Ignorance Among Muslims Concerning Mental Health Issues

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Yesterday I underwent the first of two evaluations to see if I suffer from bipolar disorder. During Ramadan I began to suspect that my depression may be something more serious. For months my mental state has been deteriorating at a frightening pace. The mood swings are becoming more frequent as are episodes where I experience breakdowns or when I am almost completely catatonic.  It was during this blessed month that I expected to have an escape from this but unfortunately that was not the case. In fact my depression became worse. My therapist, who is administering the evaluations, had expressed that she saw signs of bipolar disorder. So I thought it would be something worth exploring.

It goes without saying that this is a distressing time for me. I am not sure if I have a more serious mental health issue or if the depression that I have had for twelve years is just becoming worse. Right now what I need is support, compassion, and a bit of understanding. However, that is not what I am getting.  Lately I have seen many Muslims on social media making threads and posts about depression. All of which state that  depression and other mental illnesses are caused by a lack of imam and that anyone who cannot “cure” these ailments through reading quran, prayer, or dhikir must not be trying hard enough. On the more extreme sides of this argument there are some Muslims who confidently state that these illnesses just don’t exist and they have been concocted by the medical industry. It is clear that many Muslims lack a fundamental understanding in the difference between sadness and depression. As well as an understanding between depression and other mental illnesses. In this post I would like to dispel some of these misunderstandings.

The Huge Difference Between Sadness & Depression

Sadness is a normal emotion that all of us feel at some point and it happens as a result of an event. That event could be a divorce, failing a class, the death of a loved one, or even a disagreement with a friend. Sadness eventually fades. Usually as our circumstances change or we adjust to whatever we are experiencing. However, depression is a state of being. In most cases it never completely goes away and if  it does it usually returns. It does not have to be triggered by any particular event. Which means that a person could have a normal life devoid of major stresses and still experience depression.

Depression can manifests itself in a multitude of ways. A person suffering from depression may be constantly angry or irritated. They could under perform in work or at school. A person with depression may be constantly sad or they could have a difficult time feeling any emotion. For someone who does not have depression it can be hard to spot as many people with depression find ways to hide the illness from the outside world. Perhaps this is the reason why so many people are ignorant of it.

The Difference Between Depression & Other Mental Illnesses

Another thing I have noticed is that many Muslims lack the ability to differentiate depression and other mental illnesses. In many cases they view mental illness as either sadness or insanity. When in reality it falls on a spectrum and each illness varies in degrees. Depression is just one of many mental illnesses. There is also bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD, CPTSD, anxiety, various eating disorders, dissociative disorders, sexual/gender disorders-just to name a few. Each has their own set of symptoms and effects. The problem with this misconception is that people either see the person as not wanting to fix what is making them sad (which ties into confusing sadness and depression). Or they view the person as insane and therefore dangerous. Even if the person has not displayed any dangerous behaviors.

What Happens When Muslims Lack An Understanding Of These Issues 

All too often I have to explain to Muslims that depression is not the same as sadness and that a person who is depressed (or suffering from another mental health issue) is not a bad Muslim. Usually I am told that I must read a certain surah. Or that I trust therapists and doctors more than Allah. I am told that I must not be praying. That I am ungrateful to Allah. Just today someone emphatically stated that “Quran is the cure” as if my depression is a result of me not reading it.

Muslims assume that I am not praying, reading quran, doing dhikir, making dua, and trusting in Allah. They have absolutely no way of knowing if I am guilty in what they accuse me of but they figure that in order for me to have depression it must be a result of not practicing my religion. This is a very black and white outlook to this subject. They think that a person either relies on Allah to cure their depression or they deviate and look to medical treatment. The idea that mental illness can be managed with a combination of faith and medicine is never considered.

My Illness Is Not Caused By A Lack Of Faith

When I start to think that suicide is a better option the only thing that has stopped me is knowing that it would incur the displeasure of Allah. It is not love for this dunya, my life, or even my mother. It is only for my love of Allah. When I have sat alone in my bedroom, tears pouring down my face, I have made dua to Allah. Knowing that only he could bring an end to my episode. When I feel that myself and my life are worthless I seek refuge in Allah through his revelations. I am constantly worried that there is something I must not be doing correctly. That I could always achieve more taqwa.

