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Sacred and Civic Trust: Imam Calls Out Suspected Sexual Abuse In Friday Sermon

Hena Zuberi



What would you do if you thought a child in your community was being molested in the masjid? If you were Imam Nick Pelletier, Director of Outreach at the Islamic Center of Irving, you would talk about it from the mimbar. The Islamic Center of Irving has since issued an update to the situation here.

What if you were a masjid board member, and someone reported sexual abuse happening on the premises?

What if a child in your Scout Troop confided in you about being molested?

No matter your position or circumstance, what to do remains the same: call child protective services or law enforcement. Report it to them. Not only is it your Islamic duty, often times it is the law, especially if you live in the United States. In most states, any adult professional who works with children is a mandated reporter. This means that you are legally responsible for reporting suspected or disclosed abuse. In some states, all adults are considered mandated reporters.

One in 10 children will be the victim of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Despite this startling statistic, abuse remains a silent epidemic that people are afraid to talk about. Child sexual abuse is not limited to any specific socio-economic status, culture, race, religion, or gender. Unfortunately, it impacts EVERY community and EVERY person across the globe, including the Muslim community. 

So, what do you do?

If you are in a position where you suspect or are informed or child abuse,  you may think you need evidence, but that’s not the case. Your responsibility is to report, not investigate or confirm. According to the law, mandatory reporters are required to report “the facts and circumstances that led them to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected.” You don’t need four witnesses, or any witnesses to report a sexual offense. The requirement of four witnesses in Islam is for the establishment of voluntary fornication or adultery, not crime – and rape, sexual assault and molestation are a crime.

Reporters are often the only link between a child and safety from abuse, say experts. It is vitally important that mandated reporters understand how to recognize child abuse and how to make reports that are timely, complete and accurate.

According to Darkness To Light, a leading child abuse prevention advocacy group, when a child discloses abuse, “it is very important to listen without expressing anger or suspicion. First, children need to know that the abuse is not their fault”. They urge adults to listen carefully and then ask only open-ended questions, such as “and then what happened?”  Focus on determining what happened, where, when and by whom. This is sometimes called a “good faith” report. They suggest that mandated reporters not ask leading questions nor try to conclude information, even if they are sure they know the answers. This can re-traumatize the child and contaminate the investigation.

They further recommend that you do not attempt to investigate further or probe for details – do not look for physical signs. “Promptly report to law enforcement agencies, child protection services, or both. Do not make false promises to the child such as maintaining the confidentiality of your report. Trained professionals need to collect facts and details, and this could include talking with the child.”

Mandatory Reporting is the Law

Many imams, Sunday school teachers, maktab assistants, camp counselors, masjid youth organizers, volunteers, even board of directors, don’t realize that they may be mandated reporters in their state.

 If you are a professional in any of the following fields, you are a mandatory reporter: 

  • Social workers
  • Teachers, principals, and other school personnel
  • Physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers
  • Counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals
  • Child care providers
  • Medical examiners or coroners
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Clergyman, imam, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization in most states
  • An individual paid or unpaid who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child
  • Directors, employees, and volunteers at entities that provide organized activities for children, such as camps, day camps, youth centers, and recreation centers, are required to report in 13 States.

There are strict penalties against employers who try to hinder the reporting by employees.

Any person, mandatory reporter or otherwise,  does not have the burden of providing proof that abuse or neglect has occurred. “Permissive reporters (adults who can file reports but are not mandated to) follow the same standards when electing to make a report. It is the job of Child Protective Services and other state institutions to conduct the investigation.” For more detailed information on mandatory reporting, please refer to this report.

Aside from it being the law, all of us have a sacred responsibility to make sure that the vulnerable in our communities are protected, especially if we hold a position of responsibility. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned us that, ‘Every one of you is a Protector and Guardian for those who are placed under your care’ [Bukhari and Muslim]. The heavy mantle of the sacred trust (Amanah) is further emphasized with the command of not betraying the trust in the Quran. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, ‘Betray not knowingly your Amanah (things entrusted to you). [8:27].”

