing-the-online-war

[2] https://www.cjr.org/analysis/breitbart-media-trump-harvard-study.php

[3] https://cchs.gwu.edu/files/downloads/Nazis%2520v.%2520ISIS%2520Final_0.pdf

WAJiD Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - Doctor, Medical Tutor (Social Media, History & Medicine) - Islamic Historian - Founder of, and current board member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children. www.charityweek.com - Council member, British Islamic Medical Association

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ahmed

    January 10, 2018 at 3:19 PM

    Good eye opener, but what do you suggest is the solution? Organize and do what exactly?

  2. Avatar

    George Apostolou

    January 13, 2018 at 3:23 PM

    Good piece, and I share Ahmed’s question.

    There are plenty of people of goodwill among Muslims and non Muslims who genuinely want a happy and well-integrated modus vivendi within western countries. But far, easier said than done.

    There are a couple of things which might at least help. In western countries (like my own, Canada), more effort should be made towards inclusiveness, and particularly to demonstrate that Muslims are welcomed, respected and protected. While, a helpful concession from Muslims would be to cease the promotion of the term ”islamophobia” which is now ubiquitous in our formal media and on-line.
    I have questions, concerns and, yes, serious criticisms of Islam. This is just a matter of intellectual honesty. And yet, it clearly qualifies me as an Islamophobe, thereby disqualifying and discrediting what I have to say. That word is not helpful.

    Ultimately, I believe the solution lies in opening our minds and allowing for the possibility that we each may learn something of value from the other. Alas, the precondition of open minds may be a bridge too far.

    • Mohammed Wajid Akhter

      Mohammed Wajid Akhter

      January 13, 2018 at 5:02 PM

      Dear George,

      Thank you for your frank and refreshingly balanced comment. I would not be so negative.

      As you mentioned, there are plenty of good people out there. The problem is that we are not coordinated or motivated towards a share vision of what could be possible.

      Meanwhile the not-so-good people are highly motivated and have a clear vision of what they want to achieve.

      My practical suggestion for the Muslim community is that we need to take Social Media seriously. We need to invest in understanding, studying and utilising it to organise, coordinate and establish the moral majority. This is possible because we see the exact opposite being done on a daily basis.

      • Avatar

        George Apostolou

        January 14, 2018 at 2:03 PM

        Good luck to you Mohammed.

        Social media is now, of course, a polarizing battle ground. In Canada, that reality is exacerbate by a taboo on open and honest discussion in our mainstream media (with some exceptions, to be sure). A couple of days ago in Toronto, a little girl was assaulted by someone who apparently wanted to cut off her hijab. While the news media made a rather large international story of the incident, our social media was overwhelmingly saturated with expressions of disbelief of the the girl, insults to her and her family, and a lot of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam sentiment.

        Perhaps with the best of intentions, we find ourselves, superficially at least, among the most politically correct nations of the world ….. obsessively and dysfunctionally so.

        My hope is that we can overcome our paralysis, and engage with one another out of the shadows of social media and in the public square, where the discussion needs to take place. We need to expose and
        explore what it is that drives fear and distrust on all sides, which obviously exists.

        To think that resolution of issues will be easy is, I believe, foolish. But to avoid honest engagement could be disastrous.

        Cheers.

  3. Avatar

    Marco

    January 16, 2018 at 9:23 AM

    “We lament about how we brought enlightenment to Europe…”

    It’s sad how delusional and hypocritical Muslims often are. They decry imperialism when it’s done by Western powers, but celebrate (and encourage) it when the oppressors are Muslims.

    Many have bought into fairy tales about Al-Andalus, when the reality is that Spain experienced its Golden Age after the Muslims were kicked out. The Moors (and most of the Muslim world) achieved little of worth for the rest of history.

    As an actual historian of the period, Professor Fernández-Morera, states: “…the invasion, conquest and colonization of Christian Spain during the first half of the eighth century was a disaster for the Christian population… The pre-Islamic Christian population was in no need of being civilized. Its level of civilization was far higher than that of the Muslim warriors.”

