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Hijab Fixation: Deciding Our Heaven And Hell

Hijab itself is not the issue, rather it is the forceful approach that starts the damage. Sometimes a girl is not convinced of her faith yet. She may have questions that she is afraid to ask. She may have doubts that need to be addressed and discussed wisely. But, while she’s struggling with internal conflicts and confusions, she’s forced to wear something that’s not only spiritually symbolic but takes a lot of strength to put on.

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One day my 18-year-old son, messaged me:

Then the next day, he sent me screen shots of a conversation that took place between him and his friends on Twitter.

Before I share those tweets, I just want the readers to know that these young men’s ages range between 18-21. They are raised in practicing Muslim families by parents whose second home is the masjid.

They are well-mannered, polite and the kind of boys you would want your son to be friends with.

girls who dont wear hijab tweet

Girl who don't wear hijab hell

Hijab in Islamic School

A few more comments from different young men.

Boys commenting on hijab

My daughter chimed in.


The conversation continued, diving head-first into the complex connections between faith, free agency, external modesty and internal righteousness, but this is not an article about any of those things. Nor is this about the obligation of hijab. Hijab is an obligation— that is not up for discussion.

Rather, this piece is about how forcing hijab on our girls is a damaging mistake that fails to meet its end goal- a woman’s ownership of her spiritual submission to Allah. From west to east, I have seen girls suffering spiritual damage when they are forced to wear hijab.

We’ve probably all met a girl or two who was forced to wear hijab and consequently resented it. When I was in high school, there were only two students who wore hijab. One was myself, the other was a girl would take off her hijab in school and would wear shorts, mini skirts. That was my first interaction with a girl who was forced to wear hijab.

Since then I have met countless others, and most of them remove it at their first opportunity. I live in the Middle East now, and while hijab is not mandated by the government in Qatar, it is still a symbol of family honor. When enforced by family members, the result is the same. Girls I have spoken with hate covering and not only remove hijab as soon as they get their first opportunity to do so, but also dress less modestly than the girls who are not forced into it.

There are also girls who are certain about their faith and are convinced that wearing hijab is the right thing to do, but tackling inner temptations can take time. It is not easy to wear hijab, especially in this time of so much emphasis on physical beauty and appearance. Many of  us can identify with the constant social media bombardment.

In either case, when a girl resists, she is judged and looked down upon. Hijab is forced. She may wear it to school but she ends up resenting it. A girl in doubt, becomes even more doubtful as she starts to perceive the whole religion of Islam from the lens of “being forced” with no room for questions or discussions. Consequently her conflicts intensify and her confusion turns into bitterness and resentment towards the faith.

Hijab itself is not the issue, rather it is the forceful approach that starts the damage. Sometimes a girl is not convinced of her faith yet. She may have questions that she is afraid to ask. She may have doubts that need to be addressed and discussed wisely. But, while she’s struggling with internal conflicts and confusions, she’s forced to wear something that’s not only spiritually symbolic but takes a lot of strength to put on.

Islam or Islamic rulings should not and must not be shoved down someone’s throat. The ideal “sunnah way” of spreading this faith is through teachings, and patience and wisdom. The girls need to understand their religion first, build a connection with their Lord first, love their faith and their Creator, only then they will be ready to “hear and obey”.

Our youth, including preteens, are struggling to hold on to their faith, even the ones in Islamic schools. Some of them are even secretly atheist or agnostic, grappling with basic theology while we debate dress code.

Perhaps it’s because absence of hijab is obvious, but absence of faith is not.

There is so much emphasis on the ritual of hijab that we totally forget: every ritual starts with spiritual submission, and that spiritual submission stems from conviction. Conviction is the root of submission, and submission is the basis for ritual. When we have not nurtured the roots, and we instead focus on the branches, how are we expecting a healthy tree to be sustained?

