Connect with us

#Life

How My Non-Muslim Family Members Have Made Me A Stronger Muslim

Laura El Alam

Published

Whenever I walk into a room, there is one member of my family who consistently walks right out.  He says he’s not comfortable with me now that I wear a headscarf. He’s had nearly 19 years to adjust, but the “discomfort” persists.  

I’m allowed to visit another close relative’s house only if I agree not to pray there. He believes his home is “consecrated to Christ,” and if I worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) there, it would somehow taint the sanctity of his home. When I tell him that I do not have to perform ritual prayers there, but the very act of visiting relatives is, for Muslims, an act of worship in itself, he is flummoxed.  “Let’s just meet at a pizza place,” he suggests.

I am a convert. Needless to say, family reunions aren’t as fun as they used to be.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Born in a white, Midwestern, staunchly Catholic family, I really broke the mold when I married a Moroccan Muslim and converted to Islam in the year 2000.  I’ll never forget the first time I showed up to a family gathering with my flowing abaya and headscarf, thereby confirming once and for all the wild rumors they’d all been hearing.  “She really did it,” they whispered amongst themselves. “Her poor parents!”

Since I took my shahada I have been, without a doubt, the focus of ongoing family debate, gossip, and speculation. While every one of my relatives reacted to my conversion with a certain degree of surprise and concern, time and deep reflection softened many of their hearts, Alhamdullilah. The love and support of a few of my relatives have been a balm for me in tumultuous times and has helped me to grow stronger and more confident in my imaan.

Other family members, however, are just as opposed to my choice today as they were in 2000–or perhaps even more so, since Islamophobia has definitely increased over the past two decades. While it saddens me that some of my closest blood relatives believe I am destroying my life and destining my soul for hell, I have come to realize that they, too, are teaching me valuable lessons that I can use to grow closer to my Creator.  

Ties of Kinship

Among my most fervent supporters is — perhaps surprisingly– my uncle who is a Catholic Jesuit priest.  At a sprightly 80 years old, he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary in the priesthood. He has traveled around the world, speaks several languages, and has taught in high school classrooms for longer than I’ve been alive.  And even though he is devoted to his own faith, he has never wavered in his support of me as a Muslim.

Although I am sure that deep down he would prefer for me to be a Catholic, my uncle has great respect for Islam and has never pressured me to return to the faith of my youth.  He once sent me a beautiful amethyst tasbeeh along with a list of the 99 names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  When a family member said something disparaging about hijab in his presence, my uncle articulated a response so perfect that I did not have to offer a single word in my own defense.  He recently visited my family and encouraged my teenage son, with whom he has a special bond, to keep practicing his faith diligently.

“Don’t ever give up fasting Ramadan,” he solemnly advised my son.

He also complimented my daughter on her hijab, telling her it made her look extremely dignified and unique, especially among the scantily-clad young women of her generation.  “I hope and pray you will continue to be strong enough to wear your Islamic clothing,” he told her.

In all those ways, my beloved Catholic uncle has encouraged me and my family to be confidently and unapologetically Muslim.  When I am feeling down, his words always lift me up and bring me closer to my deen.  His actions remind me that people of different beliefs can still respect, support, and love each other.

I have heard of converts whose parents disowned them or completely cut contact with them when they embraced Islam. Alhamdullilah my own parents never wanted to end our relationship or withdraw their love from me. Although I know it was difficult for them when I rejected the faith they tried to instill in me (including paying my expensive Catholic school tuition for 12 years!), they assured me that they loved me no matter what. They kept helping and loving me and, when my children were born, showered them with wholehearted devotion that was untarnished by any sadness or betrayal they felt at my conversion.

