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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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Tech

6 Phone Hacks to Stop Muslim Pro from Selling You Out to the Military

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Vice News has released an article stating the popular app Muslim Pro has been, perhaps unknowingly, selling location data to military contractors. Essentially, this means that your information ends up in the hands of the military itself.

Apps can be monetized a number of ways beyond the one-time app purchase or subscriptions.  Different types of data can be gathered from your phone by the app.  That data can then be sold to others who are interested in harvesting that data for different uses.

In the case of the Muslim Pro app, it’s been found they have been gathering location data from user phones and selling it to the company X-Mode, which in turn sells this to various entities, including military contractors.  Regarding X-Mode clients, the Vice article notes:

Those clients have also included U.S. military contractors, Motherboard found. Included in archived versions of the “Trusted Partners” section on its website, X-Mode lists Sierra Nevada Corporation and Systems & Technology Research as customers. Sierra Nevada Corporation builds combat aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, and supports contractor Northrop Grumman in the development of cyber and electronic warfare capabilities for the U.S. Army. Systems & Technology Research works with the Army, Navy, and Air Force according to procurement records, and offers “data analytics” support to intelligence analysts, according to its website.

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It’s important to note that the Muslim Pro app isn’t the only app that makes use of X-Mode. As well, many app developers who were available for comment stated that they did not realize their data was being resold for military purposes.  Muslim Pro has not yet responded to inquiries with Vice.

By no means is this problem limited to the Muslim Pro app, nor is selling our data to the military the only nefarious use of our data. It is troubling nonetheless to know that this practise is occurring.  Irrespective of whether this was or was not done with bad intentions, we should still understand how to protect ourselves from inadvertant breaches like this.

Location Services: Privacy Concerns and a Major Battery Drain

Many don’t realize that having location tracking constantly toggled on by default on one’s phone is a major drain on the device’s battery.  Add to that various apps that have asked you to opt in on gathering your location data (which they send to others), and you’re looking at multiple recharges daily, even on brand new phones.  Let’s review how you can increase your privacy and battery life.

1. Toggle Location Setting to “Off”

The first is to simply toggle your Location setting to off.  This prevents the phone from gathering location data.  There’s usually no need for it to be on, and it’s a huge drain.  Google will try to sell you (well, they already do) on the possibility of losing your phone and better customization of services.  Ignore it.  Here’s how you turn it off:

2. Remove App Permissions’ Access to Your Location

There will come a time when you want to toggle Location on, such as when using a map-based app to travel.  You probably don’t want 100 apps sending out your location info while you make legitimate use of location tracking for your personal benefit.  You may also want to keep location tracking on your kids’ phones for tracking their whereabouts.  Here’s how to prevent specific apps from tracking you:

One caveat to keep in mind – many apps that give you the option of “Only while in use” are still in use even if you’re using another app – they’re sitting in the background until you truly close them out.

3. Turn off Location History Tracking

Google keeps track of where you’ve been if you’re signed into a Google account, have location history turned on, and you have location reporting turned on.  They do this on both Android and Apple Devices.  To turn off tracking, and to automatically have it deleted:

Apple doesn’t have a good support article describing how to disable Location History tracking under their Significant Locations settings, only delete.  Here’s a straightforward article on both deleting the history and disabling tracking:

4. Mask Your Online Activity with a VPN

A vpn (virtual private network) hides your online activity, identity, and location information while browsing or making use of streaming services.  Some commercial providers include:

To learn more about VPNs, read this article.  Please note that many use VPNs to perform illegal and unethical activity anonymously, such as downloading copyrighted material from torrenting sites – as Muslims, we do not and should not condone such behavior.

5. Turn off Ad Tracking and Location-Based Ads

Based on your online behavior and search history, ads will be targeted at you, and there are location-based ads shot your way as well.  Here’s how to turn them off:

Please note that this doesn’t prevent you from seeing ads.  This prevents advertisers from gathering your personal data and then retargeting ads specific to what they know about you.

