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My Mother was a Secret

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schizophrenia, mental health

By Naureen Ahmed

My parents married each other in the late 70’s in Karachi. They moved to Brooklyn, NY, where my mother gave birth to my two sisters in a span of 13 months. My father, a surgeon, was going through residency at the time.It wasn’t easy being a wife of a busy resident, in a new country, with two small babies to look after. She was soon diagnosed with “baby blues” also known as post-partum depression. My father now shares with us scary stories about her violent fits in their small one-bedroom apartment.

A few years later, they moved to a small town in Arkansas, where I was born. My father says they went through 3-year cycles–first year was good, second-year bad, third-year worse, rinse, repeat. This continued for the 9 years of their marriage. So if I do the math, I guess I was born in a bad year. They were legally separated, then reconciled, but ultimately divorced in 1986.

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My mom was stuck in 1986 until the day she died.

My father remarried a few years later, and this triggered my mother’s first psychotic “nervous breakdown”. She was in a psychiatric hospital for a few months. I remember visiting her in the hospital, looking at her vacant stares, forced smiles as she showed us the pottery she had created for us. But we couldn’t tell our father. We were warned that we’d never see our mother again if we did.

So it was a secret. If we told anyone, there would be consequences.

My sisters and I carried on through life telling people she had “chemical imbalance and depression.” I never heard the word schizophrenia until I was 25.

She came back home. From the moment my mother would wake up, she’d pace the house–bedroom, living room, kitchen, and back….and forth…until she fell asleep again at night. And she wasn’t quiet while she paced. She ranted and raved about all the wrong everyone had done to her in her life.

And then there were the psychotic fits…brandishing knives, threatening to kill herself. She would violently attack my grandparents and sometimes us. The three of us, scared, would either lock ourselves up in our bedroom, or sit on the top steps, peeking and watching her lash out at anyone and anything in her path.

We were neglected. There was no one to calm us down, tell us it would all be alright: “Sojao, go to sleep, everything will be fine in the morning.”

Some nights she would kick all of us out of the house. We would sneak into the backyard and watch her through the curtains as she wailed and cried and screamed for hours on end.

Life went on, and we just dealt with it, learned how to manage her. My grandparents moved out, they were too old to take her physical assaults. They would pick us up and take us to school in the mornings and drop us home in the evenings with food. But mostly, we were left alone with her.

Neglected

Some days, she was happy, blaring Bollywood music on the stereo, singing in her beautiful sing-song voice, with freshly brushed hair and red lipstick. She loved makeup. She loved fashion, wearing beautiful shalwar kameez. At times she would even raid my sisters’ closets. Those were good days. I loved those days. Cherished those days.

But most days were spent pacing, or sitting in bed with wild hair and bloodshot eyes, crying and begging us to tell her everything would be okay. Us, her children….. we were now the parents, and she was the child.

I hated her. “Snap out of it!” “Stop being depressed!’ “Can’t you just be my mother?!?”

She didn’t take care of me. She didn’t cook, didn’t clean, didn’t come to Parent/Teacher conferences, didn’t make my class cupcakes on my birthday, or come to my basketball games. She was a shell. There was no one inside. My sisters taught me about puberty. My sisters cleaned up our room. My sisters packed my lunches until I could do it myself. My sisters and I did our own laundry. I barely learned to read the Quran, and had only memorized 3 surahs by the time I was 17.

We grew up too fast, like animals, just trying to survive.

The school was my outlet. I was popular, loved to laugh and spend time with my friends. But no one could come over. I learned my lesson trying to do that once. Having my friends over meant them asking, “Why is your mom walking back and forth? Why is your mom staring at me?”. I would try to laugh it off as my mom just being an immigrant.

All of us were top of our class, somehow. Through all the madness, we focused on our studies. It was our only way out. Study, go away to college, find a job, get married, get away, whatever it takes.

So we did. We all got married within 9 months of each other. I was the youngest bride at 19 years of age. My sisters stayed in Arkansas, but I moved as far away as possible, to Chicago. I visited my family every year, for a week here and there. I could only handle her in small doses.

I found Islam

I stopped hating her after I found Islam. Especially after my sister read about schizophrenia and confronted our family with her newfound facts. They had no choice but to admit her diagnosis. Then I read everything, and I understood. And I was more compassionate towards her, more patient.