In connection to the heavy mantle of leadership and trusts, scholars relay the hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him): The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When trusts are neglected, then await the Hour.”

He said: How would they be neglected, O Messenger of Allah? He said: “When positions of authority are given to people who are not qualified for them, then await the Hour.”

Do the right thing.

And Allah Knows Best.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.



  1. Avatar


    October 30, 2018 at 2:31 AM

    May Allah SWT be pleased with this brother for standing up for justice. Shame on the community members involved in the coverup. It’s not their place to play judge and jury and decide on the punishment and aid the perpetrator in fleeing abroad. For shame. What about the other children impacted by this? It wasn’t your right to protect the perpetrator like this.

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    Yusuf Smith

    October 30, 2018 at 4:07 AM

    So it’s recorded that they gave him the opportunity to flee the country so he can do the same in his home country rather than face justice. A huge dereliction of duty.

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    October 30, 2018 at 9:18 AM

    All the people who advised the perpetrator to leave the country must be prosecuted because the sick act may continue and a lot of innocent children will be the victims in a place where there is no awareness of this crime and there is no help and rescue for the innocent this individual should get mental help instead he was asked to leave the country what a shame.

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    October 30, 2018 at 1:12 PM

    This link shows the condensed version of the video. Truly saddening what is happening at that center. May Allah help us.

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    Shahid Azzam

    October 30, 2018 at 1:17 PM

    Suspending this Imam for saying the truth is immoral and very unislamic! This is not corporate America where you could run over people and nothing is done about it

    The suspect in this felony must be questioned and if proven to be true, must be prosecuted to the fullest extend and be banned from all Masjids and must register as a Sex offender.

    Board members who turned a blind eye and suspended the Imam for speaking the truth shouldn’t have the honor of being board members, must be removed from Masjid and not allowed to serve again.

    • Avatar


      October 30, 2018 at 5:20 PM

      Has it been confirmed that Imam Nick was suspended??

      • Avatar


        October 31, 2018 at 3:27 AM

        Yes it has. It was confirmed the next day. It was in their website.

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    October 30, 2018 at 3:54 PM

    If what Hannah posted is authentic, then it proves the ICI board members are filthy lying scoundrels. The statement ICI released on the website describes the violation as a mere kiss.

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    October 30, 2018 at 7:38 PM

    Nobody cares about the victims, we are living in a society where reputations are more important than the damaged souls for life. And anyone who is saying that this is wrong to bring it out in the public, I ask you all, do you not want to be able to free of answering Allah SWT on the day of judgement for not speaking up and standing up for wrong? for Justice? What is wrong with this Muslim community? Where are we seriously headed? Shame on all of you who want to keep it all hush. I simply hate the fact that Muslim leaders and people of authority in Islam are using Islamic rules and regulations to suffice their agenda instead. Everyone makes mistakes, but if someone who is elderly couldn’t get his acts together even in the masjid clearly have a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. You cannot control yourself in the MASJID? IN THE HOUSE OF ALLAH? If I were part of the jury, I would definitely do what the Imam did. I am sick of these cultural norms. Nobody cares if a certain culture has such filthy practices. If they are cultural, keep them in your country period! Nobody cares about your culture that goes against Islamic practices.
    May Allah SWT protect each and every child, male of female and protect each and every Muslim brother and sister from such people, ameen.

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    Bint Abdul-Hamid

    October 30, 2018 at 10:42 PM

    The community leaders at the ICI should acknowledge their huge mistakes, apologize to the entire community, humbly step down and resign, and bring back Imam Nick.
    Making the elderly man leave the country and then putting Imam Nick on an administrative leave, clearly shows that they are oblivious of the law and order of the city they reside in and the country they’ve immigrated to.

    Many Imams in a few masaajid across the United States, have had bad raps in the past. Imam Nick’s khutbah gave me hope that we still have some community leaders who continue to uphold the truth no matter what.
    May justice and truth continue to reign supreme in our places of worship, and not bogus cultural practices, prejudice, or sugar-coated sermons where the soul is not stirred to think about the after-life. Ameen.