6. Turn off Bluetooth

It’s not just for connecting AirPods and Beats headphones.  While GPS tracking can get your location over a wide range, its precision is limited.  Bluetooth beacons in stores can talk to your phone’s bluetooth and pinpoint your exact location and tell stores how long you’ve been in a particular area.  If you’re interested in learning if there’s a Bluetooth beacon in your store talking to your phone, try using the Beacon Scanner.

  • Disable bluetooth on Apple
  • Disable bluetooth on Google Android:
    Go to Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > Bluetooth
    – Toggle the button from On to Off

Conclusion

We hope that the makers of the Muslim Pro app are more careful with whom they sell our data to.  I would recommend they remove any SDK code that sends location data of users to them and others.  It can be lucrative to re-target customers by selling their data, but this shouldn’t be done unless the reseller’s partners are thoroughly vetted.

For the rest of us, it’s important to closely monitor how our phone data is used to make money from us.  It’s better to have a minimalist approach to phone and app usage and invasiveness.  This article isn’t exhaustive in covering all the ways one can truly secure themselves; however, these are some significant steps one can take to begin protecting themselves and their families.

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#Islam

Undisputed And Undefeated: 13 Ways Khabib Nurmagomedov Inspired Us To Win With Faith

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Many fans anxiously watched UFC 254 with bated breath as Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov went head-to-head with Justin “The human highlight reel” Gaethje. The latter had just come off a spectacular TKO win against a formidable and feared fighter in the form of Tony Ferguson, beating him over 5 nerve-wracking rounds by outstriking him with a combination damaging head shots and crippling low kicks.

We all knew what both would do – Khabib would go for the takedown, and Gaethje would try to keep the fight on the feet and opt for stand-up striking – which fighter’s strategy would prevail? Alhamdulillah, it was Khabib, in a mere 2 rounds.  We weren’t in the fight, but we are all nervous and supplicating, making du’a to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give him another victory.

And so it was that after the win, he collapsed in the middle of the ring to cry, as this was his first fight after the loss of his father due to complications with Covid-19. He cried, and many a man cried with him, feeling his pain. Gaethje revived from his triangle choked slumber and consoled his former foe, telling Khabib his father was proud of him.

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We were all sure when “The Eagle” got on the mic, he would say he wanted to fight GSP, George St Pierre, and then retire 30-0, as he had said in previous press conferences leading up to the fight.  Instead, he surprised us all by announcing his retirement at 29-0, and I couldn’t help but marvel that not only was he turning away from a lucrative final fight, but the way in which he announced his retirement reminded us of our faith, our deen, our religion, Islam.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an

“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”

Throughout his MMA career, Khabib has proudly worn his faith on his sleeve. As he has risen to become the current pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world and arguably the GOAT, the greatest of all time, his unwavering example as a practicing Muslim transformed him into a global phenomenon and role model for many of us by reminding us to be better worshippers, to be closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Let’s look at a few of the ways he did this:

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

The announcer at UFC 254 began by congratulating Khabib on a job well-done yet again by praising him, stating, “The world is in awe of your greatness once again…your thoughts on an epic championship performance, congratulations.” Khabib didn’t immediately begin talking about himself. Instead, he said:

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

After stating this, he went on to announce his retirement, his reasons for retiring, and thanked everyone who supported his professional MMA journey.

The Reminder

Alhamdulillah is literally translated into “All Praise Belongs to God”. Khabib begins by thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), pointing out that his talents and abilities are a gift, a blessing from the Most High. When we have any blessing from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we must remember that whatever our own effort, our abilities, our support, and our achieved outcomes ultimately tie back to support from our Rabb, our Lord, who controls all.

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

If you’ve ever seen Khabib point at himself, shake his finger back and forth as if to say, “No” and then point up to the sky, this is a nonverbal way of him saying, don’t think all these great things you see are from me – they’re from Allah above.