Islamic Schools and Hijab

The whole point of Islamic Schools is to have a platform for our future generations to learn their religion and become proud Muslims, not “suppressed” Muslims. Islamic schools should instill proud Muslim identity in students first, and that for sure cannot be achieved by forcing them to do something they don’t fully understand or may not be ready to adhere to.

We send our children to Islamic school to gain the knowledge that they need to develop conviction. In order for hijab to be the long-term, it must be the manifestation of belief in Allah and complete conviction of His rulings, and not just “because we said so.”

Dare I say, I would rather our Islamic schools produce die-hard Muslimahs who are completely convinced of their faith – with or without hijab –  rather than girls who wear hijab but are doubtful of Allah and Islam. I have counseled both type of girls. And the ones who resent their faith are the ones who were almost always forced to wear hijab.

As a youth counselor, I’ve seen the type of spiritual crisis that fixation from others on hijab causes. Hijab in of itself may not even be the problem, if we can learn to handle this issue wisely and patiently, giving our girls room to question, to learn, to understand and then to absorb.

It doesn’t help that the Muslim culture seems to have an unhealthy fixation on hijab, making it equivalent to the foundation of Islam. Girls in hijab are automatically assumed to be pious and righteous, and girls without it are automatically assumed to be failing in their faith. There are copious amounts of memes that perpetuate this.

Hijab and Faith

The status of her hijab doesn’t make a woman fall in or out of Islam or its core beliefs. Faith is built on six principles- belief in Allah, the angels, holy revelation, the messengers, the Day of Judgment, and the Qadr of Allah. For whatever reason, a Muslim woman can believe in all of these things, and yet not be wearing a hijab. Conversely, a woman can wear hijab while believing in none of these things as well.

It’s the same for the five pillars of Islam – Declaration of Faith, Hajj, Charity, Prayer, and Fasting. A Muslim woman can be actively practicing all of these without wearing hijab on a daily basis – and while she absolutely should be wearing a hijab, her failure to do so does not cancel out her faith or her practices that stem from that faith.

Hijab is a manifestation of faith, not the sole indicator, and certainly not a replacement for it. Forcing a girl into hijab doesn’t mean she’s a “good Muslim girl” and parents can call it a day.  The sooner we understand this, the sooner we can start focusing on the inside of our girls, so their faith can shine through to the outside.

This obsession and fixation on hijab has left many of our Muslim sisters handicapped in spiritual development, as well as socially isolated from and within the Muslim community. We have all experienced it. I was once a part of it– “The Niqaabi Cult”, who felt entitled to judge any sister who wasn’t covered or wasn’t “covered enough”. We excluded them. There is a “Hijabi Cult” too, and while not every Muslim woman in hijab or niqab is guilty of discriminating against those who don’t, the cultural fixation on a woman’s dress-code being an indicator of her social worth is certainly a contributing factor in its existence.

Islamic School Hijab Dilemma

Some may argue that if Hijab is not mandatory in Islamic schools and some girls don’t wear it, then it could encourage the girls who do wear it, to remove it. I would say that our teachers should be trained to handle such situations wisely. They must focus on building and celebrating the strength of those girls who choose to wear hijab, and encouraging and building the strength in those who feel too weak to wear it yet.

If teachers know which girls aren’t ready yet, they have the opportunity to discover why. Is the issue with her belief and conviction? Is the issue with her understanding of this ritual? Is she convinced, but just needs some time and room for spiritual growth? Being able to identify and remedy such problems is a more sensible approach to helping girls grow into hijab, versus assuming there is no problem because they’re all mandated to wear one with the uniform anyway.

Teachers can take the an opportunity to prepare our girls to step into the real world, where many Muslim women don’t wear hijab. Our girls will be challenged from all fronts to keep their hijabs on from both Muslim and non-Muslim influence. All the more reason for an Islamic school to be the training ground for our girls to grow into, and solidify their commitment to hijab so that they’re better prepared for the real world. Compare this to a situation where hijab is worn without meaning, and taken off with the rest of the uniform once the school day is done.