My life is a mess. There are times when I skip showering. My apartment piles up due to uncleanliness because I have stopped caring about how it looks. I have not been able to complete a successful semester of college in two years. When I do emerge from episodes of depression I notice that my friends are progressing in their lives. They are completing college, studying abroad, making new friends. I realize how long it has been that we have talked or had lunch. Then I realize how unreliable I am as a friend since I tend to close myself off from the world. I have given up on the prospect of marriage because I feel like I would be a burden to any man that marries me. I have found that I cannot complete any of the things that I want to in life because I am incapable of following through with small tasks. Through all of this I have held on to Allah. I have held on to his quran and sunnah. To have fellow Muslims doubt my faith is perplexing. It is only my faith in Allah that makes this life worth enduring.

Only Allah Knows My Burdens

Lately I have considered just deleting all of my social media accounts as I am weary of being told that my mental health issues are a result of my lack of faith. I  no longer use facebook and I have plans of deleting it altogether. It would probably be best if I were to do the same for twitter. The problem with this is that  I get the same response in real life. I have had friends tell me that I have a choice in being depressed. I have been told that I am cursed with a jinn or Shaitaan (but no one can explain my episode during Ramadan). I have even been told that I don’t want to be happy.

As a result I don’t talk to many people in my life about my depression. Even when a person says that they can be there to talk I don’t take them up on the offer. I know that unless they have experienced depression themselves they won’t understand. If I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder I don’t know who I would tell besides my mother. If I tell anyone else I run the risk of being accused of lacking faith. Or that looking for treatment is doubting Allah’s ability to heal me (they never consider how Allah can use other platforms to cure a person). Many times I think separating myself from Muslims would bring the most solace.  It is times like this that I realize compassion, understanding, and patience can only be found in Allah. When I search for it in his creation I find very little of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop Pretending Like You Care About Saudi Women

There is something deeply concerning  about this exchange below.

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The problem I have with this is not the person’s criticisms of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, no matter how much he exacerbated it. The problem is the context in which this person is using it.

It’s Disingenuous

The first time I ever heard someone use this argument was on an internet forum discussing street harassment. A man commented that the women on the forum shouldn’t be complaining since women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to leave their homes without being accompanied by a male guardian. Something that he saw as more oppressive than women in the west not being able to leave their homes unaccompanied by a male without being sexually harassed or assaulted. The man who made this comment completely disregarded the women on the forum who gave detailed descriptions of truly horrific instances of street harassment and sexual assault.

He did not offer any condolences to these women nor did he speak of any solutions to help women in Saudi Arabia whom he viewed as oppressed. This seems to be a trend among people who use this argument. They simply say that women in Saudi Arabia are oppressed but they offer no solutions on how to resolve this. Nor do they express any desire to ever offer do so.

I only see this argument used against Muslims, POC, and Women when we ask for people to address legitimate oppression that we face in western countries. There is a reason for this. When people use this argument it allows them to deflect and redirect the conversation by basically saying, “Well at least you are not in Saudi Arabia.” As if this is some clever argument that justifies the abuse marginalized groups in the west endure. Essentially they are saying that it doesn’t matter how much a person is discriminated against in the west because it is still better than Saudi Arabia.

There are problems that need to be addressed in this country

I need for people who use this argument to understand just how problematic it is. A woman was murdered yesterday by an alt-right terrorist while protesting neo-nazi racists. A freedom that this country guaranteed her. Black men and women currently cannot even exist without risk of being shot by an armed officer sworn to protect and serve us. Muslim women are being murdered and abused when we leave our homes. Muslim and Jewish places of worship are being vandalized and bombed. We currently have a president who has barred Muslim refugees, deported Mexican immigrants, slashed budgets on public assistance programs, and is currently threatening nuclear war. The point is we have bigger things to worry about. So I need for people to get themselves together and stop deflecting by speaking about Saudi Arabia. Trust me when I say this country is no better.