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    October 31, 2018 at 3:20 PM

    Hannah, your post says evening prayer at 10 PM….isn’t “evening prayer” at 8:30 PM? Please clarify and post source of your post.

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    November 1, 2018 at 10:12 AM

    [8:03 AM, 11/1/2018] +1 (469) 371-1693: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ

    O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.

    Before my Quraan quote comment becomes a political punchbag, know that my intentions were pure. Such issue should (NOT) have been discussed in such way on a Friday where 65% of the congregation is does not live in the Irving area. The way this Friday sermon was posted, in my opinion, is to draw attention to an issue that could have been done in a different manner using wisdom and compose.

    The way it was portrayed “publicly”, though it was necessary, is wrong. It has nothing to do with Imam Nick, whom is my friend, but it has everything to do with the dramatization of his speech.

    It’s one thing to be passionate about an important subject and use the situation to educate the masses; it’s another when emotions are involved to use a public pulpit to (vent and rant), to an uncontrollable level as to say, “I don’t care if I get fired”, and shame the administration, his employer, in such manner.

    “Imam” Nick, hence the title, thus the behavior and delivery style should match the speech in a way to educate the masses not induce fear in the hearts of parents and school children’s parents.

    Keep in mind, this incident was not a pandemic. It was a-one-time issue. The word “Molesting a child” was used. The ramifications of the word Molesting carries a heavier meaning than to just be used (loosely), in a way that put fear in the congregation’s hearts?

    Again, the way the speech was delivered, portrayed a systematic problem with the Masjid, which is not true. Accusations, were lobbed publicly without proof nor full facts.

    The reason I put the verse, is to advise all of us, to please watch what we say. It’s not an accusation of anyone or person, it’s purely for the public to watch out for would be saboteurs of our Muslim community. The last thing we want is to be compared to the heinous crimes committed at the hands of the Catholic church clergyman.. this was not such case and I was offended that our community was compared accordingly.

    Not all intentions are pure and Allah Always brings out the truth at due time. This was not the way to do it!
    [8:03 AM, 11/1/2018] +1 (469) 371-1693: Ridwan Saleh ☝
    [8:12 AM, 11/1/2018] +1 (214) 518-1177: My today’s reading passage happened to be Sura Ash-Shura (42:36-43). It’s so beautiful and relevant that I thought to share with y’all hoping and praying to الله سبحنه وتعلى that He showers His Mercy on all of us in these apparently difficult times. Aameen
    36What you have been given is only the fleeting enjoyment of this world. Far better and more lasting is what God will give to those who believe and trust in their Lord; 37who shun great sins and gross indecencies; who forgive when they are angry; 38respond to their Lord; keep up the prayer; conduct their affairs by mutual consultation; give to others out of what We have provided for them; 39and defend themselves when they are oppressed. 40Let harm be requited by an equal harm, though anyone who forgives and puts things right will have his reward from God Himself– He does not like those who do wrong. 41There is no cause to act against anyone who defends himself after being wronged, 42but there is cause to act against those who oppress people and transgress in the land against all justice– they will have an agonizing torment– 43though if a person is patient and forgives, this is one of the greatest things.