Wearing hijab is not easy for many women, no matter how early one starts to wear it or how late. It doesn’t get easier with age and time either. For some it is harder than the others, and this does NOT reflect a person’s state of iman. In fact, the harder it is for one to wear hijab, the more rewarding it will be for them to do so.

I pray to Allah that we become the believers who help one another with right knowledge, patience, wisdom, sincerity; and not the ones who judge other believers and feel entitled in their religious-superiority.

Muslimmatters welcomes your opinion on these issues. Send your submissions here

 

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance."Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam.She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rida

    January 28, 2019 at 11:19 AM

    While it is very important that one should choose the hijab herself due to her own religious conviction and submission to please God alone, Islamic schools are trying to create an Islamic environment for All the students there and thus the dress code.

    Also, where do you draw the line? what if someone doesn’t have enough conviction to be wearing modest clothing? Should he/she be allowed to dress as they feel comfortable until they themselves want to dress modestly?

    From my personal experience (I went to public school), it is definitely very hard to be the only one practicing the hijab. I tried to do so in middle school initially at my parents encouragement but I wasn’t able to. My hesitation was mainly rooted in not seeing anyone of my age practicing it, so it was hard for me to take the first step.

    Eventually my parents took me to ladies halaqa circles where I saw many Muslim girls (they homeschooled) and they were practicing the hijab. Just hanging out with them once a week and reading the religious literature together gave me the encouragement I needed to start my hijab journey which I started in 9th grade.

    So, considering that, I’d think seeing many girls doing hijab in Islamic school should make it actually easier to do.

    Maybe the reason girls who don’t want to do it have more to do with the rest of their environment? Maybe they see their peers not doing it and they see their guardian figures not doing it and thus they consider it “optional”? So when they are told to do so while attending an Islamic school it feels like a burden to them?

    Needless to say, this is a very important discussion of our times. There are many instances where kids have simply lost belief and need their concerns and questions answered. I think ones’ home environment and the peers circle has the MOST influence on these types of issues. Some parents think that sending kids to Islamic school is enough to teach them everything of religion. They don’t realize they need to talk openly to their children about beliefs and doubts and clarify them. Schools can only do so much…

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      January 29, 2019 at 4:26 AM

      Dressing modestly and wearing hijab (particularly head covering) is not necessarily the same thing. Hijab is religiously sumbolic whereas dressing modestly is required on many different occasions even from people/organizations/schools without any religious reasons.

      Besides, what worked for you doesn’t work for everyone else. We need to stop taking our personal experiences and using it to draw general rules for everyone else.

      • Avatar

        Rida

        January 29, 2019 at 1:59 PM

        Sister I feel your concerns absolutely but as Parents and Teachers, we ARE supposed to enforce morals and modesty upon the Muslim children whether they fully grasp the meaning behind it or not. We are supposed to explain the why and reasoning behind it too. That is the point of Islamic schools to begin with. To provide the knowledge and the environment to actually practice the morals and teachings of Islam.

        The “modest” dressing can be interpreted in many ways. I have been a former teacher at an Islamic school and so I have also witnessed the issues quite closely. There were some students who didn’t like to be forced to wear loose fitting uniforms. They thought wearing fitted clothing as long as it covered skin was completely fine and the biggest reason for that was the role models in their life and their many peers dressed in that manner, and not because they wanted to rebel the school policies.

        The school policies didn’t drive these people away from hijab it was the rest of the environment that did that. The videos they watched on YouTube, the people they socialized with on social media and trying to impress them are the biggest factors in driving someone away from hijab, not school uniforms.

        I have seen girls leave from Islamic school and take off hijab immediately as they entered their cars where their moms or female gaurdians were also not practicing it. These girls always saw this as an “optional” headwear due to all the other environment, and thus even making it “optional” in an Islamic school will actually only serve to solidify that false belief.

        “Hijab must not be THAT mandatory that it isn’t even required in an Islamic school” will be the next argument.

