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Unsolicited: Online Sexual Harassment Poisons Social Media For Sisters In Faith

The vast majority of Muslim men will be horrified by these stories and recognize how inappropriate and un-Islamic it is to contact any woman in a manner that is offensive or vulgar.

Laura El Alam

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Muslim woman on laptop sexual harassment
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By Laura El Alam

When Grace* started posting inspirational videos and articles on her public Facebook page, her intention was to reach a non-Muslim audience and show them the beauty of Islam.  After all, as a former agnostic who had considered organized religions “distasteful,” she could understand the mindset of many fellow Americans who were suspicious of – or misinformed about- Islam.  In her posts, Grace shared the story of her conversion to Islam, highlighted lessons from the Qur’an, talked about the pillars of faith, and generally tried to make Islam more accessible and comprehensible to non-Muslims.  While potentially thousands of non-Muslims benefited from her educational material, her noble efforts were derailed by an unlikely source: Muslim men. 

In public comments and private messages, Grace found herself receiving a surprising amount of unsolicited flirting, sexual comments and images, and even threats.  “All of this made me realize I couldn’t reach my target audience on social media,” explains Grace. “Nearly all the followers I was getting were Muslim men! I have 3,000 likes, and most are Muslim men. My target audience was non-Muslims, but Muslim men sabotaged my efforts and embarrassed me publicly through comments. It was frustrating and disheartening.” 

Perhaps she might have ignored and blocked the annoying messages and persevered in her mission, but one man took his online assault to another level.  He began stalking Grace (who blocked him), then her husband (who also blocked him), and finally her parents (who were shocked and terrified). Through online messages to all of those people, he called Grace vile names, sent explicit photos, and unleashed words that were both angry and sexual. It caused Grace and her entire family an enormous amount of stress and anger.  “My parents were so shaken up that once they found mysterious cigarette butts behind their house and they truly thought the guy had come to their house and was outside it at night smoking cigarettes.”

After the ordeal, Grace’s husband stopped supporting her online dawah efforts. “My husband didn’t like me being a public presence,” she said. “He asked me to stop making videos because he felt it was soliciting unwanted attention. He clearly put the onus on me. He didn’t shame me or anything overt, but in his mind, my face being in the public was the obvious reason I was receiving unwanted and inappropriate attention and contact.”

Some people might think that Grace’s example is an extreme one. Surely not every Muslimah who has a social media presence experiences such offensive treatment from Muslim men or people pretending to be Muslim men?

Unfortunately, the phenomenon is extremely common. Umm Ibrahim of the United Kingdom is another example of a Muslimah who found online sexual harassment in an unlikely place:  an Islamic website.  “I’ve seen messages of a highly sexual nature sent to an Islamic page which I help admin,” she reports.  “A few times I have encountered men posing as women in order to have chats of a sensitive nature with other women. They will pose as a woman having marital problems and will ask to have a chat via Messenger. Usually, this chat will ask for advice regarding intimacy.”

In addition to being an administrator of a website, Umm Ibrahim is also a writer. “If I have been involved in an online discussion or if I have had an article published, I can anticipate an increase in messages,” she says.   “Discovering the spam folder on Facebook Messenger was somewhat of a revelation. I had dozens of messages from Muslim men asking to chat, asking if I was married, and asking if I was interested in getting married. I also get a lot of friend requests from men. They are always Muslim men, based on name and location.”

Professional writer Ameera* shares a similar story.  “I never used to receive unsolicited messages from Muslim men until I started having articles published on Islamic websites,” she says.  “Suddenly, shortly after my first article was published, my inbox was full of men wanting to ‘discuss Islam with me,’ ‘ask me a few questions,’ or compliment me on my hijab.  Unfortunately, it didn’t stop at flirtation. Once I opened a pending message that I thought was from a local Facebook buy and sell group, but this one particular message turned out to be a pornographic video sent by a man in Egypt, whose FB profile picture had words from the Qur’an! I closed and deleted the message immediately and blocked the man, but the disgusting image is seared in my brain.  I felt — and still, feel — violated.”

“I have received unwanted flirting and a lot of sexual innuendo from men I don’t even know,” confides Salama,* a 20-year-old graduate student in the United States. “I received messages from one person, specifically talking about how he wanted to have sex with me. Granted I didn’t even have any [profile] pics. He was a complete stranger. It was completely unwarranted. I cannot think of a particular reason for why I was targeted,” she adds. “I do know that he asked a simple question on a Muslim forum, and I answered it. I guess that’s when he decided it was okay to privately message me.” 