Holidays like Christmas and Easter were initially very sad and challenging for my parents, as I was no longer celebrating with them. However, I made sure to send gifts and cards to them on other occasions and welcomed them into my home during Ramadan, which my father, in particular, loved while he was alive. Although my mother initially worried about my hijab and how it would mark me as a possible target of discrimination or violence in this country, she eventually became my most fervent defender. When others — whether strangers or family members — dare to make untrue or hostile remarks about Islam, my mom courageously jumps to our defense, protecting me and my fellow Muslims like a fierce mother bear protecting her cubs.  She frequently buys hijabs and scarf pins for me and my oldest daughter and goes out of her way to greet Muslim women enthusiastically wherever she encounters them, whether it’s the airport or the grocery store.

My parents taught me that true love is resilient and unconditional. They help me feel more courageous in a society that does not always accept Muslims, and they let me know that no matter what others say, their love for me is unwavering.  My parents give me the courage to live a life of purpose and they increase my gratitude to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Finally, I am blessed to have a few distant family members who have become some of my staunchest allies. Even though I was not very close to them prior to embracing Islam, their open-mindedness and support in times of trouble have made me extremely grateful to them.   They are the ones who send me comforting, love-filled texts whenever Muslim-bashing in the media is at its peak. “I’m here for you. I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I love you.” Such simple words are like a rope to help me climb out of despair.

These gentle souls have also talked with less tolerant members of my family to try to soften their hearts towards me.  It hasn’t always worked, but it means the world to me that they try. They have taught me that adversity often shows you who your true friends are and that when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) takes something away from you, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will give you something better in return.

Lessons of Love

Not all lessons have been easy to learn.  Some of my closest relatives have strengthened my imaan in a different, much less appetizing, way.  One relative does not wish to discuss any common ground we have, such as living a God-conscious life, respecting Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), admiring his mother, the Virgin Mary, and revering the prophets like Abraham, Moses, Noah, and Adam (peace be upon all of them).  Rather, he believes our differences divide us irrevocably. He is convinced I will go to hell because I worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and not Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He sees my conviction that Jesus is a prophet of God but not the son of God (and simultaneously one with God) as the gravest sin, and our relationship has gone from close and loving to distant and strained.  

It is a bitter pill to swallow, but this particular family member has indeed made me stronger.  He has taught me that devotion to Islam comes before family loyalty. Even though we are supposed to do our best to maintain family ties, we must not sacrifice our beliefs in order to appease our relatives. Since the time of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), some Muslims have lost their families’ love and support when they decided to practice Islam. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows our sacrifices and will reward them, inshaAllah.

Another of my family members has brought me closer to Islam in an unexpected way.  She is a regular consumer of Fox and Breitbart news — sources that are so consistently Islamophobic that I am not surprised by her horrible misconceptions about Islam.  She believes that because I dress differently now and celebrate different holidays, I have lost my “Americanness.”

People who accuse others of not being “American enough” do not want to unpack the uncomfortable truth that their narrow definition of “American” — one that identifies white Christians as “true” Americans and the rest of their compatriots as inferiors or interlopers –is, at its core, deeply racist.  

Dealing with this family member has actually taught me a great deal. She has inspired me to examine my own white privilege and to constantly search my own heart for subtle traces of racism. Until I was in my mid-twenties, I was a run-of-the-mill white woman like her, with all the safety, benefits, and advantages which that entails.  Now, as a visibly Muslim woman, I do face some discrimination, but I realize that my white skin will always afford me a certain amount of privilege. I know that Islam condemns racism and therefore I have dedicated much of my professional writing to examining and condemning racism within the American Muslim community. Furthermore, this particular family member has inadvertently encouraged me to define for myself what being “American” means —  to own my Americanness — and to passionately advocate for Muslims’ rights in this country.  Whether she knows it or not, she has actually brought me closer to my faith, more devoted to my Rabb, and more convinced of Islam’s perfection.  

Converts like me often face challenges from their non-Muslim family members and friends.  Rather than letting these difficulties dishearten us or make us doubt our faith, let us search for the lessons that can be learned from each interaction, from each heartache.  And when and if we are blessed to have non-Muslim family members who support us, let us cherish them and go forth and share that love with a fellow convert who is struggling.