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    November 1, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    I moved to Irving community in 2008. My daughter started attending ISI from Prek3. My son regularly attends ICI,pray and play with friends. we have had any issue all these years and ICI was one of the safest environments for my family No one in the current or past leadership would have thought clearly this would become an opportunity for throwing stones at them, everyone’s best interest would have been how to find a solution for the mentioned issue. Yes, the final decision may not be the best compare to , after all, people could put opinion, it could have been like this , like that etc. However, it may be ICI leadership, collectively took a decision that cannot be considered self seeking, on the contrary, Imam Nick’s action could be correlated to self-seeking. So in my view ICI needs to go through the protocol and take decision that is warranting to the situation, it should not be based on public interest, it should be based on principles. Imam Nick should not have done what he has done. He should have provided his POV to board and seek action. What he has done is completely supporting the people who wants to grab the opportunity to blame ICI. Now see some of the folks are asking shutdown and convert to Library. Did he made his position clear what he wants, also look at his speech – he said he will break bones, for whatever situation, is not that violent enough ?. I was not comfortable with his style of Khutbhas as I felt always he was showing aggressiveness that may not have warranted in those context, and I shared my view with few as well. This fundraising itself is the best evidence for self-seeking. Please check the definition of “administrative leave” Lastly, this is entirely my personal opinion. Thought of sharing when i saw the video circulating in social media.
    ICI community, Alhamdulillah is very large, there are about hundreds of kids studying in school. ICI has protocols and policies in place to govern and protect all worshiping, visting and studying at ICI. ICI has a group of people elected by members as Shura. It has a process to govern and address issues. ICI has employees and they have roles and responsibilities. ICI provides opportunity to scholars and leaders to conduct Khutbhah and enlighten worshippers spiritually and peacefully. Imam Nick is ICI employee with the role of Dhawah Outreach. It is not logical to believe that all ICI elected members are immoral and culprit and wanted to protect criminals. That is the way now social media is painting things just becuase an employee went to his Khutbha stand and created a fear in about more 2000 worshippers with some information he had without consulting any of the leaders in the Masjid. It seems well organized plan with the result and people comments in social media and it definitely created a negative image and inadvertantly pulling other people into wrong interpretation. He had the oppotunity constructively address the issue and even guide governing body to the right way before he going wild. He created something like Isalmaphbia, I call it Molestophobia.

    • Avatar


      November 1, 2018 at 2:42 PM

      The collective decision seems to have been an illegal decision, and seems to have broken the law.

      If you had a molestor (what the elderly man is said to have done would be considered molestation) in the masjid, how would you know if there were additional victims without making the matter public?

      If the khateeb is an employee, then he has more right to be protected from retaliation. In companies, if an employee exposes criminal wrongdoing, they have protections against employer retaliation.

  12. Avatar


    November 1, 2018 at 11:23 AM

    Please get the facts. Spreading information without verifying is leading to chaos and dividing the communities.
    This is not seeking justice and it’s not about justice as portrayed.
    Please do the needful and take this out.

  13. Avatar

    Usman M

    November 4, 2018 at 12:11 PM

    I was just banned from a mosque/hutbah on Friday for speaking out on a much milder way about victims of abuse , especially women, in our community.

    I’m a Khatib/Hafiz in Calgary, Canada and gave this pretty straightforward khutbah on Friday about the victimisation and marginalisation of Muslim women in our communities and general alienation from Muslim men. It’s not super awesome or anything, but it seems talking about the underserved and even oppressed in our community is something or misogyny can’t handle.

    This morning at Fajr, the Imam of the relevant mosque, the Islamic Association of NW Calgary in Calgary (Canada) told me 3 Arab men had complained about my topic. As a result, I am (1) banned from talking on any of my own topics, and (2) now restricted to speaking once a month on a prepared topic given to me.

    This is the same Imam who has swept aside the concerns of past victims of abuse as children in the community, so I’m really just done with being diplomatic with the misogyny and victim-blaming mindset of Muslim men as Imams or on mosque boards.

    After the incident with Imam Nick being booted from Irving mosque in TX because he exposed the cover-up of abuse of kids there, I just want to throw my hat in the ring. For awareness, nothing else. So, please share.

    Here’s the khutbah, and excuse the ridiculous shaky-cam.

    Wassalam, Usman M, Calgary, Canada

  14. Avatar


    November 4, 2018 at 8:17 PM


    I would caution against getting emotional and charged at the accusations against ICI and it’s board.

    I want you to critically think about the situation presented to you. Did you hear the other side’s point of view? Did you spend time to look into what happened? Or did you take a single lens, a single bias, a single voice and use that to construct your opinion?

    As Muslims it is our DUTY to be just in our thoughts and opinions. Make SURE you look at both perspectives and sides before casting judgment.

    At first I was in full support of Imam Nick’s bravery and voice. But after looking deeper into the situation I think what he did was rash, exaggerated, and was an irreversible blow to the trust of the Muslim community.


    • Avatar


      November 4, 2018 at 8:24 PM

      For those who don’t know, from a third party source:

      Imam Nick went to the police. They asked for what the accusation of molestation was. It turned out to be a kiss on the cheek from an old uncle. The police dismissed it as at most a misdemeanor, and ended up not pursuing the case.