        Moreover, I don’t understand why all this talking to the girls and clearing their doubts regarding beliefs and hijabs cannot be done simultaneously. They need to learn that certain things like practice of public morality and modesty aren’t up for debate, but that they may ask questions and clear any and all doubts regarding it.

        Also the argument you are making against the hijab policy can be made regarding any and all obligatory acts that the Muslim children don’t want to do. Kids don’t exactly love praying 5 times a day, are we to stop forcing them to do so by punishing them with grounding or taking away screen time etc? I am also pretty sure kids don’t like making the ritual ablution, so should we allow them to pray without it or touch Quran without it? Why is it okay to force them to pray whether with “conviction” or not, but not okay to enforce hijab as part of the Islamic uniform?

        • Avatar

          Mahmoud

          January 31, 2019 at 10:26 PM

          Sister Rida captures the issue very well. If we make Hijab optional until one grasps the spirituality behind it then by extension other acts of worship will also fall within this remit. Moreover, it is a man’s issue as much as it a woman’s for we are sons, brothers, fathers (parents) and husbands and to me the broader issue is the dress code which is applicable to both sexes

  2. Avatar

    Muhammad Hasan Khan

    January 28, 2019 at 1:22 PM

    Morality is a public issue not just a personal choice.

    Hijab is as public form of worship as it can get. A non Muslim woman not wearing hijab doesn’t mean anything but a Muslim woman not wearing it, does contribute to an environment where non compliance is an accepted norm.

    Hijab is difficult to wear because of the culture that celebrates immodesty. By us removing any environment where it is not celebrated, we contribute to the problem, not the solution.

    Islam regulates both personal and public affairs and specially those personal choices that impact societies.

    We don’t talk about conviction and iman when we obey secular laws but when it comes to religion, it becomes a danger to the faith.

    The problem is not Islamic having dress code, the problem is parents thinking sending kids to Islamic school is sufficient to give them proper identity and belief while they binge watch Netflix, listen to music and post selfies on Instagram.

    Insufficient Islamic upbringing causes doubt in faith, not just forcing hijab.

    It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We can’t reside kids glorifying their looks and tell them one day btw hijab was required and we also can’t say just putting on cloth on head and sending to Islamic school is sufficient.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad Hasan Khan

      January 28, 2019 at 1:30 PM

      * The problem is not Islamic schools having dress code
      * We can’t raise kids in non compliance and expect them to comply all of a sudden
      * We can’t just put on a piece of cloth on head and send them to islamic school thinking that should be sufficient.
      * It doesn’t have to be one or the other or one after the other.
      * Parenting is hard. Problem is in parenting, not forcing Hijab. Its lack of proper upbringing.

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      January 29, 2019 at 4:47 AM

      I would appreciate if you leave the difficulty of wearing hijab to be judged by women. You can’t speak about something you have never done.

      And yes we don’t need conviction to obey secular laws, but our conviction in matters of faith is pivotal because that decides our eternal destiny.

      • Avatar

        Arsal

        January 31, 2019 at 9:33 PM

        Very respectfully, the question & this article is revolving around is not about wearing Hijab by an independent women.
        It is about at the level of teeange and in Islamic Schools.
        So multiple parties can comes to discussion the girl, school administration & most importantly parents.

    • Avatar

      Ali

      July 10, 2019 at 6:42 PM

      I can’t believe these sick comments.
      Hijab in MANY Muslim civilizations was absent. You going to day those civilizations cebrated immodesty?

  3. Avatar

    RedCloakedGirl

    January 28, 2019 at 3:28 PM

    Wow. Jaza kaLlaah Khair Sister for this amazing article. I was genuinely scared by the boy’s way of thinking. Such colourful vocabulary. I ask Allah to open his heart to see that the world isn’t so black and white.