What I Fear Most Is Being Alone With Myself

“It’s almost 1 am, should probably get to bed soon…..”

“But I don’t want to go to sleep. Probably wouldn’t be able to anyways.”

“My eyes hurt. I should at least be doing something that stops me from staring at my laptop.”

“I guess I could do some cleaning. Maybe I will finally do the laundry that’s been scattered on my bedroom floor.”

“I could go for a walk. Had a lot of chocolate after dinner. That can’t be good for my blood sugar.”

“I have to get to bed soon or else I won’t be able to go to Jummah prayer tomorrow.”

“I have so many projects I haven’t finished. How am I going to open my Etsy shop when I can’t finish anything?”

“I have to get my FAFSA in or else I won’t be able to re-enroll this semester.”

“I don’t even want to go back to school but what else am I going to do with my life?”

“Maybe Sarah was right. I should take a year off to work on my mental health.”

“And who is going to fund this year long vacation?”

“My head  has been hurting every night for three days. Probably not drinking enough water.”

“I didn’t submit one job application today. How am I supposed to find a job if I waste my entire day doing nothing?”

“I hope my neighbor can’t hear me crying again. You can hear everything through these walls.”  

“This is the fifth time my internet connection has gone out. Why does it keep doing this?” 

“I should read Surah Al- Dhua again. That will give me some hope.” 

“Im not ready to be married. I can’t stop my life from falling apart so there is no way I can keep a marriage together.”

“Homesteading is a pipe dream and I need to get serious about what I will do for the rest of my life.”

“Can’t remember the last time I finished reading a book.”

“Maybe if I take a couple of benadryl I will be able to get some sleep before fajr.”

“I need to go to bed or else I wont have enough time to do ghusl before going to jummah.”

“What the fuck am I doing with my life?”

“Ya Allah this is too much….”

 

What Is ‘Dog’ Really About?

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The first I ever heard of Mona Haydar was a few months ago in a facebook group for women who wear niqab. Someone posted her ‘Wrap my hijab’ video asking what everyone thought about it. The general consensus was that it was haram. I personally found it to be just really strange and awkward. You see a pregnant Mona surrounded by a group of Muslim women posing as she raps about her hijab. You see them posing in some other rooms. A few of the women dance. I didn’t like the beat and I was not really impressed by the lyrics or the overall message. So my response was sort of just, meh. After that I assumed I would never hear of her again.

Then she popped up on my twitter feed a couple of days ago. Turns out she released another song this one is titled ‘Dog’. And everyone has kind of lost their s**t over it. People are either praising her or saying that she is making baseless accusations about muslim leaders ( specifically males) preying on the weak.  If you were to look at the opening lyrics of her song it would appear that she is in fact accusing muslim leaders of having ulterior motives and hiding behind their religious standing to prey on others.

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And on her website she states the purpose of the song was to call out religious leaders. Even though her lyrics focus solely on regular Muslim men.

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This would be commendable if only she had actually bothered to call out any muslim leaders or organizations that had preyed on people. Instead she tweeted an article about an investigation into a German choir school where 547 boys were reportedly abused. Using this as her reason behind ‘Dogs’. Mona even explicitly states that she is not advocating calling anyone out.

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So if ‘Dog’ is not necessarily about calling deviant Muslim/religious leaders out for their depravity then what is it about? Well, that’s kind of unclear. There doesn’t appear to be one cohesive message in the song. Each verse speaks about something other than the opening verse .

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This verse appears to be about a guy who isn’t financially well off  hitting on her.

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The next verse seems to be about some guy blaming her for not being able to control his sexual desires.

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In another one she talks about a man trying to step out on his wife and another man who secretly smokes weed.

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She also talks about men who pretend to be more religious than they actually are before talking about the scandal surrounding a picture of Saudi men on a women’s panel.

While these are all topics that should be addressed they dont actually convey either message that Mona claimed ‘Dog’ was about. Her song does not address sexual abuse against women or children. Neither does it address respected religious leaders misusing their power. The song is mostly about Muslim brothers acting inappropriate. While not bothering to mention how some sisters engage in the exact same behaviors.

