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Show, Don’t (Just) Tell – The Right Way to Tackling Mental Health

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By Abdallah Khan

 

I remember that it was humid; an anomaly in the boisterous city of Chicago, because his hair stuck to his forehead, like flies stuck in a web, when he spoke. We were having lunch on the roof, as always, our riverside offices just one floor beneath us.

“I’m going to jump.”

“What?”

“I’m going to kill myself.”

My eyes darted from corner to corner as the roof felt like it was closing in on us. A vent system on the left. Solar panels and sky lights on the right. Satellite dishes in front of us. I had lunch here almost every day with Omar, but I was only now seeing these things, which led to the stark realization: I was only now seeing Omar.

“Don’t be so alarmed. Not right now. I still have some things to settle.”

He’d said it so matter-of-factly, as if it was just another one of his office orders.

 

Omar wasn’t just a colleague. I’d grown up with him. We went to the same schools, the same university, even the same internships, all by happenstance. He bought me lunch twice a week. He was the neighbor who always called the night before Eid. He was a man I prayed with, side by side, every Friday for Jumu’ah. I’d regarded him as one of closest friends and yet, what he said was beyond anything I could have ever anticipated.

I’d learn, not long after, that Omar was battling alcohol addiction, that he’d long ago had a falling out with his parents, and that he cried himself to sleep, almost every night in bed.

 

Alcohol, strained family relations, suicide: all these things are strictly prohibited in our religion. I know that. Omar knows that. Most children of school age know that. So, I didn’t dare remind Omar. To this day, I believe if I had, on that fateful humid day, both our lives, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) willing, would have turned out drastically different than what they are today.

 

Islam necessitates a sense of nuance when it comes to reverting to our fitrah[1] and all the obligations entailed therein. The fitrah, though a natural inclination, is often skewed in our formative years due to environmental factors, forbidden influences, and our own personal misgivings. Hence it simply is not enough, and often counterproductive, to expect someone to pray after informing them that lacking thereof would be akin to kufr.[2] The issue is further exacerbated when men and women such as Omar are treated as lepers, reminded, in their darkest moments, that their actions are not only forbidden, but also a one-way ticket to Hell, by communities ill-educated in the subtleties of both mental health and Islam

Often when a person from a faith based background decides to end their life, they have developed an altered perception of reality, in which to do otherwise, to live, would not only be an insult to themselves and the world, but sometimes, even to God. To therefore have them imagine themselves in the throes of Hell would not mitigate their desire, but instead augment it tenfold.

In other cases, where a person was never exposed to the intricacies of tawheed[3], any reminders of a foreseeable future, whether of this life or the next, are to them, nonexistent. Living with mental illness is analogous to driving a car in the dead of night, fog all encompassing. You can only see as far as the headlights. There is only now.

Tasting the sweetness of eeman[4] is like planting a seed in the desert. Along with Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, it takes consistent cultivation and tenderness for us to grow our plant in such harsh conditions. It takes time. 

 

Many of us are well acquainted with Aisha’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) prolific statement[5] concerning Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wisdom in delaying the prohibition of alcohol until Islam had permeated the hearts of Muslims. But what many of us are unaware of is that even before the outright prohibition, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) spoke about the matter in many sublime ways, as if having a private reassuring conversation with an alcoholic.

First, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said:

“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say: In them is great sin and some benefit for people, but their sin is greater than their benefit.” [Al-Baqarah;219]

Without explicitly reprimanding drinking, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) implicitly discourages it while simultaneously acknowledging the negligible benefits provided therein. And what is the first line of defense alcoholics use? The benefits of drinking.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not deny their claim but rather supplements it by providing a full picture, which includes the adverse effects of drinking, as well.

The second verse to be revealed on the matter was as followed:

“O you who believe, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying.” [Al-Nisa;43]

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) again, in His boundless wisdom, encourages goodness without, yet, restricting intoxication. If one ponders this verse, the subliminal implication present is jaw-dropping. Muslims are required to pray five times a day. Heavy intoxication tends to last a few hours, not to mention the time needed to recuperate after such an indulgence. Therefore, to approach the daily prayers in a capacitated state, most, if not all people, would have to avoid drinking all together. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), held the hands of Muslims once more in His infinite mercy, directing them to the right path, without displaying the outright condescension us humans fling at one another, when we meet a fellow suffering Muslim.