But then she died.

What was the point of her life? All she did was suffer! My grandparents suffered. We suffered. I SUFFERED! But she suffered….. she was so beautiful, innocent, affectionate, artistic…. why God, ya Allah, why?

So we took that pain, and we created SEEMA: Support Embrace Empower Mental health Advocacy. SEEMA was created to support families like ours, who are shamed by the stigma of mental illness, are isolated by their communities, and are suffering alone. Through support groups and workshops, SEEMA will make sure no one suffers alone anymore.

By the way, did I mention my mother’s name was Seema?

To find out more about SEEMA, check us out at seema.muhsen.org or on Facebook @SEEMAdvocacy, or email us at seema@muhsen.org. Join Seema

Six Stories Down: When It’s More Than Just The Baby Blues

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nour

    April 10, 2018 at 9:30 PM

    An honest, raw confession that most are incapable of making. May your courage be a means of opening up for others who are suffering in silence.

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 11, 2018 at 8:36 PM

      Ameen, may Allah accept from us any good, and forgive us for any shortcoming

  2. Avatar

    Hina

    April 11, 2018 at 2:10 AM

    SubhanAllah. Your story is an example of survivors taking something terrible and painful and creating something beautiful and hopeful and beneficial out of it instead. May your mother’s soul find peace at last and may you all be rewarded for the sadaqa ja’ariyah you have given the world on her behalf. Aameen.

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 11, 2018 at 8:38 PM

      Ameen, jazakallah khair for your kind words and encouragement <3

  3. Avatar

    Umm ismail

    April 11, 2018 at 9:34 AM

    Assalamu alaykoum,

    My father suffers from schizophrenia also. Nobody told me. I discovered when I was about 20 years old. He completely destroyed me psychologically. I thank God for that because it leads me to an deep inner search and I discovered Islam Wa alhamdoulillah. I still hope my father one day will ‘wake up’ from this nightmare, because I love him in spite of everything he did, but now he has Alzheimer so things are getting worse and he is loosing completely the contact with the reality. May Allah protect my children from this. May Allah protect you and bless you. A lot of things are happening in silence in our society. Mental illness is a big taboo.

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 11, 2018 at 8:47 PM

      I can completely resonate with your experience, after a childhood devoid of religion, her illness lead me to find Islam. Subhan Allah, after years of being emotionally and maternally unavailable, in my darkest period of my life, Allah used her to guide me back to Him. She said “Look at my life, look how much I suffer, and I have not sinned. Don’t make wrong choices, problems will come to you, don’t seek them out yourself,” and thus began my journey to seek the Truth. In her final years, she was showing symptoms of early onset dementia, as well. Alhamdulillah she’s at peace now. Just remember, your father is Jannati, he isn’t accountable for his actions, how blessed we were to have people of Jannah in our lives. May Allah forgive us for any shortcomings. You, your father, and your children are in my duas. <3

  4. Avatar

    Ahmedoo

    April 11, 2018 at 10:45 AM

    Sister Naureen,

    Your story sounds too familiar to that of my wife’s. She grew up with a mother who has PPD, and has led to a lot of hurt in her life. Until recently, her mom’s condition and mistreatment of her and her siblings was a secret from the rest of the world (family, friends, community members) as well. Even when we shared what her mom has and what it looks like, most people simply didn’t know how to respond or empathize or show support.

    May Allah grant you and your siblings shifa, and create through you guys healing and support in the community.

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 11, 2018 at 8:56 PM

      Jazakallah khair for sharing your story. Yes, people don’t know how to respond because people aren’t empowered with the knowledge on mental illnesses. My response to my mother as a child was due to lack of knowledge. Even when I did learn, the child inside me just wanted HER, my mother. Unfortunately, her illness defined her. Your wife and her mother are in my duas, may Allah give you all peace, and I pray you find comfort that you are not alone.

  5. Avatar

    Zeba Khan

    April 11, 2018 at 4:39 PM

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s so critical that the community supports each other instead of stereotyping and isolating. May SEEMA lead to amazing opportunities and solutions for the whole Ummah.