These anecdotes might seem like an indictment of Muslim men in general; however, I believe that those individuals who harass women online constitute a tiny minority of Muslim men. The vast majority of Muslim men will be horrified by these stories and recognize how inappropriate and un-Islamic it is to contact any woman in a manner that is offensive or vulgar.

Online sexual harassment is certainly not unique to the Muslim community. It is a global problem with women, universally, experiencing sexualized forms of abuse at much higher rates than men. According to a 2017 Online Harassment study by the Pew Research Center, “Some 21% of women ages 18 to 29 report being sexually harassed online, a figure that is more than double the share among men in the same age group (9%). In addition, roughly half (53%) of young women ages 18 to 29 say that someone has sent them explicit images they did not ask for.”

Muslims, whose religion’s main characteristic is modesty, should be completely disassociated with any form of depravity, online or in face-to-face interactions.  Such behavior is antithetical to our core beliefs, so it was with confusion and disappointment that I embarked upon this necessary but unpleasant exposé. 

Unfortunately, there are many brothers who, while condemning online harassment per se, still manage to place the blame anywhere but on their fellow men.  They are quick to assume that the woman in question has provoked the harassment in some way. When Muslim women speak up about being abused online, the primary response they receive is, “If you don’t want comments and messages from men, then don’t show your face online.”

This thinking is unfair for several reasons. First of all, even women who do not show their faces on social media still sometimes experience unsolicited and unwanted contact. As Salama points out, “It has been proven many times, that regardless of what a woman does, some men are just predatory and will use whatever opportunity they have to try to prey on her. Covered women get harassed. Women who haven’t posted profile pics have been harassed. Uncovered women get harassed. Women from all over the world have been harassed.”

Many Muslima women — including some of the world’s most esteemed female Islamic lecturers and scholars — choose to show their face on their website, videos, and promotional brochures. They may have various reasons for doing this — Allah knows best — but it is very likely that they use their image on marketing materials or websites for the same reason that many professional men do: consumers trust a product (lecture, book, article, blog, program) more if there is a human face associated with it. People want to see who is behind the words and ideas, and this is why most flyers for Islamic lectures show pictures of the speakers, and why most articles, blogs, and books show photographs of the authors. For Muslim women, showing one’s face online is hardly ever about seduction, temptation, or loose morals. After all, it is the same face we are revealing when we walk down a public street. 

Finally, there are many women who choose to show their faces online simply because they believe they should have as much of a right to feel safe and respected in the virtual world as they do in the real world. 

Of course, as Muslims, the responsibility is on each of us to obey our Creator’s guidelines.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded women to be modest, but He has commanded the same of men. A man who is tempted by a woman’s photograph — whether or not she is dressed according to Islamic mandates — should lower his gaze. If he purposely keeps looking — and more so if he takes inappropriate action — the sin is upon him. 

In one hadith from Al-Bukhari, we learn that the Prophet was traveling with a Companion named Al-Fadl, who was a handsome youth.  A young woman from the tribe of Khath’am approached, and Al-Fadl started looking at her because her beauty attracted him. The Prophet caught al-Fadl’s chin and turned his face so that he would stop gazing at her.

It is noteworthy that the Prophet did not scold the woman for showing her face in public, nor for being too attractive. With his impeccable manners, he wordlessly and gently instructed Al-Fadl on the correct action to take when tempted by a woman’s beauty. The onus for modesty was on Al-Fadl, not the woman from Khath’am, who had approached to ask the Prophet a question.  

As Grace explains, “Men should be held responsible for their actions and be recognized as creatures capable of self-control and morality. Women have a right to exist online as they do in the real world.  What’s shameful is that Muslim men still don’t follow the advice of the Prophet Muhammad when it comes to how they view and treat women. Women never deserve to be treated [as] objects or be blamed for the actions, feelings, or frailty of men’s character.” 

She concludes, “The idea that a woman speaking about Islam is an invitation for flirting, sexual innuendos, or stalking is so wrong I don’t even know how to describe it.”

This article, I am sure, will not solve the problem of online sexual harassment of Muslim women.  It will likely not be read by the men who engage in such behaviors, and I do realize that if they have the audacity to defy their Creator, they are certainly not going to listen to me.  However, I do hope that readers will take away a few key points:

