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Visiting the Comatose – A Handy Guide

Hiba Masood

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Over the last eight months, after painful illnesses which affected them physically and neurologically, both my parents have passed away. While there is so much to process and reflect over when it comes to their lives and their deaths, there is something specific I feel compelled to address.

My father and mother had the privilege of dying in the comfort of their home but before their deaths, they each experienced a deep coma for extended periods of time. Naturally, we had our share of visitors. Close family, extended family, friends, acquaintances, staff old and new, neighbors, and veritable strangers off the street trooped through our doors to pay their respects and we felt blessed to be surrounded with so much love and support.

MashaAllah, there are countless narrations and articles written about the importance of visiting the sick. My personal favorite is the narration by Jaabir (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever visits a sick person is plunged into mercy until he sits down, and when he sits down, he is submerged in it.” The visual of being awash in Allah’s mercy is a beautiful one!

Within the realm of visiting the sick, there is a special subset that exists – that is the people of coma, those who are so sick that they are there but not there, physically with us but mentally/neurologically in a place beyond our understanding. Visiting the people of coma is a special challenge and inshaAllah carries special reward because it is truly difficult to attempt what will almost certainly be an emotionally-laden, one-way communication.

Because I have a ticker tape of observations and opinions on everything always running through my head, I had many thoughts while watching people visit my parents and I would like to share some below.

Please know that the ideas expressed here are not as a result of me being judgmental of people, ungrateful for those who tried or behaving holier than thou. I don’t think I know better or that even when the need comes, that I will necessarily do better. I’m as shy and awkward as they come. Nevertheless, I like to put these notes down, not as corrective prescriptions, but as initiators of thought and discussion. I love that our generation discusses everything and we try to be “politically correct”. We might fail miserably and often do, but at least the desire to improve is there. I write things down and then you guys give your thoughts and then we agree or disagree with each other and someone, somewhere decides that they will be more aware, more sensitive, more appropriate and in the end, it’s a win for humankind. <she said grandly>

So without further ado, here is your handy guide for when visiting a person in a coma:

1. Approach the coma patient calmly but purposefully

You don’t need to tiptoe. Seriously, they’re not going to wake up. Their family has tried that already. A LOT. I mean, they WANT them to wake up. So, stomp up to them if you want. (ok, jk, don’t.) Walking gingerly or fearfully suggests that the patient is a thing to be scared of. But honestly, comas aren’t contagious. (except, maybe, between my parents…I really think they caught stuff from each other lolz). Walking with a calm but purposeful demeanor demonstrates a relaxed strength which the stressed-out caregiver will definitely appreciate.

2. Say salaams upon reaching the bedside

Just like you would greet a person who was awake, so must you greet the people of the coma. Our sense of hearing is the last to go, apparently, so chances are quite high that the coma patient you’re visiting can still hear you. Experts recommend you speak in a slightly louder than normal volume and a slightly higher than normal pitch. The key word here is ‘slightly‘. If I told you the number of people that would practically yell at my mother and father, it would fill a book! Suffice to say, it is cringe-worthy and unnecessary to scream.

It’s also worth noting here that just because someone is in a coma, it doesn’t mean that they are suddenly dumber than normal. So, you don’t need to treat them like a child and coo your greetings or tell them they are being “naughty” by being unresponsive.

3. Express words of encouragement

Encouraging, supportive words are an important part of the psycho-therapy experience that both patient and caregiver require. Your positivity will have a ripple effect! The Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) favorite utterance to the sick was similarly upbeat and you should try it:  “La ba’s, tuhoor in sha Allaah” (No worries, it is a purification, if Allah wills).” Some variations of all of the following are also acceptable:

  • I am praying for you.
  • You are constantly in my thoughts.
  • Every day I recite xyz especially for you.
  • So and so asks about you regularly.
  • Don’t worry, you are getting better.
  • You are so strong, I know you are fighting this.
  • Remember us in your prayers.

Things not to say include (and these are all from real-life examples, trust you me): yelling the patient’s name repeatedly, because honestly, they aren’t comatose from lack of being personally addressed; asking question after question and then pausing hopefully for an answer (spoiler alert: unless you are in rehearsals for a B-grade Bollywood production, they won’t suddenly flicker their eyes open and beatifically answer); speaking about them super-anxiously while 3 inches from their face, “Why is her lip blistered? Why is his hand doing that? Will she pull through this or DIE??!!!!!”.

In general, you want to aim for a monologue approach where you say your piece and then hold your peace.

4. Say a prayer 

Prayer, even for the most secular, is oddly comforting, especially in times of stress and sorrow, so do go through the motions as you stand beside the sick. Also, it gives you something concrete to do as opposed to blankly staring at someone in a coma.

For Muslims, it is ideal to raise your hands in dua, say bismillah and recite the above supplication. Also, to consider:

  • Surah Fatiha
  • Ayatul Kursi
  • Surah Falaq
  • Surah Nas

If you aren’t religious, raise your hands and mutter some kind thoughts or healing woo-woo stuff anyways. You can also ask your host if there is anything specific you can read (most people have some sort of printed booklet of prayers handy). After praying, follow the sunnah and blow on the sick person. Not on their face because, germs. Somewhere in the direction of their mid-torso should be fine, making sure to keep a halal distance.