    • Avatar

      Mehreen

      April 11, 2018 at 5:41 PM

      Ameen

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 11, 2018 at 8:58 PM

      Jazakallah khair for the kinds words and encouragement <3

  6. Avatar

    Anon

    April 12, 2018 at 12:06 AM

    Salaam Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

    I do not usually comment on articles that I read here, but this one really hit home. My grandmother used to have schizophrenia, this article brought tears to my eyes. It was so difficult to see her struggle as a young child. I am imagining how my grandfather and my dad and his siblings dealt with her with so much sabr, without even knowing what schizophrenia is (we are also from Pakistan). May Allah (swt) reward the ones who patiently handle people who have mental health issues.

    Years later, our family was able to my grandmother on medication, and by the Mercy of Allah (swt) she is finally at peace. Allah willed for her old age to be easy for her. May He allow for everyone silently suffering to be at ease.

    JazakAllahu khayr for sharing your story. May Allah swt reward you and put barakah in your initiative.

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 12, 2018 at 9:33 AM

      Jazakallah khair for sharing your story. Indeed, these innocent souls are a test on us, how we deal with them, treat them kindly. I tell myself, she was a person of Jannah! How blessed we truly were to have her with us, and may Allah forgive us if we ever fell short in treating her kindly. May He accept from us any good, and accept SEEMA as a sadaqa jariya in her name. Your grandmother and your family are in our duas. <3

      • Avatar

        Anon

        April 13, 2018 at 11:16 PM

        Naureen, thank you for your reply! It definitely is a test for the person going through it and for those around them. As you mentioned in another comment, the effects are really long lasting. I am making dua for your family and for Allah swt to always shower you and your sisters with an immense amount of blessings, fill any voids you may have. For Allah swt to grant your mother with the highest levels of Jannah.
        Stay strong, stay positive, duas and love with you and your family.

  7. Avatar

    Abu farhan

    April 13, 2018 at 4:35 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    My mum suffers from bipolar disorder for the past 30 yrs. It took 15 yrs before we diagonised her with it. She goes thru periods of depression and hyper activity. She has attempted suicides during her depression. She has sent me out of the house during her hyper activity. I have grown to accept her antics. However, some family members and relatives take her behaviour towards them personally and hold grudges when many of the things she does are due to her illnesses. Her illness and behaviour of relatives have led to deep sadness for me as it has torn my family apart and leaves me alone and i had to sacrifice my happiness for sake of others. I just hope that i can serve her during her ageing years.

    • Avatar

      Naureen

      April 13, 2018 at 1:37 PM

      Wa’alaikum assalam, thank you for sharing your story. Yes, I totally understand, our family has been been torn apart by her illness, as well, even now, when she’s no longer with us, subhan Allah. The effects are long-lasting. Life is too short, and people need to remember the mercy of Allah, and how He keeps providing for us, despite our behaviors. If we can’t forgive others, how can we expect Him to forgive us? Praying for you and your family, may you find peace and happiness, insha Allah. <3

  8. Avatar

    A sister

    May 5, 2018 at 2:48 AM

    Thank you Naureen for writing this article and for starting this organization. I cannot fathom the huge amount of strength you and your siblings had in coping with a parent with mental illness subhanallaah. I am impressed and saddened that you had to deal with this in your childhood. I kind of wonder what is the root cause of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? I have both in my family actually. One aunt who had bipolar but a lot of family support, her husband extended family helped in raising the children. I have a cousin with schizophrenia who was not able to get married or have a family. I think addressing the root cause is very important. There is a quote by Ibn Taymiyyah that you can look into. I will support this project of yours. Indeed Allaah SWT forgives the one who are not in the right mental state but issues as such should be recognized early on by families and relatives and treatment should be sought early on. I am of the opinion that many of these case are supernatural and that if they are proven to be otherwise then they are purely psychiatric. I have no doubt I could have ended up having major depression in my life, indeed I was not diagnosed when I had major post partum depression by the gyn, peds(because it was ramadhan and because when you are a practicing muslim following the rules it’s hard for anyone to say you are depressed but out of normal reaction to a stresser is a psychological weakness) but i had friend who told me to snap out of it and alhamdulillaah I did but looking back it could have worsened had not the grace of Allaah SWT been upon me. As a physician I diagnosed myself later and shared it with family who had recognized it but were very supportive but since they were non medical they could not articulate it as such.

