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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

Ahmed Shaikh is a Southern California Attorney. He writes about inheritance, nonprofits and other legal issues affecting Muslims in the United States. His Islamic Inheritance website is www.islamicinheritance.com

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Spirituality

    June 10, 2019 at 2:27 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    Jazak Allahu Khayran for this very necessary article.

    Do you have any organizations that you recommend for zakat payment? What about Islamic Relief USA, Helping Hands for Relief and Development, Zakat Foundation of America?

    Many of these organizations have a mission of working with the poor, and also, allow one to designate their payment as ‘Zakat.’

    • Avatar

      Osman Umarji

      June 11, 2019 at 12:55 PM

      My advice is to seek to out an organization that gives 100% of zakat proceeds to the poor in your locality or greater region. Ask a respected scholar for specific recommendations in your area.

      • Avatar

        Spirituality

        June 11, 2019 at 2:20 PM

        Jazak Allahu Khayran for your response!

        Unfortunately, as you mention, ‘respected scholars’ do not seem to be trustworthy regarding this issue…

        If anyone knows of any respected institutions in the Baltimore/Washington area that gives 100% of the zakat proceeds to the poor, please let me know!

        • Avatar

          Ahmed Shaikh

          June 11, 2019 at 6:38 PM

          You are right. Even terms like “Scholars” in the US Muslim community are questionable and up for grabs. There is no uniform criteria for what is “respected” (and by whom). So it comes down to who you respect and why. Like Zakat organizations, there is no accrediting body for Shuyukh, Imams and such, no disciplinary process, no codes of conduct and no minimum level of qualifications. I point this out only because often we use scholars as a crutch, we go by endorsements of charismatics to substitute for our own judgment. It would be great if there were accredited Zakat distributors who followed uniform, strict audited standards.

          Some local communities have brothers and sisters that work hard though to distribute Zakat to the poor and needy. Shuyukh will not audit them, that is not what they do. Any endorsements they get are usually in the “he is a good brother” genre. I have seen Shuyukh endorse organizations, products, and services they know next to nothing about. You should do your own due diligence. You can of course also distribute Zakat yourself to the poor and needy that may be among your own family or friends, or of people that you know and trust to do this. You can also look to an organization with a master strategy on accomplishing something big with their Zakat distributions. There are large Muslim organizations that take their role as Zakat distributors seriously and want to do it with ehsan (though they do it using their own standards and not uniform standards, which don’t exist). You should make sure where you donate meets the criteria for the kind of impact you want. It would be too easy for me to say “donate to charity X.” I won’t do that. For your research, I would suggest looking at the following:

          1) Does the charity publish Zakat distribution policies?
          2) Does it claim everything it does is Zakat eligible? If so, stay away (though feel free to read and comment on their website (I’m looking at you, MuslimMatters).
          3) Does the charity have a policy on segregating Zakat funds?
          4) Does the charity have a policy of not using Zakat funds for overhead? This is not a deal killer, it may be part of having a sustainable operation and Allah expressly permits it in the Quran. But if there is an endowment that pays for overhead or if it is a small, well-run volunteer operation, bonus points.
          5) Are there independently-audited financial reports? If they do, read it or have it read by a trusted friend who likes reading these things.
          6) Read the organization’s 990, is something out of whack? Note Masajid almost never have 990s since they are not required to file them, but they should make their financials available if you are going to donate to them.
          7) Does the charity use Zakat funds only to benefit the poor and needy (that may include services)? Yes, there are other legitimate criteria, but so long as people are starving or have no access to water that won’t make them sick, c’mon.

          • Avatar

            Tariq al-Timimi

            June 12, 2019 at 6:41 AM

            Totally agree with you. It’s refreshing to see these issues being addressed frankly, and, with respect to your point about about “scholars” (whatever that means today–as you mention) endorsing causes and charities that they have no idea about, this displays a lack of ethical practice on their part: that endorsement is, in fact, a shahada – one that they will most certainly be asked about. It devalues the entire exercise.

          • Avatar

            Spirituality

            June 12, 2019 at 1:05 PM

            Jazak Allahu Khayran for your very comprehensive response and guidance. It will help my process of searching for an organization to give my zakat to, Insha Allah!