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

You may have noticed at the end of Khabib’s victory, when the announcer states that he’s the winner of the bout, he falls into a prostration known as Sajdat al-Shukr – the Prostration of Thankfulness (to Allah).

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

Performing this is recommended when someone receives something beneficial (eg good news, wealth, etc) or if they avoided something potentially harmful (e.g. job loss, healing from a disease, etc). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would do this when he received good news. The believer should remember to be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as much as they can.

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

Years ago (early 2018), Khabib visited my local masjid in Santa Clara, California (not far from where he was training in San Jose at the AKA gym). Many at the masjid didn’t know who he was, but we heard he was the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight championship belt, at that time held by Tony Ferguson.

He did a Q & A with the community, and someone asked him a general question about what he would recommend for the youth.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing:

Take care of your prayers, if you come to Day of Judgment not take care of your prayers, on that day you will be smashed.

The Reminder

The second pillar of Islam that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded us to follow is to pray to Him 5 times daily. Khabib was no doubt referencing the following statement of the Prophet (saw):

“The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost…”

 

 

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda notes that when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) first began his mission of da’wah and faced devastating rejection from family and community, Allah told the Prophet to stand and pray. The reason for this is because when we are weak and suffering, the place to turn to for strength is back to Allah in prayer. There is no doubt Khabib’s strength came from his connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which in turn came from his 5 daily prayers.

Praying multiple times daily, consistently, can be challenging; when it was legislated by Allah to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) kept telling him to go back and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a reduction, saying, “Your people will not be able to handle it.”

Khabib is a great reminder that no matter how high you climb in life and career, no matter how busy you think you are, worshipping Allah is the most important deed one can do, and this discipline is the most important habit to build.

4. Strong Wrestling Game

Some say Khabib is already 30-0 for wrestling a bear

In a sport that sees far more striking and kicking than it does wrestling, Khabib came to dominate the lightweight division of the UFC with a strong grappling style that is a combination of sambo (a Soviet martial art), judo, and wrestling. Famously, he outwrestled a bear when he was much younger.

During his fights, he doesn’t close out his bouts by pummeling his opponents and causing them damage as most strikers would. Most of his hits open up his opponents to being forced to tap out via submission. Even his last opponent, Justin Gaethje, noted that he was much happier to be choked out in a submission, as all he would get is a pleasant nap, as opposed to striking, which could have long-term health consequences.

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not only able to wrestle, he took down the strongest wrestler in Makkah. Rukanah, the famed Makkan wrestler, challenged RasulAllah because of his hatred for the da’wah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted his challenge and took him down multiple times, body slamming him again and again. It was said that after the conquest of Makkah, Rukanah accepted Islam.

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

During the post-fight press conference with UFC President Dana White, it was revealed that Khabib had broken one of his toes 3 weeks before the fight. Prior to that, he had taken two weeks off upon arriving at Fight Island having contracted mumps, according to AKA trainer and coach Javier Mendez. Khabib is quoted as having told Mendez, “My toe may be broken, but my mind is not.” In addition to this, his father had just passed away months earlier, and this would be his first fight without his father present.

Mumps, broken toes, and the emotional turmoil of family tragedy

The Reminder

In addition, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has told us, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone…” This strength includes strength of body, mind, and spirit; not just when conditions are perfect, but when trials surround you from every conceivable direction.

6. Relationship With His Father

After defeating Justin Gaethje, Khabib went to the center of the ring and cried, and everyone cried with him. We all knew his father’s death weighed heavily on his mind and his heart, and this was his first fight without him. His father was his mentor and trainer, whom everyone could obviously see he both loved and greatly respected.

In the post-fight question and answer with Dustin Poirier, Khabib was asked, “What’s your message for your young fans out there who look up to you so much?” he responded:

“Respect your parents, be close with your parents, this is very important. Parents everything, you know, your mother, your father, and that’s it, and everything in your life is going to be good, if you’re going to listen to your parents, mother, father, be very close with them, and other things come because your parents gonna teach what to do.”