  9. Avatar

    Plannergirl

    April 1, 2020 at 4:13 AM

    I know this is taboo to say. But i believe this is jinn possession usually as a result of someone doing magic on the person . And ill say why. Ive been diagnosed with actual jinn possession. I know the exact day it happened to me because of everyrhing that happened. Yes there r charlatans and also people who know whats up and alhamdulillah Allah sent me help and guidance.
    I have gone from being a mental nutcase and a vegatable, dazed out, rage, extreme lethargy bipolar and schizophrenic to being a normal sane person through: reading baqarah for years now alhamdulillah. And morning and evening adhkars. Ruqya “baths”.

    Its extremely difficult when the person is so sick because they r not in their right mind. Thats when they r in need of ruqya from another. But once when they r in their senses, they have to work on eman and ruqya. Some people’s case is much easier than others. Mine was severe.

    I now have 20 years of experience while living with sihr, and the period when we started ruqya where the jinn fight u back and u have reactions(crying, falling asleep from listening to Quran, unable to move, extreme waswas etc)

    I have tried all types of ruqya plans and routines and combinations to work ruqya into daily life. If anyone needs help, please feel free to message me.

    Anyway, I had to have my parents live with us and care for kids while i got intense ruqya for several years.

    I have not taken any medication except natural stuff, lifestyle changes, aqeedah study, psychology, changed thinking patterns.

    If i can be of help to anyone, feel free to reach out.

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#Society

Raised by Converts

Note to the reader:  Some Muslims debate which term we should use for someone who has chosen to accept Islam. Is it supposed to be “convert” or “revert?”  In this article, I choose to use the word “convert.”  Before I start receiving comments from individuals who are convinced that the term “revert” is the only correct one, I would like to share this superb article on the issue written by Ricardo Peña, who says it better than I ever could.  

Nuha* thought she had found her soulmate and future life partner in Joel*, her co-worker. He was kind, hardworking, and charming, and the young couple wanted to get married.  Nuha’s father, however, would not give his blessing to the union because the potential groom had recently converted to Islam.  Nuha’s dad wanted his daughter to marry a man who had grown up in a Muslim family and therefore, presumably, had years of Islamic experience and fairly solid religious knowledge. He speculated about some of the things Joel might have done before embracing Islam and whether he had any habits that would be hard to break. He also thought it would be wiser for his daughter to marry someone from the same background; he doubted a white guy would really know how to relate to a Pakistani-American girl and her desi family. Most of all, he worried that Joel would not know enough about Islam to be a good husband, father, and imam of his family.  

Was Nuha’s father justified? Do converts make good spouses and parents? Can they ever truly move on from any un-Islamic aspects of their past and adhere to their new deen

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How do converts attain the knowledge necessary to raise children with Islamic knowledge, taqwa, and adab?

To answer this question I spoke with six Muslims who grew up in a household where one or more parents were converts to Islam. Their answers give insight into the true dynamics of what happens when converts raise children.  

Khadijah is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach from the United Kingdom. Her mother, a white British woman, converted when Khadijah was eight years old.  When she and Khadijah’s father had divorced, she had felt a need to find a deeper meaning in life. This searching led her to Islam.  

“My mum taught me Islam in stages,” explains Khadijah. “As she learnt things, she passed them onto me. We went to study circles together, and we learnt to pray together as well. She wrote the transliteration of the prayer on little blue cards for us to hold whilst we prayed. I wouldn’t say her knowledge was sufficient at the time, but whose knowledge is? I learnt valuable lessons as I watched her do her own reading, leaning, and questioning. I felt like we stumbled through together. As I grew up, this taught me Islam is a constant journey, and it’s ok to ask questions.”

Shaheda, a freelance writer from North Carolina, grew up in different circumstances than Khadijah, but the women’s stories have definite parallels. Shaheda’s parents are African Americans who were both raised in traditional southern Christian families. The pair converted to Islam in the 1960s when they were college students who were active in the Civil Rights movement. They began to learn about Islam after their introduction to leaders like Malcolm X.  

As different as her parents’ life experiences were from Khadijah’s mum’s, Shaheda enjoyed the same benefit of being able to see her parents growing and changing due to the love of Islam. “My parents were learning Islam as they were raising us,” explains Shaheda, “and so their increase in knowledge was tangible to us. We grew up in a community where you would see the physical manifestations of knowledge acquisition. The style of dress of the sisters became more modest, the separation of women and men became more pronounced in social gatherings, social gatherings took on a more religious tone, we began to attend Sunday school to learn Quran and Arabic.”