  4. Avatar

    Nora

    January 28, 2019 at 4:53 PM

    Whoo, here come the barrage of comments from well meaning brothers. This article hasn’t been published an hour, they’re here already. I look forward to the same amount of comments concerning genocide or even *gasp* domestic abuse, and how brothers will stop other brothers from abusing their families and catcalling women on the street.

    But nope, won’t happen.

    Let’s face folks, having an opinion on hijab is easy, that even the most moronic can produce. No man will ever understand the difficulty of hijab, and unless you’re a sheik, your opinion can only spread fitna.

    • Avatar

      Rida

      January 28, 2019 at 6:15 PM

      Did you even read the comments to their entirety? BTW I am a hijab practicing sister.

      The article is about hijab and you expect people to comment about domestic abuse and genocide? Yeh, that makes a LOT of sense ?

  5. Avatar

    Kathryn

    January 28, 2019 at 10:51 PM

    This whole argument is a strawman. Girls who are “forced to wear hijab” is defined How? Girls who vocally do not want it and clearly don’t have the moral groundwork to carry it?
    So bacisally: these same girls have clearly not been taught their deen on any deep level. And they aren’t being forced to observe hijab, they are being forced to put a scarf on their head, as true hijab requires intention.
    The reality of our deen is that as parents, and as fathers in particular, there is absolutely an obligation to enforce Islamic morals and behaviours.
    If our children refuse to pray at 10, we are to physically punish them until they do.
    We aren’t told to wait till they sort it out themselves.
    Now: the ground work should absolutely be laid long in advance. They should be taught the prayer for at least 3 years BEFORE it becomes mandatory, but it does still become mandatory regardless, as once they are baligh they must seek any information they lack themselves.
    A woman’s prayer is not in order without hijab. So how does one get a female child to pray at 10 without also “forcing” her to wear hijab? If she is attending an Islamic school in which salaat is held, how is she to participate? We know hijab is obligatory for salaat, and simply removing it after is hypocrisy, so there really is no other acceptable answer.
    The TRUTH is that Allah is the Turner of hearts, all we can do is remind.
    No amount of encouragement and educating will instill Islam into a heart Allah has hardened, but that doesn’t lift our duty to enforce the sharia where applicable, and hijab for all past puberty is one of those areas.

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      January 29, 2019 at 4:43 AM

      Wearing hijab during prayers is not the same as wearing hijab every time a girl steps outside her house/interacts with non-mahrem!

  6. Avatar

    KB

    January 29, 2019 at 2:10 AM

    This is really just….
    It’s an Islamic school. Wear it at school. Don’t wear it at home.or after school if you don’t want to. The only place Muslim girls will see other women wearing hijab, conforming to the rest of society’s standards, is making it that much harder for these girls to wear it then. This is making hijab too individualized. I also think the article overestimates young girls’ abilities to decide and have the willpower to start wearing hijab on their own with zero encouragement from a school/Muslim environment. I was 10 when I started and it was hard but at least I knew when I went to class my friends would be wearing it too. Eventually I got over it. Seriously, left to my own devices, raised here in Seattle, when would I have EVER started wearing hijab of my own will? I don’t think so!

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      January 29, 2019 at 4:33 AM

      If you read my article carefully, you would realize that I never said leave the girls on their own with “zero encouragement” from islamic school or teachers.
      I clearly stated that teachers should and must encourage girls to wear hijab, and talk about why they need to wear hijab. Teaching with wisdom and patience is what I emphasized on.

  7. Avatar

    KB

    January 29, 2019 at 2:14 AM

    By the way, I agree that kindergartens shouldn’t wear hijab . That is simply ridiculous and unfair. At my school girls began to wear it in 4th or 5th grade which I believe is a very appropriate age.

  8. Avatar

    Spirituality

    January 29, 2019 at 3:08 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    Jazaki Allahu Khayran for this very thoughtful article.

    My understanding is that the ruling for khimar, the headscarf, came with the revelation of Sura Nur, or in 6 AH. Noting that the Prophet (s) was in Mecca for 13 years before hijra, the ruling for the khimar came a full 19 years after the initial revelation!