It was only after the Muslims were ready, did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) unequivocally prohibit alcohol, saying:

“O you who believe, wine, gambling, sacrificing on stone alters, and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid them that you may be successful.” [Al-Ma’idah;90]

And yet, today when we meet an alcoholic, a victim of depression, a survivor of suicide, we jump to the third step, not even bothering to hold a person’s hand the way Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) holds ours. Even modern science disputes this method, as for an alcoholic to quit cold turkey, would cause their body more harm than good. Though many of us may have full grown bodies, capable of running marathons and climbing mountains, we are all really just children, searching for the love and compassion our parents once gave us. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) shows it to us repeatedly, so the question remains: when will we start showing it to one another?

 

Though those of us quick to jump to the do’s and don’ts of the religion often have the best of intentions, worrying that our fellow Muslims will suffer in the afterlife for their actions, we must remember that what matters to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is quality, not quantity. An alcoholic, in his gradual effort to quit, may be more beloved to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) than one who stops right away. The same way a person who struggles to memorize the Quran is more beloved than the person who is able to do so with ease.[6]

These people don’t need a list of rules thrown at them. Yes, the list is important but a prerequisite is providing them with an open heart, a listening ear, and a sense that they have control over their lives. For lack of control is what leads people to the edge of rooftops, their loved ones far below, both physically and emotionally.

Only when we have, through Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will, removed these people from the edge or prevented them from reaching that point to begin with, can we guide them towards righteous deeds such as prayer and fasting. But even then, no lecture or de-contextualized ayah could be more valuable than our own actions. Such is the same with children who will never remember what you say, but will always remember what you do. What good is it to tell a child to pray when you do not pray yourself? Children are far more intuitive than we give them credit for, and they will question your actions, internalizing your behaviors and answers to the core of their soul.

 

If you want a fellow Muslim to oblige by the fard[7], show him the sweetness of eeman through your actions, which was the way of our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). A man who started a revolution through his mercy, rather than his sword, which was only held during times of war.

In replicating the mercy of our Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) we must remember that though faith and positivity are the best medicines, they are not the only medicine. Rather prayer and trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) are necessary supplements to treatments including, but not limited to, therapy, prescription medicines, and physical activities. The two are not mutually exclusive, and to say otherwise is to deprive those who seek help from us, the same mercy the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) readily exuded for us, members of his ummah.

It is this mercy that led Thumamah ibn Uthal, a murderer of countless companions and even an attempted murderer of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself, to accept Islam, after Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) set him free, pronouncing forgiveness.[8]

As the literary icon of his time, the famous poet, Muhammad Iqbal once said, “Sure you can deny God, but how can you deny Muhammad?” You can claim that God has never been seen, but what of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? What of the man who we know existed, who never lied, never insulted, never abused, instead using his mercy to move mountains and inspire people for generations to come? What of his compassion towards those who left him bloodied and bruised? His earnestness in the face of enmity? And his humility in the face of riches he could have easily amassed, but rejected? His character?

There is no greater human example for us to follow. So, let us learn from him and extend our mercy towards the alcoholic, the lonely, the suicidal, and the mentally ill, because even though they can only see as far as the headlights, with the right direction, that’s all they need to be guided home.

 

**Disclaimer: This article, for purposes of brevity, does not touch upon the vital aspect of attending to our own needs before concerning ourselves with the needs of others. Our minds and bodies have a right over us and the sufferings of another can not and should not supersede the necessities of our own mental health. Though Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has bestowed upon us free will, nothing happens without His permission, and it is with due diligence, that we should accept His decree, not overly-lamenting previous losses, but instead learning from them. **

 

 

[1] Fitrah: A natural intuition within every human being to worship none but Allah alone

[2] Kufr: Shar’iah defines kufr as disbelief in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) whether due to denial or succumbing to our desires. Jabir raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Between a man and disbelief and paganism is the abandonment of Salat.”