Though it may come as a surprise to some, in families where one spouse was a born to a Muslim family and the other is a convert, the convert is often actually the more knowledgable and practicing parent. Aliyah is a family counselor from the Midwestern United States whose Indian mother and white American father met when they were partners in pre-med.  “My dad had read about ‘Mohammedans’ and would ask my mom lots of questions about them,” explains Aliyah. “My mom was raised in a home that was only culturally Muslim. Plus, back then most immigrants just wanted to assimilate. She didn’t really know the answer to my dad’s intensive questions. One day she suggested he ask her father the same questions. My grandfather took him to the ISNA convention where he could ask more knowledgeable people. Alhumdulilah he got all his questions answered and converted!”

 She continues, “As a little kid we always looked at my dad as the sheikh of the house. We all agree that he’s the reason my family is even practicing. He would always patiently entertain and answer my questions, read me stories about the Prophets and Seerah, and really focus on aqeedah and comparative religions.  When I grew up and both our levels of knowledge needed to grow, we learnt together. As a teen, my dad and I would walk to the masjid together and attend the Friday night halaqa. In college, our favorite thing to do was attend al Maghrib classes. I would ditch my friends and discuss with him what we had learned during the lunch break.”

For Iman,* a stay at home mom who grew up between the United States and the Middle East, it was her convert mother — not her Arab father — who was her main Islamic influence.  “I was about 6-7 years old when my mom converted,” she explains.  “I grew up celebrating Christmas and Eid. We had a Christmas tree in our living room for the first several years of my life. My mother, who was raised a Southern Baptist, embraced Islam when my youngest brother was a baby, so for most of his life she was a practicing Muslim. We learned most of what we know from her.  I remember as a child seeing stacks of books on the dining table that she would check out of the masjid library to read and learn. She was a very intelligent woman who knew more about Islam than lots of born Muslims.”

Based on her own experiences, Iman asserts, “Generally speaking, I think converts are more knowledgeable than born Muslims. It can be challenging,” she adds, “when the convert is more serious about deen than their born-Muslim spouse.”

Anisa, a former teacher from Missouri, agrees with Iman.  “In some ways, I feel converts may have more Islamic knowledge than born Muslims because they have had to search for the knowledge themselves as opposed to growing up with it. Also,” she adds, “many born Muslims have grown up with so much culture mixed with the religion that the difference between the two can get blurred.”

Anisa’s mom, a white American woman who was raised Christian, met some Muslims at Oklahoma Baptist College back in 1970.  She started conversations with them in the hopes of converting them to Christianity, but ended up intrigued by their faith. She took an Islamic History class and read whatever books she could find at the library. She decided to become a Muslim at an MSA conference and made her shahada in 1973. “By the time my mother was raising my sisters and me, she definitely knew all the basics of Islam and was able to teach us,” says Anisa.

“She was the main parental source of knowledge for us, although we also attended Sunday school.”Click To Tweet

Mustafa is the child of an Egyptian dad and an American mom. He was born in the U.S. but raised primarily in Egypt where he was surrounded by Muslims, and yet his convert mother was a huge inspiration to him in his faith. “I know that I loved my mom so much,” Mustafa says.  “I felt that she had done the decision-making process for us. That if someone so smart, clever, and precise figured out Islam was the Truth, it must be.” 

“My mom became Muslim in the early 80s,” explains Mustafa. “She learned about Islam from her students while completing her Masters at the University of Illinois-Champagne. She was teaching English as a second language to Malaysian exchange students. She also ended up living with them and learning about Islam from them. People always assumed my mom converted for my dad,” muses Mustafa. “She didn’t even know him when she converted!”

As positive as their experiences were, overall, with the guidance of their convert parents, life was not always easy for the children who grew up with one born-Muslim parent and one convert. Many times, stereotypes about race, ethnicity, and cultural differences complicated their relationships with extended family members and outsiders. Both as children and as adults, many of them had to cope with people’s misconceptions and tactlessness.  

“I was always teased,” confides Aliyah.  “I’ve been called ‘half Muslim,’ ‘zebra,’ and ‘white girl’ in a derogatory way. Aunties always questioned if I was taught Islam properly. People would assume my dad converted for love (the pet peeve of my whole family). I would hear talk in Urdu in the masjid kitchen that I couldn’t cut an onion because I’m white. It was hard for us when we were getting married to find someone that clicked with us because we were so culturally different than everyone we knew.”