    Why? Perhaps its because Allah wanted to instill the roots of the religion – faith in Allah, establishing prayer, good character and conduct, into the Sahabiyya (RA) first?

    A related issue: Aisha RA said in Sahih Bukhari: “When the people embraced Islam, the Verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse, ‘they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.”

    • Avatar

      Rida

      January 29, 2019 at 5:40 PM

      That is a good point and this is why legal and illegal laws become binding on a Muslim person only once they reach puberty, not before that, that’s 10-12 years for girls and 14-15 for boys on average.

      During this time teachers and parents are to instill the love of Allah and teachings of Islam in them so that when they reach puberty they are able to abide by the legal and illegal matters. The best ways are to show them by example and try your best to keep them in the company of the righteous people and in a sharia-compliant environment like an Islamic School or even homeschooling. May Allah help us all in achieving this monumentous task Ameen.

  9. Avatar

    Maryam

    January 29, 2019 at 10:11 PM

    SubhanAllah! Since when did the wearing of a head scarf became a determinant of going to Jannah?

    “Our youth, including preteens, are struggling to hold on to their faith, even the ones in Islamic schools. Some of them are even secretly atheist or agnostic, grappling with basic theology while we debate dress code.”

    When I started wearing hijab (out of choice) I remember being reminded by my parents that wearing the hijab doesn’t make me a better Muslim than someone who doesn’t wear it, and I still, will have to work on my character and imaan.

    Even during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) the hijab became an obligation (for both men and women) around the 9th or 10th year of hijrah, long after Salah, fasting or brotherhood among the Muslims was introduced. Why? because there are things more important than hijab, one of them is spirituality.

    There was a saying by our mother Aisha (RA) that if the rulings for Hijab and alcohol came in the early days, no one would have followed it because at that point no one even knew who Allah was and what it meant to be a Muslim.

    Our focus should be to teach our children how to be a good Muslim and have strong faith in Allah, the rest comes along naturally.

  10. Avatar

    @nony

    January 30, 2019 at 7:55 AM

    Every word of this article is, SubhaanAllah so true.
    There is so, much hijab shaming around. I am a hijabi myself. And i get bullied for not joining the so called hijab cult. I know the struggle because this didnt come easy forvme as well. BaarikAllah feek Umm. I hope this message gets far and wide.

  11. Avatar

    Sayeeda Shireen

    January 31, 2019 at 12:38 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Growing up in India, I started wearing the hijab in 11th grade, but I dont remember ever feeling out of place or finding it difficult. I have lived and worked in the US, traveled in Europe, attended international conferences in my line of work, all with my hijab on, and never felt any sense of discomfort.This article got me thinking. Why is hijab so easy for me? Of course, the foremost reason is it’s the Mercy and Grace of Allah.

    However, I feel self belief and self confidence also play a huge part in how comfortable we are in our modest clothing. It’s easier to buck the trend when you are self confident, when you are comfortable in your own skin. Perhaps parents and educators should look at ways of instilling self confidence in their kids along with the Islamic rulings. So that we raise a generation of confident Muslims who practice their Deen unselfconsciously.

  12. Avatar

    Siraaj

    January 31, 2019 at 5:33 PM

    My personal take, discussions of misogyny and being “forced” is more indicative of inability to process the world in our own terms rather than someone else’s framework, or in believing our own apologetics.

    As my son is growing older, I do “force” him to wear pants that cover his knees and shirts that cover his back while he prays. I don’t allow my kids to wear indecent clothes, even though prevailing norms pressure for this. Am I forcing my kids to dress in a way I think appropriate? Absolutely.

    Parents of all faiths (or without them) mandate their values on their kids all the time, including dress codes. Theres nothing new about this, and the hijab isn’t exceptional in this regard either. What is exceptional is how it’s viewed in society, and how it’s wearers about that.