        • Avatar

          Ramy

          June 23, 2019 at 7:58 AM

          In response to the question about a local organization in the Bal-DMV area that gives strictly to the poor: see the Islamic American Zakat Foundation (IAZF) headed by Dr Imad ad-Dean Ahmad.
          https://www.iazf.org/

          IAZF sticks to the 8 categories of zakat, and can diligently provide it’s records if asked.

      • Avatar

        Imran

        June 17, 2019 at 3:03 PM

        Just an issue I’ve been grappling with re the “locality” clause. I am conflicted between giving zakat that will literally save the lives of poor Muslims in Africa or Yemen or Myanmar via digging wells, food staples, medical aid, etc. on the one hand, and say, cancelling some student debt for a local student in Laguna Beach, CA who has decided to obtain their Masters or PhD in Gender Studies or Psychology at USC for $75,000 a year on the other.
        In considering local preference, is there or shouldn’t there be some antecendent presumption that absolute living standards for those in “poverty” be roughly equal?

        • Avatar

          Osman Umarji

          June 17, 2019 at 11:28 PM

          There are numerous considerations regarding local vs global zakat giving that will inshaAllah be the subject of a future article. However, I will say that student loan debt, especially for graduate school, absolutely does not qualify for zakat. The category of people in debt is not a free for all who take loans for non-essential things like higher education, mortgages, cars, etc.

          In short, give your zakat to a local organization you trust. If you really want to give globally, give some of your zakat to a global cause through an organization that gives 100% of the proceeds to the needy.

          • Avatar

            Imran

            June 18, 2019 at 11:46 AM

            JazakAllah khair Sh. Osman, looking forward to the article. It is timely because literally last week at Jumah the khateeb advocated cancelling college student debt with Zakat instead of sending it abroad. It would be interesting to address what “local” means in our modern technology-driven times versus in the Prophet’s (saws) time.

  2. Avatar

    Abdallah Jadallah

    June 10, 2019 at 9:56 PM

    Great article!! This has been on my mind for a long time.

  3. Avatar

    Tariq al-Timimi

    June 11, 2019 at 5:46 AM

    I never comment, but here I must: thank you for this piece, that tackles several of the frustrations I have recently had with this very hazy, loose take on zakah.

    The only thing I would highlight though is that, in terms of da’wah and jihad, many jurists (eminent Hanafi ones in particular) recognised their relationships as congruent: that is to say, jihad is da’wah by other means (to take a leaf out of Von Clausewitz), and vice versa.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      June 11, 2019 at 5:54 PM

      Jazakallahu Khair. What do you think about using Zakat funds to pay for a TV series about the Sahabah? Say it is intended for dawa?

      • Avatar

        Tariq al-Timimi

        June 12, 2019 at 11:04 AM

        Thank you for your question and engagement. The question is difficult to answer, and before I do, I’d like to provide some pointers:

        – zakah is a ‘ibada and a pillar; it has vertical-horizontal dimensions (that is to say it is a haqq towards Allah, and towards the people – all people that is, including non-Muslims); it is reasonable for the most part (viz. we can understand its aims and purposes); and Allah has set out fairly explicitly the categories whom are eligible (which is contra the Qur’anic norm – an important point here in fact, but it’s one too long to go into here at length).

        The question then becomes: what exactly is the purpose of this TV series about the Sahabah? And – crucially – under which of the eight categories may it be subsumed? They’ll argue that it falls under fi sabil illah (small letters to distinguish it from Fi Sabil Illah – a little more on that in a moment).