    Please keep your “enlightenment” to yourselves in the future.

  4. Avatar

    Monique Hassan

    January 17, 2018 at 9:02 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum.

    If we look to business, people are studying SEO (search engine optimization ), social media marketing, growth hacks etc. If they don’t, they won’t keep up. More and more people are using social media as a way to work from home. It is growing, we either grow with it or we lose the narrative.

  5. Avatar

    razzaq hamdani CEO

    March 25, 2018 at 12:14 AM

    Social Media is used to propagate islam, wrong hadiths, wrong translations of Quran are shared to confuse muslims, we should play a vital role in this field All Muslim Scholars should run a Verified Social Account and teach muslims true islam

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#Society

Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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Seyran Ates, A Sixty-Eighter In Islamic Camouflage

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By Dr Mohammad Usman Rana

In their orientalist enthusiasm to reform Islam, in the sense of reconciling Islam with the always changing ideas and goals of liberal values, Western European liberals and neo-atheists are searching high and low for persons who may serve as Muslim alibies for their project. For many years Ayaan Hirsi Ali was given this role but now the relay baton has been handed over to the German-Turkish activist Seyran Ates.

Does not believe in religion

Ates is of current interest in Norway because her book by the Norwegian title Islam trenger en seksuell revolusjon (Islam needs a sexual revolution, originally published in German in 2011)* was just released in Norwegian translation. Ates is well-known primarily because Western media have hailed her as a freedom fighter among Muslims since she opened a so-called liberal mosque in Berlin in 2017 and titled herself a female imam.

Obviously, Ates is part and parcel of an essential debate about the future of Muslims in Europe as it is a fact that a lot of traditional mosques in Western Europe have a big job to do in order to become more relevant to young Muslims, that is, more inclusive and adapted to a European context. Not least the issue of women’s rights is rightfully important to many people in the Muslim world, whether they are liberals or conservatives. In the midst of all the praise, Ates receives in Western media one essential question is however forgotten: What Islamic credibility does Ates have? In line with postmodern nihilism where concepts, ideas, and identities are emptied of meaning and content, the fact is ignored that Ates in her book points out that she believes in God but not in religions. She has no Islamic theological education and explains that she has recently started taking courses in Islamic studies and Arabic in order to be more credible among Muslims.

This is not only the case with Ates. It is a general weakness of so-called progressive and liberal Islam (reformers) that the movement lacks a foundation of religious and theological structure; it is rather founded on personalities with a political mission.

More journalists than worshippers

In her book about Islam needing a sexual revolution, Ates applauds European Christians’ dissociation from the church after 1968. Paradoxically, she later opened a mosque for Muslims. Further, she praises secularly thinking individuals as the most honourable people.

This is why the question should be raised whether the mosque, the imam title, and other religious references are just an Islamic camouflage for what can be understood as a political secularisation, assimilation and liberalisation project by Ates and her supporters. Due to the missing religious credibility and seriousness of this commitment, it should come as no surprise that it has little appeal to European and German Muslims.

When the New York Times visited the mosque, its journalists reported that there were more journalists than worshippers present. She has, on the other hand, a strong appeal among extreme right-wing anti-Muslim thinkers and movements in Europe. It is noteworthy that Ates received a solidarity claim from the extreme anti-Islam German AfD party, and has been praised by the infamous anti-Muslim blog of “Human Rights Service” in Norway.

The positive development aspect is missing

Why should German and European Muslims listen to an activist who attacks the fundamental principles of Islam and in her book paints a stereotypical image of the world’s Muslims?

There is no denying that Ates addresses a number of important challenges for Muslim women. Still, her arguments become oversimplified when she confuses female-hostile habits in the East with Islam and completely forgets the positive development today’s Muslim women in Europe experience where they, as opposed to their mothers’ generation, receive a university education, have a career, and choose whom they want to marry.