    I would agree that hijab doesn’t take priority over the fundamentals of Islam and iman, and in order for hijab and other more fundamental behaviors to be practiced from the heart, a lot must be invested in developing ones relationship with Allah so it’s sincere and authentic. That is a major part of a parents duty, as well as keeping them away from the less salient areas of society and likewise leading by example. That is parenting.

    But so too is telling your children how to dress. For that matter, making your kids pray at 7 and beating them about it when their 10 doesn’t contradict that there is no compulsion in religion either. Kids are made to take on religion and religious behaviors and nonreligious behaviors because the duty of parents is to teach and as well enforce practices, manners, and habits until they are adults and can then make their own decisions as adults.

  13. Avatar

    Fritz

    January 31, 2019 at 7:18 PM

    A slightly muddled set of thought processes here.

    “I would appreciate if you leave the difficulty of wearing hijab to be judged by women. You can’t speak about something you have never done.”

    Ok this is complete emotional nonsense. So nobody can empathise with anyone else eh?

    The hijab is being utilised as a school uniform and should thus be considered as an entity along these lines. There are plenty of schools that “force” girls to wear skirts and tights to school. What about that?

    And this an Islamic school no less. It would be interesting to know how you police “modest clothing”. How short is too short? How tight is too tight? You are enforcing other standards in this context.

  14. Avatar

    Arsalan

    January 31, 2019 at 9:19 PM

    Assalamualaikum,So I am single guy & this Hijab debates is pretty interesting.
    I was looking for a girl to get married few months ago & the first thing my aunt who lives in America asked me ” Do you want a Hijabi or non-Hijabi ? ” & most of the girl that I talked to put forward this question, ” Would you ask me to wear hijab later ? ”

    No doubt, girls think that its a social demarcation between two kinds & if they would adopt it, desi culture wont judge them or they may purely doing it for the sake of Almighty.

    I have a question, Can parents force them to wear Hijab ?
    If parents believe in that & if they look after that girl ( financillay ) then I think they can make such decisions for her ( as we see in medicine that parents call for treatment options ).

    No doubt, an introduction to God first would let the child adopt Hijab or Niqab easily.

  15. Avatar

    Ahmed

    February 3, 2019 at 5:08 PM

    People need to remember that our children are our flock. We are shepards and will be asked about them on the Day of Judgement.

    Everyone knows about the hadith that talks about telling our children to pray at 7, and beating them (lightly) at 10 if they dont listen. Thats before puberty and we are told to force prayer on them. At that young age they cant be expected to pray on free will. But we force Salah upon them in order to make them get used to it when they reach puberty. We also teach them about islam so they learn why they should pray etc so that they do it willingly when they reach puberty.

    The same can be said/done regarding hijab. We should, yes, force our children to cover their awrah to let them learn modesty and get used to it.

    The reality is that we have become desensitized to immodest dressing, to the point that we find the concept of covering to be strangeand odd. But the reality is that these women walking with jeans are practically naked. I can literally see your awrah, except the skin. The form is blatant. Its absolutely disgusting and filthy. Even if people refuse to say it.

    Let the people hate how we raise our children, we shouldnt care to please them. It is Allah that matters, not the pleasure of the fuel of Jahannam.

    May Allah make it easy for the muslim women.

  16. Avatar

    Siddiqui

    February 21, 2019 at 12:32 PM

    what has this ummah come to seriously

  17. Avatar

    Nayem

    February 26, 2019 at 3:43 PM

    There are muslim who have been made comfortable with the idea that Islam accommodates their every ideological commitment: liberalism, feminism, secularism, social justice identity politics, etc.

    The idea of submitting and reigning in one’s emotions and sentimentality in accordance with the Sacred is completely foreign to them. The tarbiya that is so critical to spirituality and getting closer to Allah is completely absent.But Muslims can’t remain sheltered forever.