        This would bring us back full-circle to asking: what is the ambit (the ‘bandwidth’) of this category. Here there are three positions essentially:

        [1] the historical, classical meaning, that itrefers to qital (definitely the stronger case, IMO – for numerous reasons that would take too long to go into);

        [2] a minority modern take, the linguistic meaning: anything done for Allah’s sake), but this is sorely lacking for many reasons – again going into it would warrant a lengthy essay, but I will raise two important points here:

        i) even those who adopt this expansive definition, they will limit its scope (anyone reading their works on this will pick up on it immediately): they explicitly state that the purpose of fi sabil illah is to establish God’s rule on earth or that which upkeeps the existence of the religion and the masses (which is what Rashid Rida says, although it went without mention!), or to ‘revive an Islamic life in all spheres’. I’ll leave it to your mind to determine how this can be seen as violating all sorts of terrorism legislation in the West (something that, alarmingly, many charities and ‘scholars’ seem oblivious too when discussing this issue).

        ii) That even if one were to accept that fi sabil illah can be used for anything that is in the wide interests of the people, we have to seriously contend with what a widespread interest here is (maslaha ‘amma) – and, furthermore, and I always recall here something al-‘Uthaymin said regarding this: that even if one were convinced that it may be used for all purposes that serve the din, I would still refuse to give a fatwa in accordance with this (because of the huge possibilities for abuse – something you alluded to in your piece and comments).

        [3] Finally we have the centrist position (which takes some slight semantical gymnastics, but we don’t need to get into that), which is to say that it IS indeed for jihad – but jihad is not qital. Here they argue that since jihad is a means, and not an end in itself, we need to ask: for what purpose was jihad legislated (they will say: to defend the din, to spread the din, and to protect life and wealth). On that basis they say that whatever fulfils those functions may be subsumed fsa. (They have other arguments too, by no means at all is this comprehensive).There are many holes in this case, however, not least is the question of indeterminacy: who is to say that this fulfils or doesn’t fulfil the purpose of fsa? Again, I raise the point I did above about the implication here with issues to do with counter-terrorism legislation. If your intention (explicit or inferred) is that it is fi sabil illah – and you accept, as they often unwittingly do, that fsa = jihad in it’s broadest remit – then you are, essentially fundraising for terrorism (even if all you’ve done is collect money for a school or orphans).

        If we go back to our point earlier however regarding zakah: if it is ma’qul al-ma’na (reasonable), then what if someone were to argue that taxes paid to our governments are tantamount to zakah (and fulfil the purposes of zakah, not all of which have to be ‘activated’ at all times)? The concern I have here really is that this very important point seems to go totally unaddressed, even though, it was entertained and discussed in the classical sources and in more recent times.

        They will say: no, it is a ‘ibada and therefore requires a specific intention. We say, let’s accept this (there is a different take as to the type of intention required, one that is more consistent with the aforementioned point): fine, give that money with the intention of zakah (in fact, my understanding is that some mechanisms of this sort are already in place in some countries) – again this opinion is there in the sources.

        They will say: but zakah is for a particular categories and purposes! We say: but you’ve already widened those to encompass pretty much anything!

        Going back to your question then, what we require – casting aside all the points of concern I raise above (and I have many others too) – are a set of constraints and limitations (if we go with fsa centrist position). Since we have no authority to tell us (or do we? Fiqh Councils? The law of the land?): this is valid and this is an invalid cause, we are left, for our own purposes with having to devise a set of parameters enshrined in the texts. Some of these may be:

        1) (The question of alternatives):

        Do we have other good, successful series on the sahabah? Yes.

        2) (The question of needs):

        Is there a need for another one? IMO: No.

        3) (The question of proportionality):

        Is this an issue that is core/central and must be addressed? IMO: No. Even if one has disparaging opinions regarding the companions, there are still more fundamental concerns and issues to deal with. Besides, one really must ask themselves to what extent raising issues about the disputes among the companions, the battles and whatever else could serve the da’wah and religion in the current climate.

        4) (The question of public interest)

        Is this an issue effecting the masses of people, or even the masses of Muslims? Is it a harmful phenomenon for humankind? IMO: No, not at all. Most people aren’t occupied with these issues at all, I’d argue.

        Therefore in order to determine (without an authority) whether something falls within the rubric of fsa: is it needed? ii) proportionate. iii) public interest. iv) alternatives.