“Kids are rough,” adds Mustafa.  “Muslims can be ignorant, stereotypical, and not know what is offensive. Someone asked my sister, ‘Did your dad marry your mom because she wore a bikini?’ We were oddities at school in Egypt when people would see my mom pick us up from school. I was actually embarrassed to be seen with her for a while growing up, just because of all the attention it got me.”

I was “the white girl” in a Muslim school,” explains Khadijah, “and whilst that made the other girls very aware of who I was, there was always an element of separation there. I didn’t feel white. I didn’t feel Pakistani or Gujarati. I don’t feel like it affected me in either a negative or positive way. I got used to not completely belonging and forged my own ‘culture.’ I married an Afro-Caribbean brother, so my children have such a mix of cultures around them and I think it’s pretty beautiful. Whether my upbringing influenced this or not, I don’t know!”

While Shaheda did not feel any religious tension within her extended family, (“I understand from firsthand experience how people of different faiths can coexist in love and mutual respect,” she says), she does experience some difficulty from her brothers and sisters in Islam.  She reports “having to repeatedly validate my identity as an actual Muslim to those who don’t have the same experience. The assumption that there may be something missing or not quite Muslim enough is troublesome.” 

Wisdom to Share

These children of converts with their unique experiences and courageous dedication to their faith have excellent wisdom to share with the Ummah.  

Aliyah, whose work as a counselor focuses especially on Muslim families, has advice for Muslim parents whose marriage is mixed, either culturally or racially. “To youth,” she says, “identity matters SO MUCH, especially in this day and age when that’s all anyone ever talks about. If you’re a white convert parent of brown/black kids, identify your privilege that comes with that. If your kids are brown or black…learn about what that means in America. When I was with my non-Muslim relatives they would just make me feel so ‘other.’ They would focus on my exotic look and beliefs and just make me feel like an alien.” 

She continues, “Research things to consider when you are raising a child that is a different ethnicity than you. Ask your kids how they feel about it. Have an open conversation. Teach them about valuing both their cultural backgrounds.”

Khadijah’s advice to Muslim parents is,

“Learn WITH your children. Let them see that you’re still learning and struggling as well. Let them experience the journey with you. They’ll learn more that way than through lectures. You don’t have to act like you have everything figured out.” 

I believe the constant cycling in of converts into Muslim communities is a great blessing,” offers Shaheda. “And with that blessing comes a responsibility. We owe them our support, wisdom, and love, and I think we should take that responsibility very seriously. We should create bonds. These individuals who Allah has chosen as believers among disbelievers are special, and they keep us on our spiritual toes. There are multitudes of blessings when a community gains a new convert.”

When I asked them if they would have any concerns about their own children marrying converts, all of the interviewees answered a firm “no.”  They realize that a person’s dedication to Islam is not guaranteed by being born into it, or even raised with it. 

Converts — people who chose Islam as mature adults after a great deal of research, soul-searching, and personal transformation — are among our Ummah’s most passionate, educated, and sincere members.  

*Names have been changed

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 15: Fruit Out of Season

Now that we have learnt about making our intentions big, let’s now talk about fruit out of season.

Who can tell me who Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is

Yes, she was the mother of ‘Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and also the best woman to ever live. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an that He chose her over all the women in the world.

Question: Do you know that she was also the niece to a Prophet? Does anyone know her uncle’s name? 

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His name is Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), good job! Do you know that Prophet Zakariya  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  was actually inspired by something he saw in Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room? It’s unusual for adults to admit that they learn from younger people, but we actually do, all the time! 

One day, Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) went inside Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room and he saw fruit that was out of season. 

Question: Can anyone tell me what fruit would be out of season in the spring, but we love to eat it in the summertime? Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?

Well, Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) would get fruit that was supposed to only grow in the summer during the wintertime too! This was a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would give her. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was so amazed by this! He asked Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) how she came upon the fruit and she replied:

 هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

“It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without measure.” [Surat Ali ‘Imran; 37] 

Now, by this time, Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was very old. And when you get to be very old, it is very unusual to have any more children. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his wife never had any children at all. But, he was so inspired by what his niece said that he raised his hands in dua’ and asked Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a child. Even though having a child seemed  impossible because it was “out of season” for Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) he asks anyway knowing that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can grant us anything- even if it is not “in season!”