For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam.  Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism.  A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

https://muslimmatters.org/2014/05/05/my-religion-experiences-conversion-1/

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

For over a decade, Laura El Alam has been a frequent contributor to various Islamic magazines. In her work she frequently addresses issues related to converts' experiences, women's right in Islam, racism, and Muslim-American identity. You can follow her on Facebook at her page The Common Sense Convert and read her blog on her website Sea Glass Writing & Editing.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    NAS

    January 16, 2019 at 9:28 PM

    Beautiful words sister. You have put together what can be called a blueprint for converts to use in their own journeys. It’s definitely not an easy one. May Allah increase you in Iman, continue to make you a symbol of hope for American Muslims and give hidaya to your mother and your entire family.

  2. Avatar

    AF

    January 18, 2019 at 9:54 PM

    You say: “I’ll never forget the first time I showed up to a family gathering with my flowing abaya and headscarf, thereby confirming once and for all the wild rumors they’d all been hearing.”

    Your first mistake was letting your family hear about your conversion through “wild rumors” rather than from you.

    Your second mistake is believing that your relatives are required to agree with your beliefs. They’re not.

    You do not agree with their beliefs and reject spending Christian holidays with them, but complain when they reject discussing Islam with you. These are both religious decisions. If you want them to respect your rejection of Christianity, then you must respect their rejection of Islam.

    I’m sure that your relatives read essays like the article you wrote here and see you denigrating them in print. In light of that, they strike me as a very tolerant group of people to still associate with you.

  3. Avatar

    Kristy

    January 20, 2019 at 11:08 AM

    I often read articles like yours about converts to islam whose Christian parents and relatives like your uncle the priest who give unconditional love and support to the muslim convert. Unconditional love to others regardless of what they have done is one of the pillars of Christianity. Forgiveness is another.

    But sadly what I have never read about are the muslim parents and uncle imam who gives such unconditional love, forgiveness and support to the muslim who converts to Christianity. I know three such Christians from muslim families and wonder why there is such a difference. But I am happy for you that your parents and uncle are real Christ-followers.
    My best to you-

    • Avatar

      Megan Wyatt

      January 21, 2019 at 4:48 PM

      Those who have worked in missionary work abroad also know of plenty of Christian families who turn their family members out when they convert to Islam.

      Some are threatened to be killed or are killed, others are erased from wills, many kicked out of their homes, and the entire family network is encouraged to ignore them completely.

      Culture has a lot to do with how things are handled much more than religion itself.

      And you are wrong that there aren’t Muslim leaders, family members, friends, etc who haven’t remained loving and compassionate of those who have stepped away from Islam for numerous reasons.

  4. Avatar

    Megan Wyatt

    January 21, 2019 at 4:10 PM

    Thank you Laura for this article that I am certain many many converts to Islam will be able to relate to. You have given us a private glimpse into some of your most painful experiences and also moments of love and given encouragement to those who feel down to find the lessons that family, friends, and community in general can teach them. Jazakum Allahu Khairan.

  5. Avatar

    Nasr

    March 5, 2019 at 2:39 PM

    Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Life

OpEd: Muslims Connect Over ImamConnect

Muddassar Ahmed, Guest Contributor

Published

How do you live a religious life when religion feels far away and inaccessible to you? For me, growing up in Britain, I came across plenty of Muslims like me. It wasn’t that we didn’t care about our faith or take Islam seriously. It’s that we had no idea how to integrate the Islam on offer with the realities of our lives. Many of my peers stopped attending the mosque not because they didn’t want to be Muslim, but because the Muslim life that existed around them was designed for another place and time.

While the picture has changed somewhat with a global pandemic, some of these original problems still remain.

I, for one, grew up within five minutes walk of a mosque, but felt unexpectedly disconnected when I moved to an area that didn’t have one. My desire to be connected to my faith traditions did not disappear – the gap just felt wider than ever before. And, I am not alone. For a variety of reasons, fewer than twenty per cent of British Muslims and fewer than ten per cent of American Muslims regularly attend a mosque. (That’s before the pandemic, by the way.)