Seyran Ates’ project is not about a necessary contextualisation of Islam’s holy texts in a European reality, maintaining the characterisations of the region. The project is rather about a total change of Islam. In her book, Ates justifies such a change by creating strawmen with sweeping generalisations about Muslims. She, for instance, writes that ‘it is a fact that Muslim men have a considerable problem with our free world’, and that ‘Islamic politicians do not distinguish between religion and politics’ – without mentioning the widespread authoritarian secular tradition in Muslim countries in modern times such as in Turkey and Baathism in Syria and Iraq.

Less sexual restraint

Ates’ main argument in Islam needs a sexual revolution is that Muslim men and women are sexually oppressed because sexuality is defined as a blessing and source of love only within – and not outside of – the frames of marriage. The rule of intimate relationships being reserved for marriage meets with unison agreement from Muslims from different schools of thought; Ates, however, absurdly calls it an expression of “fundamentalist” Islam. In this view, Seyran Ates disagrees with the well-known American feminist Naomi Wolf who, after having travelled in Muslim countries, believes that this marital channelling of intimacy, in fact, strengthens sexuality and family ties at the same time.

The German-Turkish author wants less sexual restraint, more promiscuity and a liberal attitude to nakedness, in line with the ideals of the sixty-eighters. Seyran Ates praises the sixty-eighters’ revolution as an ideal for Muslims. Although the #metoo campaign, which can be said to have brought to light the negative consequences of the sexual revolution, was released after Ates’ book was published, it makes her attitudes to this revolution seem somewhat doubtful. The heritage of the sixty-eighters is not only freedom and equality but also the breaking up of the family as well as selfishness and decadence. It is also ironical that someone like Ates, who claims religious credibility, calls attention to Alfred Kinsey, the atheist sexologist who believed in open relationships, as a model for Muslims.

Public pillory

Ates’ book is mainly about freedom, a personal freedom in the name of value liberalism and sixtyeighters. A well-known American intellectual, Patrick Deenen from the University of Notre Dame, however, criticises such a perception of the concept of freedom believing we should ask ourselves if freedom can really be defined as human beings pursuing their instincts more or less uncritically. Deenen maintains that human beings are then in effect unfree and slaves of their instincts, while real freedom is achieved if we manage to free ourselves from being governed by human appetites.

Seyran Ates and her non-Muslim supporters seem to have no understanding at all of such a definition of the concept of freedom. Even more problematic is that they want to make their sixty-eighters’ liberal values absolute, believing Muslims must adhere to them if they wish to belong to modern society. Harvard professor Adrian Vermeule calls this form of liberalism aggressive because it only tolerates itself and no differences of opinion. It maintains its rituals in the form of checkpoints of ‘correct’ opinions in particular about sexuality, gender, and identity. Disagreeing with this can result in reprisals in the form of public pillory or even legal steps.

Obsessed with removing the hijab

When Muslims are met with such absolute-making of liberal values it is like an extension of colonial cultural imperialism when French and British colonial masters wanted to westernise Muslim populations, believing it was the only way of making them civilised. Some of them were obsessed with removing Muslim women’s hijabs, just as Seyran Ates is. The British consul general in Egypt, Lord Cromer, was a representative of this view. He wanted to free Muslim women from the hijab while at home in the UK he was ardently against feminism and women’s suffrage (source: Ahmed, Leila (1992). Women and Gender in Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press).

Worth noting is also that extensive surveys by Gallup Coexist Index among West-European Muslims show that they are far more religious than the majority population. Similar findings in relation to Norwegian Muslims were made by Bushra Ishaq in her book Hvem snakker for oss? (Who speaks for us?) from 2017. Considering these figures, it would be utopian as well as illiberal to expect Muslims to opt for a liberal values morality. On the contrary, it should be expected that religious European Muslims understand their religious practice as belonging to a Western context, that they value equality and that they support the liberal state governed by rule of law that actually allows people to live according to liberal as well as conservative norms of value.

