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Should Spiritual Leaders Who Violate Our Trust Be Forgiven?

Some people want to move past the indiscretions of community leaders quickly as though they never occurred while others wish to permanently blacklist them. This article examines a third option between the two that can be a win-win for the fallen leader, the victims, and the community.

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In the past couple of years, a number of simmering scandals among spiritual leaders became public knowledge and the subject of vigorous and often painful public debate.  As someone who has worked in the community dawah space the past 15 years, often acting as a bridge between past and present microcelebrity as well as non-celeb teachers to the community at large, one question I’ve been asked repeatedly – should community leaders who violate our trust be forgiven?  I’m often asked by people who aren’t fanboys / fangirls taken by microcelebrity dawah culture or wearing spiritual blinders for non-celebs, and often don’t even understand what has occurred.  Below I share answers I have heard as well as what I believe is fair and pragmatic in many (not all) situations.

Answer #1:  Yes, We Must Forgive Them

One group of people argue we should completely forgive them. No one is perfect, everyone is human and makes mistakes.  If we assume the mistake was truly made, then we should also forgive them and move on. Our faith is replete with statements about Allah’s Mercy, and if we want His Mercy, surely we should also give it to others. Oftentimes, members who fall into this group don’t actually believe the person in question is at fault and are trying to convince others either on the fence or against the individual to let it go. Of course, there are some who believe the violation occurred and not think it a big deal, while others may think the violation indeed was a big deal, and should still be forgiven. I can agree with some aspects of this, but not completely.

Answer #2:  No, They Should Never Be Forgiven

Another group believes that once a person commits a violation of trust, they are no longer to be trusted again. They should leave their positions and be ostracized from the community permanently. They are to be tarred and feathered and made an example of for life.  Members within this group oftentimes don’t need to wait for evidence to arrive at any conclusion – they were judge, jury, and executioner well before there was a trial.  Not all members are like this, of course – some waited for evidence and then reached their conclusions that the gravity of the charges was too much and therefore the person should never be forgiven.

Answer #3:  It Depends – Forgive Them If They Take Ownership and Make Amends

In my view, the problem with the first group is they don’t often see that the person did anything wrong, or if they did, it’s trivial relative to the khayr, the good and benefit they bring to the community. They keep citing that Allah is forgiving, so we should forgive automatically, but in their haste, they forget that part of the process of making restitution is first sincerely regretting what one has done.

To sincerely regret, one must also move out of denial and into acceptance that they made a mistake. Once one admits failure, they can then ask to be forgiven, and then the aggrieved party is in a position to grant it. The community forgiving and re-integrating a person who refuses to take responsibility for their wrongdoing does neither them, their victims, nor the community any good. We continue to distrust the person and they continue to believe they can get away with whatever they wish because they are “special”. Victims fear community integration, everyone becomes cynical about religion, and the cause of calling people to become better worshippers of Allah is harmed.

On the flip side, the second group is far too extreme in their view of justice. To ostracize that person and leave them no path of return means they have no means to redeem themselves, and de facto their families are casualties who must deal with the fallout of being pushed out of the community. I agree that none of us are perfect, and we all often make egregious mistakes. In my own experience, there are many instances where activists who advocate publicly for better are often involved privately in worse than those they go after.

That being the case, there is no person that can’t be forgiven, and I would say we shouldn’t leave aside this possibility in our dealings with those who fail us just as we expect it when we ourselves fall short, sometimes seriously so. I would add that we would lose the skills and talent of that person – if we believe in allowing people with criminal histories back into the general population and providing them with opportunities to become productive, reformed citizens, I don’t see why we wouldn’t offer the same to our community and religious leaders.