        Perhaps a final point worth noting/repeating: most of the fatawa and opinions permitting zakah for the purposes of the expansive fsa, appear to invariably mention the existence of legitimate authorities/a recognised collective of Muslims (a jama’ah, most often one engaged in FSA proper). There’s a huge elephant in the room, therefore, and one that I never see raised, as to what extent these charities are entitled to collect and administer zakah in the first place. In fact, upon surveying an anthology of such opinions regarding expansive fsa, one would quickly come to realise that they generally mention them in the context of ‘widespread public interests of the Muslims’ or in the context of a fatwa given to a government – in other words, not charities, and not for all these spurious causes, with all due respect to the intentions of those behind them.

        Anyway, these are really little more than a few of the issues that have been on my mind lately, and I am very tempted to raise a bundle of others, but this is way too long as it is. Bottom line my respected brother Ahmed is: if I were asked, my answer would be a firm no, but they’re welcome to other sources of revenue (again with a string of conditions attached). Wallahu a’lam.

  4. Avatar

    DI

    June 11, 2019 at 10:55 AM

    THANK YOU!

    Yet another example of Frankenstein Islam of the West that is totally out of touch with Islam of the ummah. Our community is better at creating thieves and greed than it is genuine concern for the fuqara. Islam is becoming much like affluent Christianity and affluent Judaism in the West.

    Our ulema are to blame too for creating the ‘its okay to be rich’ attitude and encouraging a prosperity gospel Islam. Endless fundraising without accountability has become a sect in itself.

    di.

  5. Avatar

    Ahmad

    June 12, 2019 at 12:27 PM

    Mashallah excellent article. There is an organisation in the UK which campaigns for local distribution and as of last year has started to donate funds to community and leadership development type funds.
    From the looks of it a lot charities do not adequately differentiate between zakat and sadaqah, and those that do sometimes take lax opinions.
    This is in particular to fee sabeel illah and paying people from zakat money.

    I have no problem with a charity saying ‘ to administrate your donation of £x we will place a charge of y%’ and that y% to be spent as sadaqah.

    For those in the uk i contacted UWT and was satisfied with their criteria of transferring wealth to the poor (please can brothers/sisters verify this statement is accurate at the time of donating)

    • Avatar

      Spirituality

      June 12, 2019 at 1:03 PM

      “I have no problem with a charity saying ‘ to administrate your donation of £x we will place a charge of y%’ and that y% to be spent as sadaqah.”

      As Salamu Alaikum, I completely agree. This seems to be a win-win situation…

  6. Avatar

    Imran

    June 17, 2019 at 2:49 PM

    Shukran for an essential article. Agree with you 100%.

  7. Avatar

    muslims life

    July 12, 2019 at 5:43 AM

    My advice is to seek to out an organization that gives 100% of zakat proceeds to the poor in your locality or greater region. Ask a respected scholar for specific recommendations in your area.

  8. Avatar

    Donate Your Zakat

    July 23, 2019 at 6:41 AM

    Mashallah amazing article. There is an association in the UK which battles for nearby conveyance and starting a year ago has begun to give assets to network and initiative improvement type reserves.

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#Islam

14 Short Life Lessons From Studying Aqidah

Lessons I learned Studying Theology (Aqidah) with a Local Islamic Scholar in Jordan

Hamzah Raza

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I sit here in the Jordanian heat, with a kufi on and prayer beads in my hand. I watch as young kids play soccer with their kufis and kurtas on in the streets. They go on and on until the Adhan interrupts their game. I think of how different the kids back home in the United States are. Due to the rules for living in this quaint Jordanian neighborhood, the kids are not allowed to play video games, use social media, or watch television. This is the Kharabsheh neighborhood on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

I have spent the past two months living in this community. It is a community so similar to, yet so different from any community I have ever lived in. In many ways, it is just like any other community. People joke around with one another, invite people over for dinner, have jobs, go to the gym, and do other pervasive events of everyday life. But in many other respects, the community is different from most in the world today. Many of those living here are disciples (mureeds) in the Shadhili Sufi order. Sufism has faced a bad reputation in many parts of the world today. The stereotype is that Sufis are either not firm in their commitment to religious law (Sharia), or lax in their understanding of Islamic theology (aqidah). Far from the stereotype, I have never met any people in my life more committed to the Sharia. Nor have I ever met people so committed to staying true to Islamic orthodoxy. Just in seemingly mundanes conversations here in Kharabsheh, I find myself learning a plethora of life lessons, whether that be in regard to Islamic jurisprudence, the ontology of God, or the process of purifying one’s heart.