Question: Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?Did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) answer Prophet Zakariya’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) dua’? 

Yes! Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was blessed with Yahya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), who too became a Prophet and was the cousin of Prophet ‘Isa  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)!

This shows us that it’s never too late or too early to ask for what our heart desires. Maybe Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will grant you something that is out of season too!

 

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#Culture

The Beginnings Of The Darul Islam Movement In America

I was raised in the Darul Islam movement; my father Shaykh Abdu-Karim Ahmad, was one of their Imams for a time in Philly. So was my cousin Shaykh Ali Ahmad. Both who are still alive today. There are many narrations yet to be told, that shed a little light and context, about Muslim America today.

Much of the history about Islam in United States of America and of the pioneering Muslims upon who’s shoulders we stand, has never been told. Some of them unfortunately may never be told and may die with the death of those who were there. When it comes to American Muslim history, the narratives of those who lived it is more poignant than that of those who only heard about it. As in the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), “He who is told is not like he who has seen”.

Much of what is written about Black American Muslim Sunni pioneers is written about us but not by us. 

One story that has remained largely unchronicled is that of the Darul Islam movement. Darul Islam was an early indigenous Sunni Muslim community made up of Black American Muslims and converts to Islam. At its height, it comprised 25-30 Muslim communities and masaajid across the country. It was started by Rajab Mahmood and Yahya Abdul-Karim, who were formally attendees of the famous State Street Mosque in Brooklyn, New York in the Atlantic Ave area west of Flatbush. The State St, Mosque which was started by was Dawud Faisal, a Black man who came to the United States from the Caribbean to pursue a career in jazz music, became a beacon for early Muslim immigrants as there was already a spate of Arab businesses along Atlantic Ave near third street, not far from the Mosque. My father used to take us to Malko Brothers bakery on Atlantic Ave in the early sixties where we would buy pita bread and halal meat from one of the other stores. It was one of the few places you could buy pita bread on the East Coast and there was no such thing as a halal store in America then.  

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Partially because Shaykh Dawud was black, and perhaps because of his jazz background and affiliation, the Masjid also attracted Black American converts to Sunni Islam. Many early Sunni Muslims were associated with and came from jazz musicians.  The Legendary John Coltrane was reported to have been a Muslim, he was married to a sister named Amina and his daughter was named Na’eema. My father performed her marriage in New York in the 1980’s. It’s rumored that he never publicized his Islam because it would have damaged his career as it had done to so many others. Hajj Talib Dawud, who started a masjid in Philadelphia (not related to the Darul Islam movement), used to be a trumpet player for Dizzy Gillespie. 

Meanwhile, , there was a chasm between immigrant Muslims who were new to the country. Converts to Islam, who were overwhelmingly Black, were new to Islam.  In 1960, Shaykh Dawud hired a teacher who was Hafiz al-Quran named Hafiz Mah’boob — he was associated with the Tabligh Jamaa’ah movement— but he was Black or looked black. The young African American converts, Rajab Mah’mood, Yahya Abdulkarim, Suleiman Abdul-Hadi (my uncle and one of the founding members of The Last Poets), Muhammad Salahuddin, and others. were drawn to him, He was “down” with educating the brothers from America and he used to teach them Arabic and Islam. It was a different time then and the immigrant, mainly Arab Muslims, and the Black American converts to Islam were from two different worlds. There was an unspoken uneasiness. Eventually Hafiz Mah’boob suggested that the African American brothers go and start their own masjid.

Rajab Mah’mood and Yahya AbdulKarim eventually left the State Street Mosque and started their own Masjid in Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s toughest neighborhoods, they named it Yasin Mosque, and that was the beginning of the Darul Islam Movement in the United States. That’s also just the beginning of the story.

I was born and raised a Sunni Muslim in Philadelphia, PA; my parents converted to Islam in the 1950’s.

I was raised in the Darul Islam movement; my father Shaykh Abdu-Karim Ahmad, was one of their Imams for a time in Philly. So was my cousin Shaykh Ali Ahmad. Both who are still alive today. There are many narrations yet to be told, that shed a little light and context, about Muslim America today.

History matters. 

Taken from the Upcoming Book. “The History of the Darul Islam Movement in America” 

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