The Reminder

There isn’t enough space in this article to go over how much emphasis our faith places on respecting our parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully. [17:23]

7. Relationship With His Mother

Our parents ultimately want us to succeed, but also want us to maintain our well-being. Without his father’s presence, it was clear that Khabib’s mother didn’t want him continuing in the Octagon (the UFC ring). After 3 days of discussion, Khabib gave his word to her that this would be his final fight. After beating Justin Gaethje in UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring because he promised his mother that he would retire and that he’s a man of his word.

The Reminder

This hearkens back to a statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about how much respect mothers deserve. A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He (saw) said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet finally said, “Your father.”

Khabib easily had millions more to make on a journey to hit 30-0 in his professional fighting career and decided to hang it all up to make his mother happy. This is true respect and obedience, and for that matter, the love of a mother for her son and his well-being over monetary gains.

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

When asked about the comparisons between himself and Muhammad Ali, Khabib stated that it was an inappropriate comparison. He noted that Muhammad Ali didn’t just face challenges in the ring, but challenges outside of it due to racism, and that he was an agent of change with respect to bringing about greater civil rights for African Americans.

The Reminder

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

From the 7th century until today, our faith recognizes that people are not judged by their race, but by their actions and the intentions behind those actions. In the video above, Khabib recognized both the wrongness of racism, and the challenge it posed along the way of Muhammad Ali’s own journey, and that his contributions to social justice transcended his involvement in sport.

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

With the exception of the fight with Conor McGregor, Khabib always dealt with his opponents with respect. He hugs them, shakes their hand, and says good things about their accomplishments and strengths both before and after fights. In a sport known for heavy trash talking and showboating to build hype, Khabib kept his cool and his manners.

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

Maintaining good character and conduct during press-conferences was Khabib’s calling card; even when trash talkers like Tony Ferguson tried to go after him, he would still recount Ferguson’s formidable stature as a fighter.

When reporters tried throwing him a softball opening to insult Ferguson’s mental health, Khabib responded that he didn’t want to talk about Tony Ferguson’s problems if he they were real; if Ferguson truly has a problem, then we should help him, as we all have problems.

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

As mentioned above, Khabib is known for being very respectful of his opponents during press conferences. He speaks well of their strengths, shakes their hands, hugs them; he even runs up to his opponent after a fight and hugs them, consoling them and wishing them well. After his win against Poirier, he traded shirts with him and donated $100k to Poirier’s charity.

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

The exception was the infamous UFC 229 which Muslim fans watched holding years, maybe decades of pent up anger at the type of crass secular arrogance represented by Conor. We desperately wanted Khabib to maul the mouthy McGregor. The latter had gone after his family, his faith, his nationality, anything and everything to hype up the fight and try to get under the champ’s skin. Some people lose their calm, and others, well, they eat you alive.

Khabib made it clear he wasn’t having any of that. He took the fight to Conor and choked him out with a neck crank. We then learned why he was called “The Eagle” as he hopped the cage and jumped into the audience to go after other members of Conor’s team who had spoken ill of him, giving birth to “Air Khabib”.

The Reminder

When our faith and family is spoken of in an ill fashion, it’s not appropriate that we sit there and take it. Khabib never cared when it was criticism against him, but once it went to others around him, he took flight. We as Muslims should never give anybody who tries to attack and dehumanize us a chance to rest on their laurels. We should strive ourselves to take the fight back to them by whatever legal means necessary, as Khabib did, whether it is cartoons of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or political pundits and satirists who monetize hatred against Muslims.

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

In numerous public instances, Khabib reminded us that our faith demands we don’t shake with the opposite gender. As one of my teachers taught us, the Qur’an instructs us to “lower our gaze” when dealing with women. If we shouldn’t even look at them out of respect for Allah’s command, how can we take it to the next level and touch them?