  1.  If you are tempted to blame a woman for being harassed online, think deeply about who is really at fault.  Is there any justification for sending porn, threats, or inappropriate messages to a woman?  If you truly care about the safety and morality of Muslim women, you will call out the men who are behind the harassment and do whatever you can to educate yourself and others and/or oppose the behavior when you see it.
  2. If you have young Muslim women in your life, do not assume that they will not encounter inappropriate material or receive unsolicited communications just because they primarily visit Islamic websites.  In fact, these sites seem to be a breeding ground for Muslim perverts. Teach youngsters not to open filtered or suspicious messages and not to trust strangers online, even if they appear to be their brothers in faith.
  3. If you are a convert to Islam, be especially wary of any messages you receive from unknown Muslim men. It is best to delete and block without opening them. Know that some men prey on converts in particular. Be aware that a sincere Muslim would never send sexually suggestive images or messages to a stranger, and one who does will not be a suitable husband for you. 
  4. If you are a Muslim woman who is considering having an online presence for the purpose of dawah,  be aware that online sexual harassment is a likely occupational hazard. Set strict privacy filters whenever possible, avoid opening messages from unknown people, and be prepared to block, delete, and unfriend, unapologetically.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Laith Althary

    October 3, 2019 at 8:08 AM

    i think that is inapropriate by some muslim men.

    what sisters have to do in my own view, not to use videos,look upon the kind of dress,voiceless and write no men is allowed. i understand it is hard to escape from these kind of goats in the social media, but most of all keep on asking Allaah to protects you from all evil.

    may Allaah protects all.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 3, 2019 at 11:57 AM

      Asalaamu alaykum. Based on your comments, it sounds like you believe that Muslim women should not use their voices or videos on social media. As I said in the article, I find it interesting that so many Muslim men put the responsibility squarely on women to limit themselves in ways that Islam does not even command. While there are definitely standards of “haya” or modesty that ALL Muslims, male and female, are required to observe, there is no ruling against a woman speaking in a mixed audience or videotaping herself in an appropriate way. What is wrong with a Muslim woman giving a lecture online, for instance?

  2. Avatar

    Mustafa

    October 3, 2019 at 8:47 AM

    “Many Muslimas — including some of the world’s most esteemed female Islamic lecturers and scholars — choose to show their face on their website, videos, and promotional brochures. They may have various reasons for doing this — Allah knows best — but it is very likely that they use their image on marketing materials or websites for the same reason that many professional men do: consumers trust a product (lecture, book, article, blog, program) more if there is a human face associated with it. People want to see who is behind the words and ideas, and this is why most flyers for Islamic lectures show pictures of the speakers, and why most articles, blogs, and books show photographs of the authors. For Muslim women, showing one’s face online is hardly ever about seduction, temptation, or loose morals. After all, it is the same face we are revealing when we walk down a public street. ”

    This is pretty far fetched. Why is it so often the promotional ads show Muslim women relative to Muslim men? The answer seems pretty obvious.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 3, 2019 at 11:58 AM

      Asalaamu alaykum. Can you please explain what part of that paragraph you find “far fetched?”

      • Avatar

        Mustafa

        October 3, 2019 at 12:49 PM

        There’s an obvious trend or whatever you want to call it of putting a young women on promotional material. Obviously different if she happens to be the one actually doing the teaching but how often is that the case? It doesn’t help to be delusional about it. A pretty young woman’s face even in hijab sells, and Islamic education in the west is basically a business. Businesses know what they’re doing.

        • Avatar

          Laura El Alam

          October 3, 2019 at 1:43 PM

          Brother, with all due respect, your comment applies to a different topic. My article is not about whether Muslim women are being used to sell or promote merchandise. It’s about Muslim women who use social media to give dawah, publish Islamic articles, give Islamic lectures, or comment on Islamic pages. Many of those women have received unsolicited and inappropriate contact from Muslim men. Some have been threatened, harassed, and sent pornographic images that they certainly did not ask for. I am trying to raise awareness of this particular problem.

          Perhaps you could write an article supporting your opinion. I don’t disagree that women — including Muslim women who wear hijab — are often objectified in order to sell things. But there is a difference between a woman choosing to show a photo of herself in which she is dressed in a way she considers modest and in accordance with Islam, and a woman having her image used without her consent to sell a product she doesn’t even endorse. One of my main points is that Muslim women– including those who choose to use their photo online –do not deserve to be harassed. I wish the emphasis could go back on the men who are doing the harassing, instead of the women who are being harassed.

          • Avatar

            Mustafa

            October 3, 2019 at 2:05 PM

            We live in the most oversexualized culture in the history of human cultures, ever. There is no accountability online, not really. Not only that, marriage for a myriad of reasons (one of them being bad men/husbands) is possibly more difficult then it ever has been in the Ummah history. Every worst combination has combined here.

            Exactly how successful do you think a message like this will be? Seems akin, but obviously a degree different, to telling people not to steal food during a famine.

  3. Avatar

    Laura El Alam

    October 3, 2019 at 4:31 PM

    Brother, to answer your question, “Exactly how successful do you think a message like this will be?” I can only say that all writers and journalists hope that their work will have some impact on the world. No, we absolutely cannot solve all the profound problems in the world, or even in our Ummah, but we must try to do what we can, within our power.