The key I believe is in following a process which includes the following for the individual:

  1. Taking ResponsibilityThey own responsibility for the mistake and acknowledge it was made.  No amount of denial, minimization, and spin will suffice.
  2. Make Restitution:  First and foremost, they apologize and make amends as best they can with the victims.  If the issue went public, then they should apologize to those they were serving as a leader for their mistake as well. This includes handling financial compensation.
  3. Remediating Oneself:  Enroll in counseling, therapy, mentorship, and / or group support programs to help them overcome their issues.
  4. Being Held Accountable:  Work with others on concrete milestones of both behavior and programs that demonstrate their commitment to change.  Be able to show the community that they take reformation seriously and are committed to coming out of their mistake a better person, one who can even advise others of the mistake and how not to repeat it.

As someone who has worked in dawah and supported the ascension of numerous modern-day microcelebrity spiritual scholars and teachers, I and others like me act as a bridge between them and the community.  I do not speak for all of them, certainly, but I know that any leader who tries to re-integrate into the community without taking responsibility will continue to find that many will not support them. Most, in this case, feel a sacred duty to oppose their elephant-in-the-room integration to protect the community at large.

Likewise, I know that many like myself would be willing to overlook and forgive such individuals if they took responsibility for their behavior and demonstrated they were taking concrete steps to make amends for their mistakes.  The month of Ramadan is upon us, and sometimes one just has to rip the band-aid off, go through the process of feeling the pain of scrutiny for owning up, and then moving forward to forgiveness.  I won’t promise it’s easy or that everyone will change, but I can at least say many of us would have an easier time accepting individuals back into the community.

What’s your view on these situations?

Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abdullah

    May 15, 2019 at 11:59 PM

    It’s almost laughable to think that any of these community leaders who have been caught will EVER ask for forgiveness or do any of the things you seek in point #3. Except for being punished by a court of law, they will never make amends. Their fanboys, fangirls, and the power of social media have given them unprecedented power and made them feel untouchable which seems to be the case with vagrants like **** and *****. To top it off, you have shameless scholars also defending them because of some notion that to accuse misbehaving scholars of something is an attack on all scholars. They’ve convinced themselves that a rapist scholar is better than a lay victim, so we must defend the scholar at all costs. It’s pretty disgusting actually how similar some in our community have become to those who blindly defend Catholic preachers or even Trump…at all costs and without any shame. These misbehaving, miscreant leaders somehow have convinced themselves that their Islamic work puts them above the fray and above reproach. “Ive done so much for the ummah…who cares if I’ve dabbled a bit…my good deeds are much greater than that…I mean look at all my supporters defending me!” Allah give swift justice to the victims in this world or the next inshaAllah.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj Muhammad

      May 16, 2019 at 2:44 PM

      It may be the case that a sensible path that includes accountability and the potential to return in some cases where it can be accommodated are not considered. The goal of the article is to make the idea more public and help get the conversation moving in that direction, both for community leaders to consider and for violators to re-consider.

      • Avatar

        Dr S A H Khan

        August 22, 2019 at 7:30 AM

        Well said!

        Agree to the 4 steps–
        1.Taking Responsibility:
        2.Make Restitution: apologising publicly as per case.
        3.Remediating Oneself:
        4.Being Held Accountable: most important.

        Shaykhs and scholars have better insight of Islam and Law than common followers; so their wilful crime of violating trust is worthy of double punishment, if proven under the constitutional laws.
        After proper worldly punishment/fine/apology letter, if Shaykh shows remorse and is taking measures for not repeating offence, he may be gradually forgiven and rehabilitated into community for benefit of the person and the whole Ummah.

        Sometimes the mistake is from both sides between consenting mature adults like in case of adultery, affairs, indecent behaviour on social media.
        So approach needs to be balanced and fair.
        Always, Prevention is better and more palatable than cure!

        • Avatar

          Dr S A H Khan

          August 23, 2019 at 8:28 PM

          Muslim Matters is selective in approving comments.
          They seem to allow when it suits the narrative.
          Summary comment on abortion article was not allowed, though it was essential.
          As if they do not want an experienced perspective from a Medical specialist!
          Conflict of interest in realizing the Truth and in simplifying matters, which is the crux of Islam!
          Thanks.