I recognize that the sunnah practice also involves placing your right hand on the sick person’s forehead while reciting duas but given all the unknown variables (What is the patient’s immunity level like? How germaphobic are the caregivers? What is the mehram situation?), a more generic approach has been suggested here.

5. Say a proper goodbye 

It is proper etiquette to conclude your visit with the patient and not just with your host. Tell the sick person things like:

  • It was good to see you.
  • I will come again, inshaAllah.
  • Take care.
  • Allah is with you.

Do not just turn away silently and sadly because it looks a bit unthoughtful. I mean, yes, the person is practically vegetative but to the hosts, (who you can be sure have been watching everything with an eagle eye) the sick person remains an important and dear member of their family and someone who they would like to be respected.

– – –

Of course, your visit need not be an exact replica of the above suggestions (though if it were, that would be rather marvelous). Broadly speaking though,

It is usually okay to:
  • Pat the patient’s hand or kiss them on the head, but feel free to check with your host.
  • Drip a few tears. No one likes to be pitied but most caregivers feel a reassuring gratification that someone else is feeling their sorrow.
  • Hug the caregiver and tell them how brave and strong they are because who doesn’t like praise or needs upliftment?
  • Bring food items for the caregivers because carb distraction is the best distraction.

It is not okay to:

– Beg for reassurance from the caregiver who doesn’t actually have any answers. Asking them constantly whether their patient will recover is tension they don’t need.

– Cry hysterically as not only is that inelegant and unrecommended, it would also mean now someone feels obliged to comfort you.

– Speak about the sick in earshot (remembering that sense of hearing often remains till the end).

– Criticize the care being given. Saying how you would’ve done things differently or offering insight that is only possible in hindsight is painful to the listener who is already struggling with self-doubt.

– Share stories of death and doom. Trust me, death is on everyone’s mind when it comes to loved ones in a coma. The last thing you should do (again, true story) is spend the entirety of your visit telling story after horrific story of random folks’ untimely demise.

– Offer too much along the lines of vague miracle cures. “I’ve heard raw onion paste rubbed on the chest does wonders for stimulating the hippocampus!”, “Reciting Surah Rahman 11 times after Fajr every day for 41 days is a sure-shot coma blaster,” and things like that puts the caregiver in the awkward position of either agreeing with you (and subsequently lying through their teeth that they will surely try this wonderful idea) or disagreeing with you (and potentially upsetting you).

Apart from all of this, be neat and tidy in appearance (no one likes a smelly visitor), bring a little something for the hosts (my personal favorites are things high in sugar) and for the love of all that is good, keep your visit short – aiming at the sweet spot where everything meaningful has been said, no awkward silences have ensued, no one felt required to serve you tea and patient routines aren’t disturbed – roughly between 15 to 20 minutes is ideal.

And that’s it! Go forth in goodness and be submerged in His Mercy. May the force be with you and Allah’s shifa be all around you.

– – –

Hiba Masood is a writer and storyteller. You can catch her daily musings on life, parenting, marriage and more at www.facebook.com/etdramamama OR on Insta @hibamasood

Hiba Masood is a writer living in Karachi, Pakistan. She is the author of Drummer Girl, the founder of Ramadan Moon and is known online as Drama Mama. To read more of her work daily, follow her on Instagram @hibamasood.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    UA

    November 27, 2018 at 2:10 AM

    Your humor in all of this is so inspiring because despite the grief you must be feeling, you choose to convey your ideas with determined cheerfulness. May Allah (swt) Grant both your parents Jannat-ul-Firdous and may they be together in each other’s company, Ameen.

  2. Avatar

    AM

    November 27, 2018 at 3:19 AM

    Solid article

  3. Avatar

    Huma

    November 27, 2018 at 5:59 AM

    This, like all of your writings,has left me speechless and introspecting.Each word and thought resonates deeply and yet it’s an issue that has gone neglected so far.How many of us who have faced bereavement , choose to share our innermost thoughts in this cheerful and emotive manner?Thank you for sharing this beautifully informative ”handy guide”with us here.
    Sending you loads of hugs( sorry carbs and sugars not possible) to you all.
    May your parents rest in eternal peace.Aameen.

  4. Avatar

    Fizzah

    November 27, 2018 at 6:02 AM

    Good, decent parents they must have been, because they raised a daughter like you :-)

    May Allah show them His Mercy in Barzakh and Aakhirah, and may He increase your sabr and grace and understanding of Everything

  5. Avatar

    Maryam Ijaz

    November 27, 2018 at 8:48 PM

    A very well written article which can definitely help anyone visiting a coma patient and the manner its explained is in a very lay man terms I salute to your strength. May Allah grant Jannat to both of your parents Ameen

  6. Avatar

    Sara

    November 27, 2018 at 11:33 PM

    A topic less than seldom talked about yet so important. Jazakillahkhair. Wonderfully insightful and close to reality. Duas

  7. Avatar

    Mohsin

    December 2, 2018 at 8:42 AM

    mashaAllah, this is a very nice piece. May Allah swt accept.