    As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When you see an evil act, you have to stop it with your hand. If you can’t, then at least speak out against it with your tongue. If you can’t, then at least you have to hate it with all your heart. And this is the weakest of faith.”

    I cannot change the over-sexualized culture we live in. I cannot force men to stop harassing women. But I can raise awareness of this problem, and I hope that through this article, I will accomplish a few things:

    1. Remove the stigma of reporting harassment — When a Muslim woman complains about being harassed, she is often blamed. People (often men, but also women) assume she was “asking for it” in some way. The women I interviewed were not flirting online, visiting inappropriate websites, posting seductive photos, or doing anything that compromised their modesty. On the contrary, they were actively involved in spreading the message of Islam, yet they still experienced sexual harassment. Perhaps my article will make some people think twice before blaming a woman who is harassed. Maybe they will listen to the sister’s story first and place the blame where it belongs — on the harasser.

    2. InshaAllah some Islamic teachers, lecturers, or imams will read this article and realize that online sexual harassment is a genuine, widespread problem in our Ummah. They might give a khutba on the importance of modesty and adaab in social media. They might talk to the youth and remind them that Allah SWT sees what they do online just as He sees what they do in everyday life.

    3. I hope parents who read this will have a wake-up call about what happens online, even on Islamic websites (tragically).

    Writers’ words can potentially reach thousands upon thousands of people, and if Allah SWT believes their intentions are pure, then inshaAllah they are rewarded exponentially. I will not let defeatist thinking stop me from using my skills to try to make the world a slightly better place.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 3, 2019 at 6:36 PM

      And I would also like to add that NO woman deserves to be harassed, no matter how she is dressed.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa

      October 5, 2019 at 5:42 PM

      Woa nice answer

  4. Zeba Khan

    Zeba Khan

    October 3, 2019 at 7:01 PM

    To the people doubting the existence of this, or undermining the content of her piece please know this:

    I maintain a public Facebook page for the purposes of my work as at MuslimMatters.org, my public speaking, and special needs advocacy. My inbox is always INUNDATED – literally – flooded with notifications from people like Haji So-an-So with messages like “So cute flower,” phone numbers, and every possible misspelling of “I love you” imaginable.

    Instead of blaming Muslim women for daring to work publicly for the edification of the Ummah, or their business, or their hobbies, or the right to exist without being harassed, let’s be real. Some Muslim men behave badly. They need to behave better. Other Muslim men can help correct their behavior by:

    1. Holding them accountable for their own actions

    That’s literally it. You can’t fix a problem by refusing its due ownership.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 4, 2019 at 4:13 PM

      Thanks for letting me know. There was some good discussion going on, and then I saw how I was slandered by one brother, and the thrill was gone.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj Muhammad

        October 5, 2019 at 9:05 AM

        Appreciate you stopping by and responding. I think it’s good for everyone to hear those raw differences in real time and respond to one another’s difficult questioning about the others positions.

  5. Avatar

    Danielle

    October 4, 2019 at 8:03 PM

    Great article! Thank you for spreading awareness of this deep problem. I love the action items you have at the end. I feel bad that you had to do some explaining and sort of apologizing in your article. And even with that, the comments reflect the fragility and blindness some men seem to possess regarding this issue. I applaud you for writing this. May Allah ease the way for you and help you to continue to enrich the internet with your insights and important topics ❤️

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 4, 2019 at 8:26 PM

      Thank you so very much, sister! 💕 Your supportive words mean a great deal. May Allah SWT also bless you in your endeavors.

  6. Avatar

    Ussif

    October 4, 2019 at 9:48 PM

    Great article. I admire the courage of women that despite such harassment continue their work fi-sabbil-llah. Please continue to be vocal about this situation, it’s not acceptable in any way in our dine.
    I as a man stopped interacting in social media a long time ago, couldn’t handle all the negativity so I can’t imagine how bad it is for woman.
    Maybe this type of reminder against online or on life harassment would be more impactful in real life, in mosque or big Muslim convention.
    May Allah protect and strengthen your Iman.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 5, 2019 at 4:20 PM

      Ameen and thank you for your supportive words.

  7. Avatar

    Ahmad

    October 5, 2019 at 2:58 AM

    No doubt women suffer from this a lot more than men ever will. Hence why Allah has given us different guidelines. Hence why it is usually more encouraged for women to be home and let the man be the breadwinner. The outside world isn’t as safe for women as for men, and it will never be. Thats just the plain truth. The Internet itself is like the outside world, where you can interact with people from all over the world. I think women should continue to do as much good as they can wherever they are, but try to be realistic aswell. Don’t be over-idealistic. The reality is not always pretty and over-optimism never helps. If you know having a profile picture of your face will drag that many more lude comments to you, then perhaps remove it? Allah will deal with those that harm you, but do something to lessen the attention from them.