Extended to this is even more serious physical contact like training at the gym. Cynthia Calvillo, one of Khabib’s teammates at AKA gym, said the following about Khabib and his unit:

“It’s a little bit weird because of their religion and stuff…They don’t talk to women you know. I mean we say ‘hi’ to each other but we can’t train with them. They won’t train with women…I don’t think any other woman does.

The Reminder

Our faith places stricter physical and social interaction boundaries between men and women. Keeping matters professional and respectful with the opposite gender need not include physical contact. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was said to have never touched non-mahram women. It was narrated that he said,

“It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is impermissible to you.”

For this reason, the majority of scholars prohibited physical contact between men and women with some exceptions (e.g. old age). Watching Khabib maintain this practice, even in public where it could potentially embarrass him and cause undue negative attention, gives us all inspiration to deal with this issue in the workplace better. He encourages us to strive for better tolerance and awareness of our faith rather than forcing us to conform.

12. Not Making a Display of The “Trophy” Wife

If you follow Khabib’s Instagram, you won’t find lewd pics of him and a significant other. In fact, you won’t find any pictures at all of him and his wife. Who she is is a mystery to all. In an age and a sport where many post photos with their romantic partners, Khabib again is a standout with his gheerah, his honorable protectiveness for his significant other.

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

We are again reminded that a part of manhood is to have protective ghayrah, jealousy over one’s spouse. Ibn al-Qayyim also said, bringing in the concept of chivalry,

“The dayyuth / cuckold is the vilest of Allah’s creation, and Paradise is forbidden for him [because of his lack of ghayrah]. A man should be ‘jealous’ with regards to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general, but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in not allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.”

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

Finally, it should be noted there is no real scholarly disagreement on prohibiting striking the face. Recognizing this, Khabib stated when asked if “he thinks the AlMighty will be satisfied with him for taking part in haram fights for money,” he replied, “I don’t think so.”

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

“You go to mosque because nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and we have to ask Allah to forgive us. This is very important mentally, to be clear with Allah. This is not about the UFC. There is nothing else more important to me than being clear with Allah. And being clear with Allah is the No. 1 most hard thing in life.”

The Reminder

We as human beings aren’t perfect – perfection is only for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We all make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes large, but in the end, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is ready to forgive us if we’re willing to recognize our failings and ask to be forgiven.  Allah says in the Qur’an in 2:222:

“Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”

There are no sins so great that redemption is beyond any of us. Whatever Khabib’s flaws, his value as a positive change maker and faith-based role model globally outweighs his negatives.

Part of seeking forgiveness is the process, and the first part of that process is acknowledging the mistake. This means not being in denial about it or not justifying it, just owning it. As Khabib has owned his mistake publicly, there is no need for us to try and justify it either.

We can own that there are problems with MMA and the industry, in participating as well as watching and supporting. At the same time, we can do as Dr Hatem al-Hajj said about Muhammad Ali:

Concluding Thoughts

While UFC pundits will forever debate over the greatest of all time, there is in doubt that Khabib Nurmogomedov, the first Muslim UFC champion, will always be our GOAT.

I ask that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepts the good from what Khabib has done, rewards him tremendously for the inspiration he’s given us all to better focused on the akhirah, the next life, and continues to make him a powerful sports icon who uses his platform as Muhammad Ali did to teach Islam and exemplify it in the best way for all of us to benefit and follow.

Ameen.

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#Life

The Khabib Halal/Haraam Ratio: Good Character, Bad Sports, And The Conundrum of Muslim Representation 

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Published

This The Muslim Ummah has spent the last several years celebrating the rise and success of MMA fighter Khabib Normagomedov, a Muslim Daghestanti fighter who emerged to become an undisputed victor. On the day of his 29th victory, he also announced his retirement from MMA, referencing a promise that he made to his mother.

Muslims went wild in their praises, showering him with adoration, expressing their admiration of his obedience to his mother, his public demonstrations of sajdah ash-shukr after every match, his humility and remembrance of Allah, and his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at public events. Undoubtedly, these are all praiseworthy behaviours and characteristics that should be encouraged in all Muslims, especially Muslim men. 