[3] Tawheed: Oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

[4] Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Whoever possesses the following three qualities will taste the sweetness of faith: 1. The one to whom Allah and His Apostle become dearer than anything else. 2. The one who loves a person and he loves him only for Allah’s sake. 3. The one who hates to revert to disbelief (atheism) after Allah has brought (saved) him out from it, as he hates to be thrown in fire.”

[5] Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said: “If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘we will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘do not commit illegal sexual intercourse, ‘they would have said, ‘we will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.'”

[6] “The likeness of the one who reads Quran and memorizes it, is that he is with the righteous & honorable scribes. The likeness of the one who reads it and tries hard to memorize it even though it is difficult for him will have two rewards.”  [Bukhari]

[7] Fard: Obligatory acts such as prayer every Muslim must perform

[8] [Collected by Muslim, Ahmad & others]

 

 

Abdallah Khan recently graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.S degree in Computer Science. When he is not writing code, he spends his free time in community outreach efforts, and writing articles of fiction, aimed at delving into the nuances of religion and history. Abdallah hopes to one day publish a novel about his home country of Pakistan, highlighting the country’s awe-inspiring beauty in spite of the internal and external forces that attempt to thwart the enduring nation.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    mohsin hassan

    August 8, 2018 at 9:41 AM

    MashAllah This was a really nice, and helpful article to read. The author mentions “If you want a fellow Muslim to oblige by the fard[7], show him the sweetness of eeman through your actions.” We must show not just say, because actions speak much louder than words. Another favorite line in the article is “n replicating the mercy of our Messenger ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) we must remember that though faith and positivity are the best medicines, they are not the only medicine. Rather prayer and trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) are necessary supplements to treatments including, but not limited to, therapy, prescription medicines, and physical activities.” This shows that we must not be scared, hesitant, or ashamed to seek help via therapist, medicine, etc. The author brings out such an important topic in such a beautiful way.

    JazakAllah to Abdallah for the Article. May Allah grant you the best of this dunya and the akhira. Ameen!

    • Avatar

      mohsin hassan

      August 8, 2018 at 9:44 AM

      I look forward to reading more of your writing in the future, I know it won’t disappoint Inn Sha Allah.

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#Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

convert friendship hugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

touch trauma
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“…there is beauty in breaking” – Amir Sulaiman

Words fell softly from her lips as tears streamed down her face. A young woman, newly married, had reached out to me via social media to ask a question about how to reconnect with her body after trauma. Receiving intimacy and sex-related questions from Muslim women all over the world is a large part of my work.  But there was something about this particular questioner that struck me in a very deep place. I intimately knew her pain as a survivor. Not long after taking my shahada, I was the victim of sexual assault. The amount of trauma I suffered is indescribable. But rather than pulling me away from the faith, I relied heavily on the deen to pull me through one of the darkest periods of my life.

After trauma, rather than pulling away from the faith, I relied heavily on the deen to pull me through one of the darkest periods of my life. Click To Tweet

Healing after trauma took action, not only faith. For years, I struggled with the ability to connect with my body and to understand how to properly process emotions.  Intimacy, of all kinds, was a challenge for me. Reclaiming agency over my own body and establishing my right to pleasure led me down a life-changing path that has led to me now assisting other women in understanding and owning sexuality from a sacred perspective. My trauma broke me but it also showed me new ways to heal.

But getting back to pleasure really requires coming back to a sense of oneness and power within one’s self. It means owning your narrative and rebuilding the parts which have been broken. @TheVillageAuntieClick To Tweet

Re-engaging with sexual pleasure after trauma can be very difficult, especially for Muslim women who have been taught their whole lives to vigorously guard their bodies and not discuss sex. Talk of intimacy is still seen as taboo and, worse yet, the ability to report sexual assault and abuse remains a very difficult task for many women, regardless of faith.

But getting back to pleasure really requires coming back to a sense of oneness and power within one’s self. It means owning your narrative and rebuilding the parts which have been broken.

I have developed a five-step plan for helping women to navigate the heartbreaking process of reclaiming the body and opening one’s self to pleasure.

[*This plan is not to be used in place of mental health care (cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, trauma-informed somatic practice, etc.) but is meant to supplement intervention from a trusted licensed mental health provider.]