    For example, i study Uni from a distance. I will never choose campus over studying from a distance (from home) because i know campus reeks of imodest women that are looking for fitnah. No matter how much i curse the situation at campus, it won’t change, atleast not in a long run. So i will try to avoid those places and stay home and study from there.

    Barak Allah feeki for the article, it gives some insight to us men who don’t go through this as much.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 5, 2019 at 4:40 PM

      Asalaamu alaykum. I appreciate your perspective, brother. It’s nice to hear that you’re taking steps to minimize the temptation you feel at University by studying at home. We should all know our own limitations and weaknesses and act accordingly to protect our adherence to Islam, which it sounds like you’re doing, Alhamdullilah.

      Islam does not prohibit women from working, studying, and doing other necessary (or even enjoyable) things outside of their home. Women want to contribute their talents to the world, andthey should have the right to expect courtesy and respect from their brothers in faith, no matter where they are (in the street or online).

      The emphasis should not be on sisters taking more preventative steps (because we already do, and they don’t always work). The onus is on men to stop harassing. Pure and simple.

      Imagine this: a Muslim woman is giving a speech about Islam in an auditorium. There are men and women in the audience. Then, out of the blue, one man shoves a very innapropriate photo right in her face. Another man tells her he wants to have sex with her. Another man calls her vile names. She did nothing to provoke or invite their behavior.

      Would anyone just ignore or trivialize this scenario? No, it would be shocking and wrong. Everyone would condemn the men, right? Clearly the harassers are in the wrong; all she’s doing is giving a pious lecture. And yet, this happens ALL THE TIME on social media. Men do those exact same horrible things to Muslim women, and yet when the women complain, they are told that somehow they share the blame. That they need to be more careful, or less noticeable. Why?! Why is online harassment tolerated and blamed on women?!

      No, we are not naive to expect to be safe from harassment from our brothers in faith. In fact, Muslim men are required to be our defenders! We should absolutely be able to count on them to treat us as sisters with dignity. It is THEIR job to fix themselves, not ours.

  8. Avatar

    Faraz

    October 6, 2019 at 1:19 AM

    Assalamalaikum

    I pray for all your wellbeing.
    I usually dont comment but somethings i would like to point out. I keep on reading that responsibility/onus is on men. I think, as men, we do not deny that! Yes, men should lower their gaze. I do believe men are mostly to blame in this context. As you pointed out, those who want to be perverse dont need photos. We are not denying that.
    Yet at the same time women should not give opportunity for men to gawk or peek. Sometimes, as you mentioned there is the need to have a face to the author, scholar etc but quite often its not needed. As one commenter mentioned, picture of a young good looking woman on a poster or ad for some Islamic purpose is hardly Islamic. She is neither the author or scholar or anything yet she is the “cover photo” Its quite disheartening to come to an Islamic website or article or video and to be started up with a picture of a beautiful woman in “hijab” whats the point of that? Why? Isn’t it beating the purpose?
    Even if men who dont want to gawk and be perverse the image does have a negative impact, undeniably.
    And this goes for men as well! Posing and trying extra hard to appear attractive. Why? And Allah knows best the intentions!
    Once again, I have to reiterate that Yes quite often in these situations men are wrong. Yet to say that some women dont add fuel to the fire is disregarding the reality.

    Anyways this is my take. I might be wrong. I am open to being disagreed with and am open to alternative or opposing views
    🙂
    May Allah grant you all, all the best and May Allah purify our hearts!

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 6, 2019 at 12:43 PM

      Asalaamu alaykum. Brother, I know that “haya” or modesty is really something that many Muslims (male and female) lack these days. There are probably hundreds of reasons why men and women are interacting with less modesty online and in real life, and surely we are all compromising our own souls when we do this.

      I think it comes down to this. We are all accountable to Allah SWT for our actions. The woman who purposely seduces men will have to answer to her Rabb. The administratiors of Islamic companies or websites that use blatant sex appeal to get more clicks or customers will also have to answer for their actions. The Muslims who purposely watch material that they know will be full of inappropriate images are not fooling Allah SWT. In fact, many Muslims are making the problem exponentially worse by surrounding themselves with sexual material purposely, and then every single woman they look at — even if she’s covered — becomes an object of desire. It’s awful.