*The original German-language version of the book, Der Islam braucht eine sexuelle Revolution: Eine Streitschrift, was published in 2011

Dr Mohammad Usman Rana is a Norwegian columnist, author and a commentator on Islam

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#Life

Chronicles of A Muslim Father: It All Began With a Prayer

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. Family, friends, neighbors, coaches, and teachers are all part of that community and the pillars of that system are the parents. Mothers specifically have and continue to make monumental contributions to this effort. But what about Muslim fathers?

There are thousands of blog posts and hundreds of books on the fundamentals of raising Muslim children in the current climate written by mothers across a diverse array of the spectrum. They have tackled issues that range from Aqiqa’s to matrimonials and beyond, but when I needed a fresh perspective on raising Muslim children by someone like me, a Muslim father, I could hardly find any readily available resources.

I don’t know if this is a cultural deviancy or just men in general, but we leave all the parenting to the mothers and justify skimming over our responsibilities in the name of “breadwinning”. Whatever the case may be, I am a person who is constantly looking for guidance so that I, as their father and the head of the household, can make the right moves for my kids morally, academically and socially.

Furthermore, I am convinced that there are thousands, if not millions of Muslim fathers, just like me looking for the same thing that are coming up empty handed just like I did.

It’s for this reason, with the help of Allah that I have endeavored to fill in this much-needed gap and compose this essential series that will be comprised of archives from my own experiences coupled with advice on best practices and pitfalls in raising Muslim children from a father’s perspective.  

I hope and pray that my work will be a source of guidance for both mothers and fathers on raising Muslim children, if not at the very least a catalyst for a call-to-action for fathers to assume their respective roles. May Allah guide all of us to be the best parents for our children and raise our children amongst the righteous to be the coolness of our eyes. 

Jameel Syed  

Hajj 2000- I find myself at the time of Tahujjud standing humbled with all my faults in front of the ancient house of Allah trying to collect myself under the shade of night, to muster up the courage to address my Lord in efforts to ask…

What makes me think my voice would reach Him amongst a legion of believers who have come to this place with their righteous deeds and all I have to offer Him are years ladened with transgressions? How do I ask? Where do I begin…

Standing at six feet, I began to shrink both in stature and in spirit. Tears began to swell up in my eyes as I stood as still as a statue. I truly felt more insignificant than the idea of the word “below” itself. As natural as rain falling from the sky to the ground, in one action I collapsed into prostration, embracing the ground as if it were life itself. There I remained for what seemed like an eternity— sometimes praising Him, other times asking for His forgiveness as my body shook uncontrollably with tears running a constant flow. I had no concept of my surroundings or that the world existed at all. In that moment in the darkness, I just felt it was me, Him and the appeal that I had to make. I knew that I had no right. It was not my place to ask and that I had come with nothing to offer, but there was no place else to go, nobody else to turn to. I maintained my sajdah for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, I summoned up my courage and brought the sentiments of my heart to my lips:

“Ya Allah pair me with a righteous wife who will give me righteous children.” 

At that moment, my prayers that were for me were for them. My tears flowed for them, whatever ramblings came from my mouth were for the unborn children that I have never met. If you think about it, it seemed foolish, so absurd, but in my bones, it felt so right. I didn’t even have a wife and there I was begging for righteous children. The truth in context was that I wanted something very special from the Treasury of His Majesty and I came to His House to humble myself to get it.

It was on the sound of the Fajr adhan that I finally arose from my prostration. My cheeks and kurta (shirt) wet with tears and all that was left was contemplation. It seemed as if I was transitioning into yet a different train of thought. 

I began to take account of who I am, what I wanted and what I needed to do. I didn’t know the first thing about being a husband or father. I didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes I made as a son. I wanted my children to have the best in this world and the next but didn’t have a clue on how to pave that path. I wanted to endeavor to strive to be at least as good as my own father and put my family first. In all honesty, as these thoughts began flooding my head, I felt totally helpless and totally overwhelmed. 

