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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.

Muslim woman on laptop sexual harassment

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.” 

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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

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

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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#Society

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks: An Obituary

This article was originally published at Al-Madinah Institute.

 

An internationally recognised Islamic scholar, who saw spirituality, justice, and knowledge as integral to an authentic religious existence.

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Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, who passed away on the 9th of July 2020 at the age of 64, was a scholar of international repute, able to communicate and engage on the level of state leaders, religious scholars and the broader public. As a scion of one of the most prominent Islamic institutions in South Africa and internationally, who also spent a decade studying at the hands of the most prominent of Makkan scholars, he not only inherited a grand bequest, but expanded that legacy’s impact worldwide. In particular, he upheld a normative understanding of Islam, embedded in a tradition stretching back more than a millennium – but deeply cognisant of the needs of the age, including the need to strive to make the world a better place.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying particularly at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa – as well as his father, Imam Hassan Hendricks.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, spending three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects, before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and usul al-fiqh in the Faculty of Shariʿa of Umm al-Qura University and graduated in 1992. Shaykh Seraj took ijazat from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Haddad and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qadir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf, as well as his extensive time spent with the likes of Shaykh Hasan Mashhat and others. These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

Additionally, he obtained a full ijaza in the religious sciences from his primary teacher, the muḥaddith of the Hijaz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawi al-Maliki, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamaʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars. Together with his brother, the esteemed Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, Shaykh Seraj and I wrote a book on this approach to Sufism entitled, “A Sublime Way: the Sufi Path of the Sages of Makka”. Alongside his brother, he became the representative (khalifa) of the aforementioned muhaddith of the Hijaz.

Further to his religious education, Shaykh Seraj was also actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s, alongside the likes of figures like Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, comrade of Nelson Mandela, and the renowned journalist, Shafiq Morton. His commitments to furthering justice meant insistence on expressing constant opposition to injustice, while fiercely maintaining the independence of the institution and community he pledged himself to his entire life. At a time when different forces in Muslim communities worldwide try to instrumentalise religious figures for partisan political gain, Shaykh Seraj showed another, arguably far more Prophetic, model.

The shaykh also was keenly supportive of the rights of women, whom he saw as important to empower and cultivate as religious figures themselves. His students, of which there were many thousands over the years, included many women at various levels of expertise. I know it was his wish that they would rise to higher and higher levels, and he took a great deal of interest in trying to train them accordingly, aware that many unnecessary obstacles stood in their way.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Tasawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA), which is currently being prepared for publication as a book. He translated works of Imam al-Ghazali, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihyaʾ ʿUlum al-Din), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbdal Hakim Murad and Yahya Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). He was a member of the Stanlib Shariʿa Board, chief arbitrator (Hakim) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and was listed consecutively in the Muslim500 from 2009 to 2020. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj was also appointed as professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Apart from fiqh and usul al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries. Shaykh Seraj taught a variety of Islamic-related subjects at Azzawia Institute in Cape Town, where he was its resident Shaykh, together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks. His classes showed an encyclopaedic knowledge that was rooted in the tradition, while completely conversant with the modern age.

But beyond his classes, he was a pastoral figure to many – a community made of thousands – whom he gave himself completely to, in service of the religion, and counselling them as a khidma (service), with mahabba (love), in accordance with the Prophetic model. Many urged him to restrain himself in this way, fearing for his health, which suffered a great deal in his final years as a result – but he saw it as his duty.

The Shaykh was an international figure, a teacher to thousands, and an adviser to multitudes. Many today ask the question as to why ‘ulama truly matter, seeing as it seems so many of them can be compromised by different forces in pursuit of injustice, rigidness and petty partisanship. Such a question will not be asked by those who knew Shaykh Seraj, for in him they saw a concern for spirituality, not paltry political gain, and a commitment to justice and wisdom, not oppression or slogans. In him, many saw, and will continue to see hope for an Islamic commitment to scholarship that seeks to make the world a better place, rising to the challenge of maintaining their values of mercy and compassion, and exiting the world in dignity.

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#Current Affairs

Oped: The Treachery Of Spreading Bosnia Genocide Denial In The Muslim Community

The expanding train of the Srebrenica genocide deniers includes the Nobel laureate Peter Handke, an academic Noam Chomsky, the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, as well as almost all Serbian politicians in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. One name in this group weirdly stands out: “Sheikh” Imran Hosein. A traditionally trained Muslim cleric from Trinidad and Tobago, Hosein has carved his niche mostly with highly speculative interpretations of Islamic apocalyptic texts. He has a global following with more than 200 hundred thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel, and his videos are viewed by hundreds of thousands. He has written tens of books in English, some of which had been translated into major world languages. His denial of the Srebrenica genocide may seem outlandish, coming from a Muslim scholar, but a close inspection of his works reveals ideas that are as disturbing as they are misleading.