      There is no doubt that we are all surrounded by temptation every single time we open our computer, turn on TV, or swipe our phones. Men absolutely can count on being exposed to women they find attractive both online and in the street, and it may or may not be the woman’s actual intention to attract them.

      But men are not animals who must respond to basic instincts. They can choose what to do when they are aroused. And since they might very well feel attracted to women a dozen times a day or more, they should form a game plan.

      It is 100% clear that contacting them inappropriately is NOT a valid option in Islam. Harassing them in any way is even worse. Those women are human beings, not objects, and whatever feelings they inspire do not entitle men to act with impunity. So men need to do their part to purify their hearts, and we women must do our part too.

      • Avatar

        Faraz

        October 6, 2019 at 11:40 PM

        Agreed!

  9. Avatar

    Fritz

    October 10, 2019 at 6:39 AM

    “Holding them accountable” – realistically social media is a free and open platform. Its freedom gives muslim women the opportunity to speak in the first place. Its not palatable but that is the reality.

    There is no rectification to this solution. You don’t think the people doing this know they are wrong? and its mostly – from what you say – through private messaging. I think you need to get real and stop whining. No muslim men are out there condoning or promoting this kind of behaviour.

    The reality is much like I am sure muslim men will have racial/religious abuse directed at them, you will just have to deal with it. Dont like it, then leave. I am afraid thats the nature of the twisted beast that is social media.

    • Avatar

      Laura El Alam

      October 10, 2019 at 5:03 PM

      Fritz, I can’t help but wonder what kind of people have so much time on their hands that they make time to comment “get real and stop whining” on someone’s article?

      Everytime someone speaks up against injustice, oppression, corruption, or wrongdoing, there is someone else (almost always someone in a privileged position who does not feel directly affected by the problem) who tells them to “stop whining.” It accomplishes *nothing” to act so sanctimonious and insensitive . . . unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys kicking others when they’re down.

      Someday you might actually take the time to stand up for something you believe in, or try to right a wrong. If you do, I actually hope no one tells you to stop whining. I don’t believe in kicking people when they’re down.

      Why don’t you save your energy, Fritz, for something that makes a positive impact on the world?

      And by the way, if you’re just here to troll me, I won’t take the bait any longer.

  10. Avatar

    Tami

    October 12, 2019 at 9:47 AM

    I am on matrimonial websites and Muslim dating apps to find a husband. Even though I have a modest picture and a profile, I get unserious men contact me for fun. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel scared to think are there very low quality of decent men out there who see’s everything sexual. I am a non-hijabi but I am more hijabi than most hijabi worn ladies (not sounding arrogant). I see flirtatious and deceitful hijabis able to find a man they wish to get married to easily. Whereas I have always lived a modest life with haya and I can’t find/get a decent guy that’s attracted to me for my personality but is only attracted to my face. I know this is not related to the topic on this forum but had to share my thoughts.

  11. Avatar

    Uzair Zubairi

    October 21, 2019 at 4:17 AM

    Salam 3lyki sister.
    Thanks for the great article. Its definitely a big problem which needed some spotlight.

    I Just wanna point out though that words like “unfortunately” “luckily” or “unlucky” are shirk as explained by the mashaikh.

    Other than that its definitely a great article. I think it ties into the wider debate of the role of internet in our lives and how to harness its potential while curtailing its harms. Its clear that internet is like a knife. You can use it to stab your neighbour or you can use it spread peanut butter on your toast. In other words it makes it easier to achieve your aim wether that aim is good or bad. Bad people can hide behind the mask of internet and do things which theyre scared to do openly.

    And I guess this problem/blessing that internet is will only grow as we become more and more connected to internet and technology. So i think the only solution is for us to educate ourselves on how to keep ourselves safe online because the truth there are bad people out there who wish you harm and they are not few in number. So you have to get better at recognising them, reporting them, or taking other defensive measures.

  12. Avatar

    Jennifer

    November 1, 2019 at 2:16 AM

    I am not a Muslim and I’m not even sure why this page showed up in my Google feed but I am a woman and I know exactly what the author is talking about. I have found in my 53 years that men are men are men are men-some of the most disgusting men I’ve ever met were married churchgoers with kids at home. I’ve known atheist men and Jewish men and mormon men who can’t help but comment on a woman’s looks or size or whatever. I used to attend a meet up with my husband and made several good friends there, but then a college age man started coming and was stalking me. It got so bad that I just had to stop going to the meetups. No matter what I or my husband said to him it made no difference and when it was obvious I was not interested in him as a boyfriend he decided to post horrible things about me on the communities website. I used to have a neighbor who everyone thought was the most upstanding amazing husband and father. Then one evening when my husband was away on work he came over and proposition to me and when I told him to go home he told his wife that I had flashed him and come on to him. She believed him and not me and so I had to live with the neighborhood thinking that I was a Jezebel throwing myself at this woman’s husband while my own husband was out of town. So yeah, it’s men. It doesn’t matter what we wear or how we act, in their minds it’s never their fault for being creeps.