  8. Avatar

    Azleena

    December 6, 2018 at 7:54 AM

    Salams, excellent article. I am a chaplain and a socia work student, and having spent time with complete strangers in a coma (by request of family members), I would suggest adding one more thing to the To Do list:
    Do sit by the patient and read a chapter from a book, article or tell them about something that has happened in your life recently. There is a possibility that the patient still can hear you, and they may be thirsting for connection other than just prayer and sympathy. If you know what books they enjoyed reading when they were healthy, or what their favorite hobbies were, even better. They would probably be ecstatic to have a friend or family member tell them the latest developments or news in that area (sports, politics, entertainment, etc). Or even tell them what has been going on in your social circle (births, events, etc). If they have favorite nasheeds or ghazals, you could play them or recite them occasionally. I know these are things I would want to hear if I were the patient. The patient, while not being able to respond, is still alive, and deserves the same respect and love we would give to anyone else, if not more.

  9. Avatar

    Aly Balagamwala

    April 10, 2019 at 3:29 AM

    Jazakillahu Khairin . This was very helpful though may Allah protect all from being in this state.

    *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

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#Current Affairs

The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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Reflection On The Legacy of Mufti Umer Esmail | Imam Azhar Subedar

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“An ocean of knowledge which once resided on the seabed of humbleness has now submerged below it, forever.”

“Why didn’t you tell me!! You call me your younger brother, but you couldn’t even tell me you were ailing?!”

I could’ve called you or visited you so I could apologize for all the pain I caused you; thank you for all the good you did for me throughout my life despite all that pain. if nothing else, just so I could say goodbye to you.”

(My selfish mind continued to cry out as I stood in front of his grave— praying.)

As I sat down to compile my thoughts, upon returning home, I put my feelings of loss aside and tried to analyze your decision of not informing me about your illness from a different perspective.

Possibly, your own.

Why would you tell me?

This was just like you. You never wanted to hurt a soul; forget about making them worry about you, augmenting their own worries. For you were the sponge for our worries, the shock absorber of our concerns, and the solid wall that shouldered the pain of those around him.

You weren’t just a big brother, my big brother, you were a true human. A lesson on humanity.

You were always there for me.

“I GOT A QUESTION” sent at 2 AM.

“Sure” was your response.

We spoke for over 40 min.

That night.

Your strength reflected my weakness- always urging me to do better, be more like you.

I was told you were in hospital by a close family member early Friday morning before Jummah prayers. I was supposed to call you. That was my responsibility. However, the preparation of the Friday Sermon was my excuse not to do so.

As I exited from delivering the Friday services, I received a message from you, the one who was spending the last days of his life in a hospital, never to be seen outside of the confines of those walls ever again.

That message you wrote- you knew me so well.

“As-salaam alaikum, I thought you were already American?”

(You were catching up with me as I had become an American citizen the day before. You wanted to congratulate me, without complaining to me.)

“I heard you are in the hospital?! How are you? What’s going on?” I asked immediately.

“Getting some treatment done. Mubarak on your American citizenship” was your response.

Diversion. A stubborn man with a heart of gold. You wanted to celebrate people even at the cost of your own life.

Your last words to me were digital, even though your connection with me spans a lifetime. As much as I wish I had heard your voice one last time, I try to find the beauty in that communication too as I can save and cherish those last words.

We grew up together in Canada in the ’80s- Mufti Umer and I. Our fathers were tight- childhood buddies. He ended up becoming the inspiration for my family to trek towards a path devoted to Islam, beginning with my brother and then myself.

He was my support from the time when I came to England to study at the Dar Al Uloom and wanted to call it quits and go home, to when he hosted me when I visited him in Austin in 2002, all the way till 2019, after I was married and settled with kids he loved like his own.

He visited us here in Dallas and had met them in his unique way of showering them with love. And why wouldn’t he? My wife and I are here under one roof all because of his earnest desire to help people.

He introduced us to each other.

“I want you to marry my younger brother.” A message he sent to my wife over 17 years ago.

She was his student. He was her mentor, support beam, confidante, and best friend. (Well, we all feel like he was our best friend, only because he truly was.)

I am sharing my life story not only because he was an integral part of it, but throughout (he was also a major part of my wife’s life when she really needed him) but because that final text message wrapped it all up- the gift that he was to me and my family. It showed how much he was invested in us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

That message wrote:

“I thought you’ve been a citizen since marriage.”

(FRIDAY, AUGUST 30TH @ 3: 07 PM)

This is just my story featuring Mufti Umer Ismail.

I am confident that there are thousands more out there without exaggeration.

I’ll conclude with a word he corrected for me as I misspelled it on my Facebook page a few months ago when Molana Haaris Mirza, a dear colleague, passed away in New York. He didn’t do it publicly, he did it through that same Facebook text messenger that kept us in touch- with love and sincere care for me in his heart.

“As-salaam alaikum the word is Godspeed. Sorry for being [a] grammar freak.”

(MARCH 28TH, 2019 @6: 04 PM)

Godspeed, my dear brother. Godspeed.

Azhar Subedar

imamAzhar.com

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