However, there has been a near-deafening silence on the underlying problematic foundations of the entire phenomenon of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his popularity amongst Muslim men. To begin with, his entire career as an MMA fighter is considered sinful and prohibited according to the Shari’ah. It is well-known that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

وَعَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-{ إِذَا قَاتَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ, فَلْيَتَجَنَّبِ اَلْوَجْهَ } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ.‏ 1‏ .‏

‏1 ‏- صحيح.‏ رواه البخاري (2559)‏، ومسلم (2612)‏ واللفظ لمسلم، ولتمام تخريج 

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“When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, al-Fath, 5/215).

Scholars have agreed that any sports which involve striking of the face, and in addition, those which involve several physical harm and injury to its participants, are haraam. As per the hadith, and established legal maxim, “laa darar wa laa diraar” (There is no harming of others nor reciprocation of harm), this prohibition extends to sports such as boxing, MMA, American football, and any other sport where the athletes deliberately and regularly inflict and receive physical injury. 

On The Ropes

This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Indeed, it is disturbing and unfortunate that this fact has been minimized to such an extent that many Muslims – including and especially the Muslim men who are such avid fans of these sports – are not even aware of this prohibition. Perhaps most alarming is that many of those who are considered scholars, imams, shuyookh, and leaders in the Muslim community, who are aware of this prohibition, have neglected to mention these rulings even as they publicly praise those such as Muhammad Ali or Khabib Nurmagomedov for their prowess in these arenas, and hold them to be role models to follow. When even religious authorities are publicly cheering on such athletes and celebrating their victories, how can the average layman be expected to know that these sports are detested by the Shari’ah? It is a grave shortcoming that so many religious teachers and leaders have failed their fellow Muslims on a matter that has been extremely public and popularized. 

It is also necessary for Muslims to consider that the way that professional boxing, wrestling, MMA, and similar prohibited sports are conducted is a far cry from the casual (and permissible) fighting-for-sport that existed at the time of RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Today, the sports industry boasts billions upon billions of dollars spent in promotional material and events that involve no small amount of music, alcohol, vulgarity, and nearly-naked women being used solely to titillate the male gaze; sponsors of teams and athletes include beer companies. 

Glutton For Punishment

Male and female ‘awrah alike is revealed, openly and blatantly, normalized as part of the sports environment. Concern over the male ‘awrah being revealed cannot be overstated when we have an Islamic tradition that emphasizes modesty for believers, male and female. The greatest of all human beings, the Messenger of Allah, was described as “… more modest than a virgin in seclusion”

(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5751, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2320). The Prophet Musa (‘alayhissalaam) was known to be so modest that he kept his body covered at all times (Sahih Tirmidhi); the Companion ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) was described as having such modesty that the Messenger of Allah himself said, “Should I not be shy of the one whom the angels are shy of?” (Sahih Muslim 2401)

Related to modesty is the reminder to Muslim women who have been watching his matches (or any other entertainment) to lower their gazes. Bluntly speaking, it does not behoove a believing woman to be enjoying the sight of half-naked men (especially the very fit, athletic, and often attractive type) to be grappling away at each other. Muslim women are certainly not immune to the fitnah caused by the flaunting of undressed men all over social media feeds and through other entertainment.

The warnings regarding zina of the eyes apply to Muslim women just as they do to men; the Qur’an has already said:

{And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their private parts…} (Qur’an 24:31) 

It is unfortunate that this has been forgotten about to such an extent that even scholars have neglected to address this particular issue.

Rolling With The Representation Punches

While Khabib himself has been praised for his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at events that he is present at, we should be cognizant of the fact that neither he nor any other Muslim man (or woman) should be putting themselves in the position of being at such events to begin with. The truth of the matter is that his presence at these events was a necessary part of his career; his income, derived from this haraam sport and this haraam environment, can bluntly be considered haraam rizq, and no different in legal ruling than those who make money from liquor stores or running brothels. That Muslims have been blithely ignoring the serious spiritual ramifications of this raises the question of just how seriously we take the issue of blessed rizq in the first place. 