        • Avatar

          Dr Sajid A H Khan

          August 24, 2019 at 12:53 PM

          By censoring constructive criticism against your Shaykh lost in theoritical seminary about Abortion in Islam; Muslim Matters has opted for mediocrity and hypocrisy for their publication.

          You dont genuinely wish to make things clear and simple for all common literate Muslims; you wish to play intellectual politics!

          Well, best of luck!

          Only Allah knows best!

          Shaykhs are NOT Prophets with innate wisdom from Allah , they are just pHD students of a faulty narrow-visioned educational system.

  2. Avatar

    Vugi

    May 16, 2019 at 12:40 AM

    What community leaders is this article referring to? Why has Muslimmatters become such a gossip hub for spreading rumors and innuendo about certain daees? Its ugly. If this is about NAK I was waiting to see any evidence of wrong from him but it never came from ppl accusing him and saying they investigated. Just questionable people who seem to have an agenda against him repeating the same line “he did something inappropriate.” What was it? And don’t tell me shirtless selfies cuz he could have sent them to his wife for all we know. I wasn’t a fan of NAK but after all the attacks against him, I start to wonder that he’s the victim in all this. Thankfully he seems to be doing just fine with the community and giving talks regularly hamdulellah.

  3. Avatar

    Yusuf

    May 16, 2019 at 12:47 AM

    All prophets had a dua. Our prophet used his for a people he never met. To plan for the future is a prophetic act. “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not” – Aragon

    Any influencer’s contribution to mankind should be destroyed or continued to touch mankind so they may benefit? Look at out time period, it is a content war, a war of ideas, attention, and distraction. We are fighting for a position in the hearts and minds of real people. Does what this person say bring people closer or further away from Allah?

    When your in prison you are part of a group. Gangs have groups, races have groups, and the muslims have a group. It does not matter that your Shia, Sunni, 5 Percenter, Druids, Ismaili, Quran only, or any variation that is even remotely related to Islam you are one group. You dont have time to squabble among yourselves when there are other factions that can harm you.

    Imagine 100 years has passed. If you were in charge would you burn all the books they wrote, block all the youtube content they created.

    Do we honestly think we have time for this? “This War of Five Kings means nothing. The true war lies to the north…. Death marches on the Wall” We have more tests coming. If any influencer is creating more content and bringing people to Allah are you really going to stand in their way and hinder a souls connection to Allah.

    And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj Muhammad

      May 16, 2019 at 2:59 PM

      Yes, because just as they are influencing people for good, they are also harming others and and harming the dawah by what is publicly known that they haven’t accounted for. The Prophet (SAW) told us if it were his own daughter Fatimah who committed a crime he would have to punish her, and none here is as good as she was – with justice, we don’t play favorites. When we take accountability for ourselves, we make sure that these types of violations can’t grow and become more ugly in scope.

      • Avatar

        Dr Sajid A H Khan

        August 22, 2019 at 7:15 AM

        Well said.
        Balanced moderation and delivering appropriate justice is the key in Islam!

  4. Avatar

    Fritz

    May 16, 2019 at 7:44 AM

    I would just think of it akin to an issue of professional mis-conduct. If a doctor/dentist/pharmacist makes mistakes or misbehaves there is a process of professional remediation to ensure that their standards are rectified and that they are ready to continue to practise.

    In the same way, Imams etc need some form of regulatory agency whereby issues can be resolved at least with a degree of transparency and the public trust in these leaders as professionals can continue.

    Community leaders can have family problems, financial issues and other chaos in their personal lives that can cause them to slip. They are are Imams but not prophets.

    Its unfair to write people off after one indiscretion, and again having a supportive framework can help ensure there are mechanisms to bring people back into the fold of acceptability. In many ways this would be a deterrent and also stop problems from escalating out of hand whereby we are left to try and sort these things out with the mob of social media observing in the background.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj Muhammad

      May 16, 2019 at 3:00 PM

      Agreed

    • Avatar

      Spirituality

      May 16, 2019 at 3:21 PM

      As Salamu Alaikum,

      I definitely agree with this idea, with the caveat that if the indiscretion is great enough, the Regulatory agency strips the Imam/Scholar of ‘their right to practice.’