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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. 

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. 

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

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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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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#Life

Looking To Get Married? Here Are A Few Tips

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will you marry me?
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that single young Muslims, despite not being in possession of any fortune, are always in search of a spouse.

However little prepared these people may be to undertake this ordeal is given little thought, and they are thrust out into the world of modern Muslim matchmaking. The generational divide in the community has meant that young people have received little training at home to navigate the process of finding a spouse. These individuals are seeking high-quality relationships, but few have the skills and emotional intelligence needed to find one. They are left to learn on their own through trial-and-error, and often a lot of pain.

With hopes of making this journey a little easier, we’ve compiled a few principles to keep in mind as you tread these cold uncharted waters.

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?Click To Tweet

1. Work on yourself

You won’t attract what you want, you’ll attract what you are. Do you find in yourself the qualities that you seek in another?

Aspire to be self-fulfilled and complete on your own, rather than hoping for someone else to do that for you. Operationally, this entails refining both your inner and outer self. On the outside this could include basic things like being well-groomed (especially for men), knowing how to cook a healthy diet, exercising regularly and supporting yourself financially. You should also ensure you have good relationships with loved ones – do the people you care about love you back? Admit any wrongs you may have done to them and make amends to improve ties if they are strained. The state of your current relationships can be a good indicator of future ones.

On the inside, you should make a moral inventory and work to address your shortcomings in character. You must work on your selfishness, your anger, your dishonesty, your lust, your pride, your stinginess, your harshness, your resentments, your stubbornness, your fears, your jealousy, your self-righteousness, your vanity. This list is never ending and it’s a lifelong process; the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be.

You must also get help for any serious problems that you fear might affect a relationship – instead of hoping these problems will go away with the ‘right partner’. If you have a pornography problem, seek out help and don’t be deluded into thinking marriage will solve that for you. If you have no control over your desires before marriage, you won’t magically gain control afterward. If you have a substance abuse problem, join a 12-step program. If you feel you are emotionally unhealthy, get help from a professional. Bottom line is, have your house in order before you decide to build a new one.

2. Maintain good mental health throughout the process

Be purposeful in your search but don’t make it the purpose of your life. The process of finding a spouse can become emotionally draining and overwhelming if you don’t do it in a healthy fashion. Understand that this process entails too many factors that are completely out of your control; things won’t always go your way, so don’t be too attached to the outcome.  The only things you control are your responses and actions, so just focus on putting your best foot forward.

A common mistake people make is they give themselves a timeline e.g. ‘I want to be married by X age, or by X year’. This only results in unnecessary pressure that can lead to anxiety and poor mental health; it can also force one to make imprudent choices. Everyone has a different timeline; have trust in God’s plan for you.

Anytime mental health is disturbed, stop and revaluate. Some signs of poor mental health include: obsessive thinking, inability to focus on your everyday affairs, compulsive attachment and clinginess, disturbed sleep, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, inability to multitask, feeling overwhelmed, panic attacks, depression, irritability, changes in eating habits, and a loss of inner serenity. It is best to get help from counselors, such as those at Naseeha, if you feel stuck in this situation.

3. Adopt a mindset of giving

The measure you give is the measure you get back. Instead of worrying so much about what you want, focus on what you have to offer.

While you should certainly express your interest in someone you like, don’t taint it with desperation and neediness. If you’ve implemented the first point mentioned, you are already a confident and self-sufficient person. You will be fine no matter what. Focus on giving without expectation and building a healthy companionship. Be a giver and you’ll be surprised how easily you will attract the right people towards you. The ‘mindset of want’ is a self-defeating mindset: you might not find all the things you want in someone, and even if you did, there is no guarantee they’ll want you back!

4. Don’t overthink it

Living in a capitalist society, we’ve developed the bad habit of picking out people the same way we go shopping for a new product. We like to explore the market, do a cost-benefit analysis of various options, try to make sure the product isn’t damaged and hope to pick out the best possible item. We are careful about how we ‘invest our time’ and we try to ensure we can get an appropriate return on our investment. If we could, we’d ask for a money-back guarantee on people too!

Human hearts, unfortunately, cannot be picked out the way we choose commercial products. Each has its flaws and its strengths, you have to accept both the good and the bad; the pro-con list approach won’t work here. When we start taking this reductionist approach to relationships, we naturally get into overthinking, feel anxious and overwhelmed. With the widespread use of online dating, the choices seem limitless and it can seem impossible to try to figure out how to find the right person.