I have compiled a list of a few lessons I learned in studying an elementary aqidah (theology) text with a disciple of Shaykh Nuh, who is a scholar of theology and jurisprudence in himself. Without further adieu, here are some of the lessons I learned.

1) If you want to know the character of a man, ask his wife. People may think someone is great, but his wife will tell you how he actually is. One of the greatest proofs of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he had 11 wives over his lifespan and they all died upon Imaan (faith).

2) Humans are never static. We are always incrementally changing. No one changes in anything overnight. People are either gradually getting better, or gradually getting worse. Every day, you should sure that you are always improving. Do not get worse. If you only pray your Fard(mandatory) prayers, start to pray Sunnah(recommended prayers). If you are already praying your Sunnah prayers, improve the quality of your prayer or pray nafl (optional prayers).

3) Hope in the Mercy of God, and fear of His Justice, are two wings that we need to balance. If one has too much hope, they will become complacent and think they can refuse to follow God’s rules, and do whatever they want, because God is Merciful. If one has too much fear, they will give up. They will inevitably sin (as all humans do), and lose all motivation to better themselves.

4) The believer has great hope in the Mercy of God, while also great fear in His Justice. It is an understanding of “If everyone were to enter Heaven except for one person, I would think that person is me. And if everyone were to enter Hell except for one person, I would think that person is me.”

5) Whether we do something good or bad, we turn to God. If we do something good, we thank God (i.e. say Alhamdulillah). If we do something wrong, we turn back to God(i.e. say Astagfirullah and/or make tawbah).

6) Everyone should have a healthy skepticism of their sincerity. Aisha (May God be pleased with her) said: “Only a hypocrite does not believe that they are a hypocrite.”

7) You are fighting a constant war of attrition with your carnal desires. Your soul (ruh) and lower self (nafs) battle it out until one party stops fighting. Either your soul gives up and lets your carnal desires overtake you, or your carnal desires cease to exist (i.e. when your physical body dies). Wage war on your carnal desires for as long as you live.

life lessons, aqidah

8) The sign of guidance is being self-aware, constantly reflecting and taking oneself to task. The evidence of this is repenting, and thinking well of others. If we find ourselves making excuses for our actions, refusing to repent for sins, or thinking badly of others, we need to change that.

9) The issue with religious people is that they are often tribalistic and exclusivist. The issue with secular people is that they often have no clear meaning in life, and are ignorant of what lies beyond our inevitable death. One should be able to cultivate this meaning without being tribalistic or arrogant towards others, who have not yet been given guidance.

10) There are philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. But it is ultimately something that is best understood spiritually. An easy first step is to understand the actions of others as predetermined while understanding your response as acts of free will. This prevents one from getting too angry at what others do to them.

11) Always think the best of the beliefs of other Muslims. Do not be in a rush to condemn people as heretics or kuffar. Make excuses for people, and appreciate the wisdom and experiences behind those who may be seemingly strange in their understanding of things.

12) Oftentimes, people get obsessed with the problems of society and ignore the need to change themselves. We are not political quietists. But we recognize that if you want to turn society around, the first step is to turn yourself around.

13) Do not slam other individuals’ religious beliefs. It leads to arrogance and just makes them more defensive. If you are discussing theology with non-Muslims, be kind to them, even if pointing out flaws in their beliefs. People are more attracted to Islam through people of exemplary character than they are through charismatic debaters or academics that can tear them apart. As my teacher put it rather bluntly, “Don’t slam Christians on the Trinity. No one can actually explain it anyways.”

14) In the early period of Islam, worshipping God with perfection was the default. Then people strayed away and there was a need to coin this term called “Sufism.” All it means is to have Ihsan (perfection or beauty) in the way you worship God, and in the way you conduct each and every part of your life.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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Kaaba

Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Host an open house

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

Expand your circle

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

Delegate

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

Squeeze in

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

Outsource Eid Fun

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

Flock together

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

Give gifts

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

Get out of your comfort zone

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

Try, try, try again…

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

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

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