  1. Practice mindful forgiveness. This is not meant to be directed toward the abuser. Mindful forgiveness after trauma focuses on a need to forgive one’s self for the range of self-directed emotions that can be detrimental in the aftermath of sexual trauma. Sometimes women blame themselves when abuse takes place. This internalized oppression requires forgiveness because a victim should never assume blame for the heinous acts of others. Forgiving ourselves for any negative self-talk and asking Allah to grant His indelible mercy is a key foundation for the development of a healing path. It took years after my assault for me to understand the ways in which I had wounded myself with disparaging internal scripts. When I increased my level of istighfar and asked Allah to excuse all the instances where I doubted myself and harmed my spirit in the process, I was able to finally uncover long-hidden emotions and set about the work of true healing and reconciliation with my body.

    rights of women in Islam

  2. Seek knowledge about one’s own body and its rights. When I became a Muslim 21 years ago, I had no idea that Islam was such a sex-positive religion. The Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is full of instances where he demonstrated the beauty and importance of sex as a form of marital bonding as well as an act of worship. Scouring books of fiqh, I learned the rights of women in Islam which affirmed that we are not human possessions meant to be tilled; women have undeniable rights to pleasure and protection of our most sacred human parts. Understanding that Islam is a guide for all areas of life can give a sense of comfort and provide a pathway to explore the sacredness of sexuality. This is key, especially for women who have been abused by men of faith or who have been victims of spiritual manipulation for carnal gain. Also, learning about the female anatomy, how the brain is an integral part of harnessing pleasure, and ways to use the mind to develop an internal sense of pleasure can also be extremely helpful in re-igniting one’s love of self.

  3. Activate the sensuality of everyday life.  There is a misunderstanding of the role of sensuality in pleasure. Sex is the physical joining of bodies. Sensuality, however, is a conscious internal awareness of pleasurable stimuli. It does not involve engaging with another person. This is key because many trauma sufferers may find physical human touch triggering.  Recognizing the sensual aspects of daily life requires the mindful perception of things that titillate or arouse. It can be as simple as the feel of a particular fabric against the skin, the smell of the air after a heavy rain, a sound that evokes sensual memories, a scent that conjures an arousing mood. Why is this important? Sex is not the sole route to pleasure. For women, pleasure is largely dependent upon a spiritual or mental connection within the body. By engaging in self-motivated pleasurable sensations, this can assist women in realizing the power and control that we have over our physical vessels. Muslim couple healing reciting Quran

  4. Be easy with yourself. In the Qur’an, Allah reminds us “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (2:153)  During the process of reclaiming one’s power, there will undoubtedly be times of anger, grief, sorrow, and resentment. These are human emotions and are quite reasonable given the magnitude of trauma’s effect on the heart. Be patient with yourself. Channel love and support during times of difficulty. Do not neglect your healing journey because of a setback. It is important to practice patience with one’s self and utilize prayer as a stabilizing force. Allah is Al Wali, our greatest Protector, and Supporter. During times of emotional despair, rather than directing our energy inward, we can learn to release these emotions through dua and remembrance. Trauma is not a fundamental characteristic of who you have become. Reclaiming your narrative means understanding that you have the power to create a different story with a powerful ending. Give yourself the time and space to rewrite your script.

    Allah is Al Wali, our greatest Protector, and Supporter. During times of emotional despair, rather than directing our energy inward, we can learn to release these emotions through dua and remembrance.Click To Tweethealing from trauma

  5. Find your circle. Healing is not a solitary act. Sometimes it requires the love and support of others. Do you have a circle of support? Who are the people in your circle? And if you don’t have one, how can you create one? When I was at my lowest, my circle was there to remind me of who I was and how far I had come. They were the ones with whom I could be my most authentic self. One of the ways in which we can heal trauma is by seeking human connection. Select your circle carefully and lean on them during times of need. The healing power of your personally curated community can be transformative and life-changing.

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

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

1. My bubble burst

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

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

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

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

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

3. Made me thankful

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

dardir

4. People want to do Good

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

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

5. Smiles

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

6. It’s ok to cry

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

7. Learning to say no

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Dawah through action

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

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

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

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

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

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