Marriage is a decision that’s to be taken with the heart; you have to rely on your guts and your instincts to steer you towards the person most suitable for you. This doesn’t mean throwing rational thought out the door, it means looking to your inner-self as the source of motivation for your decision making. It takes emotional intelligence and self-awareness to be able to determine what kind of a person you’ll be able to build a future with; it’s not always someone that looks best on paper. There are very few people with whom you’ll find compatibility and reciprocity, so don’t obsess over exploring as many possible ‘options’ with hopes of marking off all the items on your checklist.

We ultimately find the most fulfillment in caring for and taking responsibility for someone we sincerely love. So, look instead for the ingredients that will act as the foundations of love in your marriage. These could include the fact that you: enjoy someone’s company, find them beautiful, admire their character and kindness, respect them, find reciprocity in your interactions, have shared values and compatible temperaments. You are looking for that certitude, that good feeling in your heart; focusing on these factors will hopefully give you that and will get you out of the common mistake of overthinking and worrying.

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Click To Tweet

5. Work to bridge religious differences

One of the unique challenges Western Muslims face when looking for a spouse is finding religious compatibility. The diversity of our community, coupled with the individualized nature of faith in the West, has given rise to a plethora of ‘brands’ of Islam. Personal levels of observance can vary vastly, even within members of the same family, so it can be challenging to find the right fit.

You will always find differences in religious observance and views between spouses. It is impossible, and foolish, to try to seek out someone at the exact same level. Some people might be more conservative than you, some might be more liberal. Do you really have to turn someone down because they don’t agree with your views on conventional mortgages? What if you like dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating, and they’re opposed to it? What if they don’t eat zabiha halal like you do? What if they don’t pray all the five prayers on time like you were raised to do so?

Given the unique circumstances we live in, we must be flexible and open-minded about resolving such differences. We ought to be careful when making a judgment about someone’s beliefs; we don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. Some of us were taught to honour God through worship and observing His law, some of us were raised with an emphasis on serving His creation with good character. People have their strengths and their weaknesses in faith; sometimes these are apparent, sometimes hidden. Your relationship with God is not perfect and neither will be your partner’s; we are all a work in progress.

If approached with kindness, mutual respect and a willingness to compromise, these differing religious views could be resolved in many cases. While sometimes people really are on extreme ends, most of us fall somewhere in between and can find a comfortable middle ground. It is often our stubbornness, self-righteousness and a parochial understanding of religion that gets in the way. Good people are hard to find, so don’t let suitable matches go because they don’t follow your exact flavor of religious observance. This is certainly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with tact and wisdom; it is advisable to seek counsel of more experienced people.

6. Don’t expose your past and don’t pry about someone else’s

If you have a past you are not proud of and it doesn’t concern your future relationships, you should not feel obliged to expose yourself. In fact, if this relates to sins of the past, it is actually prohibited to reveal your sins to someone else – even in the context of marriage. Shaykh Nuh Keller summarizes this pitfall well, “In Islam, to mention a sin is itself a sin. How many a person has been unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their previous life, and Allah punished them with disgust and contempt in the other’s heart that could never quite be forgotten! There is no barakah in the haram”.

Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be prying about someone else’s past and trying to dig up details on their misadventures. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded us to have a good opinion of people; he warned against the destructive nature of suspicion and spying. He told us, “Beware of suspicion for it is the most deceitful of thought. Do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; Rather, be servants of God as brothers”

7. Istikhara is not a solution for indecisiveness

The prayer of seeking guidance, or Istikhara, is oft cited by those considering marriage. The mistake many make, however, is that we are really wishing for someone else to make the decision for us. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we find it difficult to make any. We hope for a divine sign or a miracle to happen that tells us that the other person is right for us and that we will live happily ever after with them.

Making big life decisions, emotionally prudent ones, is an important life skill that must be learned. These decisions come with inherent risks, uncertainties, and unknowns; there are no guarantees. If you habitually find yourself having a hard time deciding, it is likely due to external factors. It might have something to do with you, it might have something to do with the person you are considering. It is advisable to seek counsel if you are in this situation.

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Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #6: Is it Taboo to Talk About Sex?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Is talking about sex a taboo in Islam? Religiously, not at all. Culturally though, that's a different story.Click To Tweet
On one hand we are completely stone-walling sex or anything related to sex any issues that people can have with sex, and on the other hand we still live in this country, we still have TV, we still have books, we still have the internet, I don’t understand how these two, almost diametrically opposed philosophies on sex can co-exist in one person’s mind. Click To Tweet
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash

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