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

These lacklustre numbers, however, do not reflect a lack of religious enthusiasm or commitment on the part of many Muslims. It’s rather that mosques can often be unrelatable or inaccessible, whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally. In some cases, mosques can be downright unwelcoming.

The more I talk to family, friends, and fellow Muslims, the more I notice a worrying pattern. It’s not that Muslims don’t want their religion to be a vital part of their daily lives, but that their institutions don’t always work for them. And there’s apparently nowhere else to go for authentic, reliable, and trustworthy religious life services. And the modern reality is that, like many of you, I have friends and colleagues all over the world. When they ask me for help or a recommendation, sending them to a brick and mortar mosque down the road doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Meanwhile, the very people who can best provide the religious services Muslims long for don’t know how to reach the people they can serve.

The great crisis afflicting modern Muslim communities is one of connection.

Or rather, the lack of it.

I turned to technology to help solve this problem, creating a website that will be the “mosque” more Muslims wish they had. This simple gesture, of connecting Muslims looking for religious services with the Muslims who are best qualified to provide them, will revolutionize Muslim life across the world. It’s called ImamConnect. You might think of it as an ‘Uber for Imams’ but that doesn’t do justice to the service, the connection, or the vision we’re building.

“And help one another in goodness and piety”

– The Noble Qur’an (5:2)

ImamConnect is a digital platform that’s designed to be accessible to a wide range of users, with different backgrounds, needs, and priorities. It’s a one-stop-shop, a place where users can find qualified, vetted experts to meet their religious life needs, offering services like marriage ceremonies, advice on wills and guidance on inheritance laws, as well as religious classes, like Qur’an tutoring for the young and the old–and so much more.

Developed by a team of Muslim communications experts, entrepreneurs, technologists, and community leaders based in Brussels, London, Granada, Kuala Lumpur, and New York, ImamConnect launched with over 70 background-checked service providers offering their expertise from countries around the globe, like Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It works very simply.

Religious service providers create profiles with their relevant information, which we carefully background check. They list out what services they can provide and how much they charge. Users visit the website and simply enter what they’re searching for. ImamConnect presents them with a list of the experts who offer requested services.

Maybe it’s Islam 101. Maybe it’s marriage counselling. Maybe it’s tajweed classes.

Maybe they’re a junior scholar looking for more senior scholars to help them advance in their studies. Maybe they’re a parent looking for pastoral guidance amidst a crumbling relationship with their teenager. (All examples of bookings so far made on Imam Connect).

Whoever they are, we hope to help provide them with exactly what they need.

When booking a service provider, users have access not only to a service provider’s biography, available services, and rates of service, but reviews from other users too. This helps ensure user safety and access to high quality, professional services. For the religious service providers, then, ImamConnect means a source of new clients and students. For the users, ImamConnect is a religious lifeline–the services they need designed to meet them where they are.

They can find scholars, specialists, and experts who know their context, their local customs (‘urf), their realities and circumstances—people who have religious authority and nuance, who would be the right pick to provide, say, premarital counseling to a mixed-race couple, or a pair of new Muslims negotiating relationships with families that maybe aren’t fully onboard with their life choices yet. The kinds of challenges that, unfortunately, a lot of communities don’t have the on-the-ground resources to provide.

For now, of course, all services have to be virtual, but when circumstances permit, users will be allowed to book in-person services, too.

What makes us different from many community institutions, however, isn’t just our global reach or intuitive accessibility.

It’s the vetting and the variety.

“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. There truly are signs in this for those who know.”

– The Noble Qur’an (30:22) 

Background checks are critical components of the ImamConnect service, ensuring that the religious service providers on offer are free of any history of fraud and criminality. Vetting is intended to ensure users can feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe with their service provider.

On top of that, users have a menu of religious service options. We acknowledge and celebrate our communities’ diversities. Mindful of the amazing pluralism that characterizes modern Islam, ImamConnect welcomes religious service providers from a variety of backgrounds, from conservative to contemporary, liberal to traditional, and including Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, among others. This not only means that religious service providers from diverse traditions can connect to the individuals most in need of them, but also that users are no longer limited to the services available in their neighbourhoods.