Much of Hosain’s output centers around interpreting the apocalyptic texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah on the “end of times” (akhir al-zaman). As in other major religious traditions, these texts are highly allegorical in nature and nobody can claim with certainty their true meaning – nobody, except Imran Hosein. He habitually dismisses those who disagree with his unwarranted conclusions by accusing them of not thinking properly. A Scottish Muslim scholar, Dr. Sohaib Saeed, also wrote about this tendency.

In his interpretations, the Dajjal (“anti-Christ”) is American-Zionist alliance (the West or the NATO), the Ottomans were oppressors of the Orthodox Christians who are, in turn, rightfully hating Islam and Muslims, Sultan Mehmed Fatih was acting on “satanic design” when he conquered Constantinople, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a false flag operation carried out by the Mossad and its allies, and – yes! – the genocide did not take place in Srebrenica. Such conspiratorial thinking is clearly wrong but is particularly dangerous when dressed in the garb of religious certainty. 

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Hosain frequently presents his opinions as the “Islamic” view of things. His methodology consists of mixing widely accepted Muslim beliefs with his own stretched interpretations. The wider audience may not be as well versed in Islamic logic of interpretation so they may not be able to distinguish between legitimate Muslim beliefs and Hosain’s own warped imagination. In one of his fantastic interpretations, which has much in common with the Christian apocalypticism, the Great War that is nuclear in nature is coming and the Muslims need to align with Russia against the American-Zionist alliance. He sees the struggle in Syria as part of a wider apocalyptic unfolding in which Assad and Putin are playing a positive role. He stretches the Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings to read into them fanciful and extravagant interpretations that are not supported by any established Islamic authority.

Hosain does not deny that a terrible massacre happened in Srebrenica. He, however, denies it was a genocide, contradicting thus numerous legal verdicts by international courts and tribunals. Established by the United Nations’ Security Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) delivered a verdict of genocide in 2001 in the case of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstić. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague confirmed, in 2007, that genocide took place in Srebrenica. In 2010, two more Bosnian Serb officers were found guilty of committing genocide in Bosnia. The butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladić, was found guilty of genocide in 2017.

In spite of this, and displaying his ignorance on nature and definition of genocide, Hosain stated in an interview with the Serbian media, “Srebrenica was not a genocide. That would mean the whole Serbian people wanted to destroy the whole Muslim people. That never happened.” In a meandering and offensive video “message to Bosnian Muslims” in which he frequently digressed to talking about the end of times, Hosain explained that Srebrenica was not a genocide and that Muslims of Bosnia needed to form an alliance with the Orthodox Serbs. He is oblivious to the fact that the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the former Yugoslavia stem not from the Bosniaks’ purported unwillingness to form an alliance with the Serbs, but from the aggressive Greater Serbia ideology which had caused misery and destruction in Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Kosovo. 

Hosein’s views are, of course, welcome in Serbia and in Republika Srpska (Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia), where almost all politicians habitually deny that genocide took place in Srebrenica. He had been interviewed multiple times on Serbian television, where he spewed his views of the Ottoman occupation and crimes against the Serbs, the need to form an alliance between Muslims and Russia, and that Srebrenica was not a genocide. His website contains only one entry on Srebrenica: a long “exposé” that claims no genocide took place in Srebrenica. Authored by two Serbs, Stefan Karganović and Aleksandar Pavić, the special report is a hodge-podge of conspiracy theories, anti-globalization and anti-West views. Karganović, who received more than a million dollars over a six year period from the government of the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska for lobbying efforts in Washington, was recently convicted by the Basic Court in Banja Luka on tax evasion and defamation. The Court issued a warrant for Karganović’s arrest but he is still on the loose. 

True conspirators of the Srebrenica killings, according to Hosain, are not the Serbian political and military leaders, and soldiers who executed Srebrenica’s Muslims. The conspirators are unnamed but it does not take much to understand that he believes that the massacres were ultimately orchestrated by the West, CIA, and NATO. Hosain even stated on the Serbian TV that if people who knew the truth were to come forward they would be executed to hide what really happened. Such opinions are bound to add to an already unbearable pain that many survivors of the Srebrenica genocide are experiencing. It is even more painful when Bosniak victims – who were killed because they were Muslims – are being belittled by an “Islamic” scholar who seems to be more interested in giving comfort to those who actually perpetrated the heinous crime of genocide than in recognizing the victims’ pain. These views are, of course, welcome in Serbia, Russia, and Greece.