    They slowly start realizing that things are not what they want them to be. They start resenting other Muslims and begin to lash out, calling them names: “extremist,” “wahabi,” “misogynist,” etc.

    Many of them become very bitter, burn out, and some even leave Islam.

    For example, you probably think that that hijab (covering awrah) is a personal choice. which means that wearing it is no more or less meaningful than wearing a swimsuit.If all one cares about and celebrates is choice, then choosing to wear the hijab is equivalent to choosing to ditch it. Or choosing to wear something else entirely. It’s all choice! But in reality, hijab is anything but choice. It is fard.

  18. Avatar

    Mummyjaan

    March 4, 2019 at 11:38 PM

    I’m so glad you wrote about this, Umm Reem. It’s something we muslim parents need to talk about more.

    When my girls were younger, we had lots of conversations about hijab and it being fardh, and that it starts becoming obligatory after a certain age.

    My older child kept this in mind and decided on wearing the hijab when it became fardh for her, and I assumed all was going well. After wearing it for 2 years, she told me that she wore it only because she didn’t want to disappoint me and that she wanted to go for a year without it. I was shocked, both by her not opening up to me initially and by her decision to remove it. Although I had left the decision up to her and not forced her, i realized that the expectation she must have felt from me must have been strong. And here I thought I was doing the right thing by providing the information and letting her make her own choice. Didn’t really work out the way I hoped it would.

    At the moment, I treat our stage of Islam in our house as “the ‘Makkan period” in Islam. In the first 13 years, many of the surahs that were revealed to prophet Mohammed focussed on building the faith of the fledgling Muslim community. The ahkaam of hijab and many other commandments were not revealed until this faith had build into something much stronger. So we focus on reading Quran and ahadith, establishing our salah on time and making dua. Hopefully, Allah will forgive my weak tarbiyyah that failed and give us strength, ameen.

    I have been accused by my never-present husband that I “must have been too forceful in my emphasis on hijab” and that’s why the girls don’t practice it. But that’s just one more male assumption that I have to deal with, which adds to the difficulties and pressures of being a woman. As both his daughters and I know that his assumption is untrue, I don’t worry too much about it. Coping mechanism :)!

  19. Avatar

    Marahm

    March 15, 2019 at 11:51 AM

    The hijab is now synonymous with Islam. Let’s imagine, for a moment, that hijab– strictly, the covering of hair and/or face– is eliminated from Islam altogether. What is left? Indeed, that is the question. Without hijab, we either have a rich, complete religious tradition or we have a shell. You decide. Think about it. Would you have the shell, or would you still have the whole package, if your conviction for or against that hijab were to vanish?

  20. Avatar

    Amina

    March 16, 2019 at 1:08 AM

    I was brought up thinking hijab was good but optional.Before hijab our parents always emphasised modest loose clothing but just never forced the scarf. I never realised until my late twenties it was actually fard. Once I knew that I started wearing it which was a bit scary at first but have never wanted to remove it since. So when I hear about girls who know it’s fard but don’t want to wear it I don’t understand. I can only put it down to not fully realising the significance and only Allah can open your eyes to that. But I don’t think you should wait for that before wearing it. Example from home is a big factor. Its weird my mum always wore it going out but I never thought I should too it just seemed cultural. May Allah guide all our brothers and sisters, our children and parents, Ameen. But in regards to the tweets I think 5 is a bit young maybe from 7 should be uniform.

    • Avatar

      Ali

      July 10, 2019 at 6:50 PM

      Hijab is arab culture. Stop enforcing it on others.

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#Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

convert friendship hugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Rebuilding Self-Love  in the Face of Trauma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    rights of women in Islam

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

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

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

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

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

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

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

1. My bubble burst

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

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

2. Friendships were developed on good deeds

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

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

3. Made me thankful

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

dardir

4. People want to do Good

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

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

5. Smiles

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

6. It’s ok to cry

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

7. Learning to say no

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Dawah through action

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

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

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

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

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

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