“The whole Earth has been made a Mosque”

– Prophet Muhammad (Bukhari 335)

People have many questions, naturally. For one, people ask if we won’t just enable people to engage in fatwa-shopping, as opposed to the robust values they should aspire to. I think that’s an unfairly pessimistic characterization of our communities. People look for communities that help them grow and foster a sense of belonging. When they become disillusioned by institutions around them, it’s often because these institutions offer them no point of entry, no way to begin connecting. And a chief motivation of mine has been that I fear Muslims today are losing touch with our Islamic traditions due to this inaccessibility.

Indeed, as it turns out, ImamConnect is a valuable resource for scholars themselves, whether looking to increase their learning or find independent revenue streams, which would give them the autonomy and liberty to pursue research and studies they deem to be of value to the community. In the absence of well-endowed institutions that can offer research fellowships, ImamConnect has the ability not to undermine scholarship, but to enrich it and enable it.

Another concern people may have is whether we’re undermining mosques. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t received any pushbacks from mosques—because our model is not a combative or confrontational one. Where we can, we seek to be complementary and collaborative. Where there’s simply no alternative, then we present ourselves as the obvious choice, but by emphasizing what we can do, not what others do not.

It would be ideal, of course, if local mosques welcomed and embraced pluralism, and had the resources to meet the broad spiritual needs of their diverse communities, but this is not always or even frequently the case. Muslims should not be forced to go without religious life services because of no fault of their own. Excitingly, however, we have received offers of interest from community institutions like mosques, who see the potential in what it is we are trying to do.

Many mosques, for example, want to make themselves more accessible to their communities, but lack the know-how or the bandwidth. They recognise ImamConnect as a service that can bring their staff into better and easier contact with their local communities, and potentially, well beyond that in a tech-savvy way. During a time of pandemic, this is especially valuable.

The potential for applications is vast. And rightly so.

To those who argue that the failure of our communities to serve the needs of our people can be attributed to a fundamental flaw in our faith tradition, I beg to differ. This is a tempting and false narrative. I am an optimist. I believe that many of our problems can be solved by simple solutions, if only we have the wherewithal, wisdom and foresight to pursue them.

When the circumstances surrounding our religious life are holding us back, or holding us down, we need the tools to go around them. ImamConnect is that kind of technology. It’s an answer to an ongoing prayer, a way for Muslims of all backgrounds to connect with the resources they’ve been looking for but for too long have been unable to find–or avail themselves of. ImamConnect is like ‘Uber for Imams,’ yes. That’s an easy way to describe a service with transformative implications.

Instead of going to the mosque, which manifestly isn’t working for many Muslims in many parts of the world, why not bring the mosque or the imam to you?

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

Tech

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

Avatar

Published

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

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

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

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

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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

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

Location Services: Privacy Concerns and a Major Battery Drain

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

1. Toggle Location Setting to “Off”

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

2. Remove App Permissions’ Access to Your Location

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

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

3. Turn off Location History Tracking

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

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

4. Mask Your Online Activity with a VPN

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

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

5. Turn off Ad Tracking and Location-Based Ads

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

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

6. Turn off Bluetooth

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Islam

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

Avatar

Published

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

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

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

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

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

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

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

The Reminder

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

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

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

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

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

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

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

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

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

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

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

The Reminder

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

4. Strong Wrestling Game

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

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

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

The Reminder

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

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

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

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

The Reminder

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

6. Relationship With His Father

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

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

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

The Reminder

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

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

7. Relationship With His Mother

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

The Reminder

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

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

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

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

The Reminder

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

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

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

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

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

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

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

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

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

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

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

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

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

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

The Reminder

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

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

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

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

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

The Reminder

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

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

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

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

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

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

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

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

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

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

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

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

The Reminder

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

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

Ameen.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading
..

Trending