      After all, this is what happens to doctors/dentists/pharmacists…some do lose their license…and in some cases, its this threat that may actually keep some of these professionals in line.

    • Avatar

      Dr S A H Khan

      August 22, 2019 at 7:33 AM

      Well said, Fritz.

  5. Zeba Khan

    Zeba Khan

    May 16, 2019 at 1:23 PM

    Excellent write up, and I love how you cite the mentality behind the first two options. People often demand forgiveness without accepting guilt, or therefore justice. People often demand a public lynching, without suggestion for due process or the possibility of justice and perhaps even rehabilitation.

    The third option is critical, because forgiveness AND justice, personality accountability AND community welfare are all part of our faith. We can’t just pick an option that runs with one to the exclusion of others. Thank you for expanding upon that.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj Muhammad

      May 16, 2019 at 3:01 PM

      Thanks, I think we’re getting to a point where the dialogue is too polarized and the ability to see win-win third alternatives is becoming a lost art.

  6. Avatar

    Spirituality

    May 16, 2019 at 3:39 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I definitely think this article is in the right direction. A balance of due process is needed as well as justice.

    My issue is that steps 1 and 2 in the process: taking responsibility and making restitution – are rather vague.

    During the Prophet’s time, proven indiscretions by the Sahabah were punished harshly and often publicly. Often, these Sahabah, wracked by guilt, even requested the punishment from the Prophet (s). After the punishment, these Sahabah (if they were still alive) were able to completely re-integrate into society.

    So, its not as simple as saying “I was wrong, I’m sorry” and then paying the victim some money.

    Perhaps its because we don’t have the threats of harsh punishments as a deterrent in our Muslim society that some Scholars/Imams/Activists – and others – 1. actually fall astray and 2. may not truly repent afterwards.

    I used to be those wondering about the hudud punishments in Islam, but, after reading articles by Dr. Jonathan Brown, as well as reflecting on incidents like this, am now seeing the wisdom of Allah’s laws.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj Muhammad

      May 16, 2019 at 4:04 PM

      Taking responsibility here means owning that one has indeed committed the fault they are accused of. There are some who refuse to acknowledge what they’ve done evern after having been investigated.

      As for public punishment, I think in the west that is beyond the scope of any individual or organization. At best, they can boycott the individual and warn others to stay away. In addition, many violations are not hudud-worthy, and if they were, require both the legal apparatus to enforce the evidentiary requirements to prosecute in that direction. These don’t seem practical options.

      • Avatar

        Spirituality

        May 17, 2019 at 9:08 PM

        As Salamu Alaikum,

        I agree that currently in the west, applying hudood punishment is not feasible at this point.

        I suppose the best alternative is what Fritz mentioned; having a regulatory body that has the power to revoke the right of practice. This information should be publicly available (for instance you can look up a physician to see if he has any board sanctions, lawsuits, etc).

  7. Avatar

    Basil

    May 30, 2019 at 1:52 AM

    Salaams,

    I think one needs to clarify what is meant by violating the trust of the community. As Vugi pointed out, vague statements and innuendos do not suffice.

    • Avatar

      Ilahi Bakhsh

      June 24, 2019 at 4:08 PM

      You can blame the mentor of mentors Omer Mozaffar for the vague accusations.

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#Current Affairs

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

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Arian mentions that,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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#Life

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

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

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

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

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

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

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

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use illustrated books and field trips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possibly, your own.

Why would you tell me?

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

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

You were always there for me.

“I GOT A QUESTION” sent at 2 AM.

“Sure” was your response.

We spoke for over 40 min.

That night.

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

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

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

That message you wrote- you knew me so well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He introduced us to each other.

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

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

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

That message wrote:

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

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

This is just my story featuring Mufti Umer Ismail.

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

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

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

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

Godspeed, my dear brother. Godspeed.

Azhar Subedar

imamAzhar.com

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