It is not difficult to see why Hosain’s views would be popular in today’s day and age where misinformation and fake news are propagated even by the world leaders who should know better. A conspiratorial mindset, mistrust of established facts, undermining of international institutions – these are all hallmarks of the post-truth age. In another time, Imran Hosain would be easily exposed for what he truly is: a charlatan who claims religious expertise. Today, however, his opinions are amplified by social media and by the people who already question science and established facts. For these reasons, he needs to be unmasked to safeguard the very religious foundations which he claims to uphold but ultimately undermines. 

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#Life

A Festival Amidst a Pandemic: How to Give Your Kids an Eid ul-Adha to Remember

Eid ul-Adha is less than 3 weeks away!  This year, more than ever, we want to welcome Eid ul-Adha with a full heart and spirit, insha’Allah, despite the circumstances we are in with the global pandemic.

If you follow me on social media, you probably know that my husband and I host an open house brunch for Eid ul-Adha, welcoming over 125 guests into our home. It’s a party our Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors, friends, and family look forward to being invited to each year. It’s a time to come together as a community, share heart-felt conversations, have laughs, chow down lots of delicious food, and exchange gifts. Kids participate in fun crafts, decorate cookies, and receive eidi. The reality is that we cannot keep up with the tradition this year.

Despite social distancing, we have decided that we will continue to lift our spirits and switch our summer décor to Eid décor, and make it the best Eid for our family and our child. We want to instill the love of Islam in my daughter and make the Islamic festivals a real part of her life. We want to create warm Eid memories, and COVID-19 isn’t going to stop us from doing that. I really hope you plan to do the same.

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Here are 4 ideas to inspire you to bring that festive spirit alive for your family this Eid ul-Adha:

Hajj and Eid ul-Adha themed activities and crafts

There are so many activities to keep the little ones engaged, but having a plan for Eid-ul-Adha with some key activities that your child will enjoy, makes the task so much easier.

Kids love stories, and for us parents this is a great way to get a point across. Read to them about hajj in an age appropriate way. If you don’t have Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha related books, you can get started with this Hajj book list. Read together about the significance and the Islamic traditions of hajj, and the story of how zamzam was discovered. While you teach them the story of the divine sacrifice of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), ask relatable questions. As a lesson from the story, give your child examples of how they can sacrifice their anger, bad behavior, etc. during this season of sacrifice for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ask your children how they would feel if they had to give away their favorite toys, so that they can comprehend the feeling.

Counting down the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah to Eid ul-Adha is another fun activity to encourage kids to do a good deed every day. Have different fun and education activities planned for these 10 days.

Family memories are made through baking together. In our household, Eid cannot pass without baking cookies together and sharing with friends and family. Bake and decorate Eid ul-Adha themed cookies in the shape of a masjid, camel, or even lamb, and share with the neighbors one day, and color in Islamic wooden crafts the next. This DIY Ka’bah craft is a must for us to make every year while learning about the Ka’bah, and it’s an easy craft you can try with your family. Have the kids save their change in this cute masjid money box that they can donate on the day of Eid.

Decorate the main family areas

We are all going to be missing visiting friends and relatives for Eid breakfast, lunch, and dinner this year, so why not jazz things up a bit more at home than usual?

Start decorating the areas of your home that you frequently occupy.  Brighten up the living area, and/or main hallway with a variety of star and masjid-shaped lights, festive lanterns, and Eid garlands, to emphasize that Eid has indeed arrived. Perhaps, decorate a tent while you tell your children about the tent city of Mina.

Prep the dining room as if you are having Guests Over

Set up the breakfast table as if you are having family and friends over for Eid breakfast.

These times will be the special moments you spend together eating as a family. Now, with all hands on deck, plan to get everyone involved to make it a full-on affair. What specific tasks can the little ones take on to feel included as part of the Eid prep and get excited?

While the Eid table set-up itself can be simple, the moments spent around the table sharing in new traditions and engaging in prayer will insha’Allah be even more meaningful and memorable.

 An afternoon picnic

Family picnics are a perfect way for family members to relax and connect. If Texas weather permits, we may take advantage of a cool sunny day with a picnic at a nearby, shady park. With the heat wave we are experiencing, it may either not happen or will be an impromptu one.

Out of all the picnics, it’s the impromptu family meals on the lawn or at a park that I love the most. The ones where we grab an old quilt, basket, light meals, fresh fruits and venture out into the backyard or a nearby park. It’ll be a perfect socially distanced Eid picnic.

Eid ul-Adha comes around just once a year, so let’s strive to make the best of it for our children, even amidst this global pandemic.

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