It is clear that many Muslim men, and in particular the religiously observant, find in Khabib a type of Muslim representation that they crave: someone who is publicly and unapologetically Muslim, who has demonstrated impressive physical skills and capability (perhaps they’re living through him vicariously?), who has displayed exemplary conduct outside the ring, who has constantly held fast to publicly and unashamedly remembering Allah and speaking of Islam. 

In and of itself, this is admirable. The Muslim Ummah has had a dearth of heroic contemporary role models, and no one can be faulted for feeling love for someone who seems to embody such laudable character and conduct. However, we cannot simply stop there. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves the question of what kind of Muslim representation is the kind of Muslim representation worth having – and how, and where, that representation takes place. 

When Muslim women have entered the public space, providing “representation” in the form of a muhajjabah in Playboy magazine, a hijab wearing model in a beauty pageant and the modeling industry, a hijabi in Olympic sports, and plenty of non-hijabis in many other areas, there has been a great deal of valid, legitimate criticism regarding the concept of “Muslim representation” and what it entails. Amongst conservative Muslims, there is a shared belief that “representation” at the cost of upholding the halal and turning away from the haraam is not representation worth having. Indeed, such “representation” comes with a significant amount of damage to the collective social and spiritual health of the Ummah: there is normalization of platforms that are antithetical to Islamic values, of dressing and conduct that go against our Shari’ah, and encouraging younger generations to engage in those behaviours and to pursue those types of careers. 

Why, then, are we not holding our Muslim brothers to the same standard? No matter how inspiring Khabib’s conduct is, no matter how admirable his public representation of his Muslim identity, his career and all that comes with it cannot be considered permissible, acceptable, or encouraged in Islam. Unfortunately, we have had many Muslim men encouraging one another to watch his matches, to the extent of arranging watch parties in the masjid! (Someone, please, answer me truly: how would RasulAllah consider the enthusiastic watching of a haraam sport in the House of Allah?)

Blow-By Blow: Izzah of the Ummah?

Furthermore, the excuses made for Khabib’s career choice are, frankly, flimsy – he has not brought ‘izzah to this Ummah in any tangible way other than making Muslim men feel good about themselves (I mean, hey, I get it, but sorry, this ain’t it); he is not “intimidating the kuffaar” (let’s be real: the kuffaar at the UFC are making more money off of him than you could ever dream of having in a lifetime); his victories in the ring are not a victory for this Ummah (please, go ask the oppressed Muslims in Burma, Somalia, Yemen, East Turkestan, Palestine, Kashmir, and elsewhere how much of a victory his matches have been for their well-being). Indeed, questions have risen regarding his public appearances with Vladimir Putin and his possible political allegiances with Russia, which has a long history of brutalizing Muslims in their surrounding regions. 

At the end of the day, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a paid athlete, whose millions of dollars come from a prohibited sport, in an industry that reeks of filth from beginning to end. He is our Muslim brother, and what should be celebrated is that he has finally chosen to leave the industry. What we should not have done, nor continue to do, is to hold his career as an MMA fighter to be exemplary for Muslims in any way, shape or form. We should pray for his guidance as a Muslim, his forgiveness for his previous sins, and remind our Muslim brothers – no matter how emotionally swayed they may be – that true ‘izzah comes not from participating in prohibited sports or careers (despite how successful one may be at it!), but from obeying the Law of Allah and His Messenger and abstaining from transgressing the boundaries laid by the Shari’ah.

This article was reviewed by a scholar for religious content.

Further resources on rulings:

https://islamqa.info/en/answers/10427/ruling-on-boxing

https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/429082/boxing-is-forbidden-even-without-striking-the-face

https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/329518/going-to-gym-that-has-yoga-lessons-boxing-and-sauna

Is Watching Boxing Allowed in Islam?

Punching or Striking the Face

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