      Was this really worth the outbreak? Was this really worth fracturing the community? Couldn’t this have been handled without the public outcry of molestation? When he shouted MOLESTED in the khutbah, our minds all went to the worst.

      Shame on you Imam Nick. Your decision was not wise.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure




How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.


You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor



muslim led institutions

Habib Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) explains how we are affected by the spiritual state of those around us.

Every person has rays which emanate from their soul. You receive these rays when you come close to them or sit in their presence. Each person’s rays differ in strength according to the state of their soul. This explains how you become affected by sitting in the presence of great people. They are people who follow the way of the Prophets in their religious and worldly affairs. When they speak, they counsel people. Their actions guide people. When they are silent they are like signposts which guide people along the path, or like lighthouses whose rays guide ships. Many of them speak very little, but when you see them or visit them you are affected by them. You leave their gatherings having been enveloped in their tranquillity. Their silence has more effect than the eloquent speech of others. This is because the rays of their souls enter you.

The Organizational Light

As a Muslim organizational psychologist, I know that organizations and institutions are a collective of these souls too. Like a glass container, they are filled colored by whatever is within them. So often Muslim organizations have presumed clarity in their organizational light and looked on with wonder as children, families, and the community wandered. The lighthouse keepers standing in front of the beacon wondering, “Where have the ships gone?”have

Our Muslim led institutions will reflect our state, actions, and decisions. I do believe that most of our institutional origins are rooted in goodness, but those moments remain small and fade. Our challenge as a community is to have this light of origin be fixed so that it can pulsate and extend itself beyond itself.

Reference is not being made regarding any specific type of institution and this is not a pointed critique, but rather a theory on perhaps why the effect our variety of institutional work wanes and dissipates. Any type of organization or institution — whether for profit or nonprofit, whether capital focused or socially conscious — that is occupied by the heart of a Muslim(s), must reflect light.

Our organizational light is known by an ego-less assessment of intentions, actions, and results. We must move our ‘self’ or ‘selves’ out of the way and then measure our lumens. If the light increases when we move out of the way, then it is possible that we — our ego, personality, objectives, intentions, degree of sacrifice, level of commitment, and possibly even our sincerity — may be the obstructions to our organizational lights.

The Personal Imperative

What will become of our institutions and their role for posterity if we neglect to evaluate where we stand in relation to the noble courses they mean to take? We may currently be seeing the beginning what this may look and feel like.

When was the last time you walked into a Muslim led institution and felt a living space that drew you in because of the custodians, leadership, individuals, and community that made up its parts? It was probably the last time you and I looked deeply inward at our lives — our intellect, our relationships, our purpose, our spiritual state, our work, our decisions, and our intentions. If we cleanse our hearts so infrequently the dust which settles can become thick making them opaque. And perhaps this individual and collective state is what limits the reach and impact of our communal work thus, resulting in the opacity of Muslim led institutions. Note: Lighthouse keepers clean the lens of the beacon every day.

We must consistently assess the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual loci of our individual and organizational states. They are not fixed givens. Rather, they are capricious states that necessitate vigilance and wara’. Being aware of this will help in our organizational design and work.

The Collective Affect

When we are prepared to evaluate the efficacy of Muslim led institutions with the inclusion of some form of spiritual assessment, we will give ourselves a better opportunity to determine where, how, and why we may be missing the mark. The inefficiencies and inattentiveness we have on an individual level can permeate our relationships, our work, and our organizations. As organizational leaders, we must critically assess the amount of light our work emanates to illuminate the lives of the people we serve.

These inward evaluations should be in the form of active and ongoing discussions we have internally with our teams and colleagues, and ourselves. If done with prudence and sincerity it will not only strengthen our organizations but our teams and us God-willing. This collective effort can lead to a collective effect for those we serve that inspires and guides. We — and our institutions — can then return to the Prophetic example of being beacons of light that help ourselves and others arrive to a place of sanctuary.

And Allah always knows best.

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The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman



Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad. At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)  inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

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