I knew that I would have to sacrifice, upgrade my character, prioritize to put the pleasure of Allah at the forefront of my thoughts and actions. This was a huge shift from how I lived my life for the past couple of decades. My time was mine, my money was mine and I impulsively chased my desires. All that had to change!

Change Brings Change

One thing did, however, make sense to me:

I thought to myself that if I laid down the track based upon my style of thinking, it would certainly be disastrous. I needed to consult with scholars and gather as much information as I could to construct a path in accordance with what Allah has prescribed to give myself a chance at achieving my dream.

This, I concluded, was what was needed to be done in order to ensure a chance of success. I felt resolute to act upon it. At that thought, the Muaddhin began to recite the Iqama and the entire ordeal concluded.

Six months later, I found myself in the living room of Dr. Ahmed Muneeruddin whose lineage goes back directly to AmĪr-ul-Mu’minīn, Umar Al-Farooq (May Allah be pleased with him). I was witness to one of the most profound events of my lifetime. My father (the late) Dr. Abdus-Salam Syed recited Khutbah Al-Haajah for the company that was present, which included immediate family from both sides. He then turned his attention to his host and began to declare with profound emotion:

“Praise to be Allah and blessings and peace be upon His final Prophet and Messenger Muhammad. I enjoin you to fear Allahﷻ. I have come to you to engage your noblest daughter Maria Muneeruddin to my son Jameel Abdul Syed in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet and the pleasure of Allah .” 

He then went on to conclude with Du’a for happiness, well being, prosperity, that the beginning and end of this affair should be on the straight path and that this union should bare righteous children in the future.

She was going to be the mother of my children

It is noteworthy that I had only known my future wife then for two weeks in total with no more than two physical meetings and a half a dozen phone calls.

She presented very strong qualities, which matched all of the qualifiers outlined by the Prophet: Beauty, wealth, status and religion. As most prospective couples do, we dialogued back and forth measuring each other up against our ideals, but truthfully my decision to pursue her at the end had little to do with any of her questions to my answers. Rather it was the fact that when I looked into her eyes, I saw the mother of my future children and I knew that no other woman on the face of this earth could hold that status for me. It was a feeling I knew to be true and the final criterion for my decision that I feel my heart was guided by Allahﷻ. The series of events that led to my engagement was idiosyncratic and unplanned. In my experience, when Allah wants something to happen, it happens rather quickly and arrives unannounced and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. 

Our marriage took place on July 1st, 2001 in Ontario, Canada. Shortly thereafter she became pregnant and learned that it was going to be a baby boy. Both of our families were elated. It was the first child of the next generation on both sides. We debated back and forth about the name until we finally reached a unanimous decision: Muhammad Jibril Syed. Maria constantly listened to Surah Al-Baqarah during her pregnancy and prayed for him during this eight-month period. My job was to keep her happy! 

On March 13th, 2002, Jibril had arrived at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, Michigan honoring both Maria and me with the titles of parents. I gingerly picked up the boy and took him to my father who raised the adhan in his right ear and the iqama in his left as per the tradition of The Prophet. The feeling was indescribable. A feeling of pride, disbelief, elation. Maria felt the same, but she was obviously exhausted. The hospital was flooded with friends and family— it was total chaos. I had to escape, if only for a moment.

I broke away from the excitement and retreated to the hospitals chapel to pray. After prayer, I sat by myself in that room and reflected on how I got to this point. That prayer I made during Tahajjud in front of the Kaabah. It was the beginning of my journey into fatherhood. My heart softened and I began to cry. SubhanAllah, I thought to myself. “Just look at the plan of Allah. He didn’t turn a deaf ear to the pleas of a sinner that day. He’s given me so much in such a short period of time. I promised myself that I would not be an ungrateful slave. That I would honor the trust that He’s bestowed on me with this child and any other future children by devoting myself to try and raise them in accordance with His pleasure.

As I walked out of the chapel and back to my family, I thought to myself: “I wonder what he’s gonna call me…”

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