Mona ends up making claims about respected religious leaders that she cannot back up. So instead she focuses on the behavior of some Muslim men to disguise this. I don’t doubt that she has been harassed by brothers online. Or that she has witnessed brothers pretend to be more religious than they actually are. But if she wants to claim that ‘Dog’ was about ending the silence surrounding abuse of women and children then the least she could do is give some examples of abuse. Like she did about the boys at Regensburg Domspatzen.  Im certainly not saying that no Muslim religious leader has abused their power but Mona speaks as if their is a huge epidemic that is being silenced. Yet, she gives no proof of this! Perhaps that is because she doesn’t actually have any proof of her own.

Anyone with an eye for bulls**t can easily take apart Mona’s verses and see that there is really no substance behind the song. However, when someone is well known with a young, impressionable audience their claims absolutely need to have validity behind them. So far Mona’s claims have none. Yet, people continue to eat it up.

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Evaluating The Need For Male Guardians

In the years since 9/11 we have seen a steady rise of anti-muslim sentiment in western countries. Muslims have had to endure extreme scrutiny from the press, travel bans, and even surveillance in our masjids. Despite the efforts of many Muslims to invite the public to learn what Islam is all about, there is still a lot of resentment concerning Muslims and our presence in the West.

This resentment has resulted in attacks on some of the easiest targets of our ummah. A recent incident being the brutal murder of 17 year old Nabra Hassanen. It is reported that Nabra and a group of teens were walking to All Dulles Area Muslim Society when a car pulled up and two men wielding baseball bats got out and began attacking them. Everyone in the group ran, but when they met back up the teens realized that Nabra was missing. Her dead body was later found floating in a pond.

When I initially learned that Nabra was walking to ADAMS with friends, I assumed that she had been walking only with a few female friends. It made a lot of sense to me that they would flee and that perhaps Nabra was just left behind. But when I found out the number of people with her and that there were males present I was taken aback. I could not wrap my head around the males in the group not only running away but running away without making sure that the girls had first gotten safely away.

I want to make something very clear. I do not place the blame of Nabra’s death on the shoulders of these young men. The blame falls only on the person that beat and killed her. However, I find it alarming that not everything was done to guarantee that the young women in the group were okay. There is something very wrong with this. When young men do not take the time to protect the women in their community that is a problem. But the problem isn’t with these young men. The problem lies at the feet of the entire ummah. We as a collective are to blame.

Where We Went Wrong

The first place we went wrong is that we allowed ourselves to feel safe, and I think a lot of that has to do with us living in the West. As a result, we have slipped in making sure our communities are safe.  Muslims don’t take proper precautions given the hostile climate we live in. There is little security in our masjids, despite the fact that many have been vandalized or attacked. Muslim women travel without mahram men even though there have been so many reports of Muslimahs being physically assaulted or deveiled. And when there is an assault, people only become cautious for a short period of time. After an attack a man may be a little more vigilant in going places with his wife so that she does not have to be out in public alone. Or maybe he will tell her to take off her niqab or hijab. But these are temporary solutions that only makes them feel safe until the next attack. It simply is not enough. We need to make sure that we are taking extra steps to protect our masjids, homes, and loved ones.

The next place we went wrong is hindering the progression of our boys becoming men. I firmly believe that in order for a boy to progress to being not just a man but an honorable man he must be taught responsibility and respect. At some point we stopped teaching young men to take personal responsibility in ensuring that those who may not be able to protect themselves are safe from harm. We have stopped teaching them how to stand on their own in situations that are stressful and sometimes scary. We allow them to become too influenced by a culture that essentially has no respect for women, religion, or tradition. I’m not saying that boys can have no childhood and I’m not saying we have to cloister ourselves away from the rest of the world. What I’m saying is that we need to educate boys on what responsibilities they will have as men. These responsibilities include being the protectors of our women, communities, and religion.

Where Are Our Men? Why Have They Failed To Protect Us?

This is a question I saw on Facebook right after news of Nabra’s death broke. The sister who posted this question was understandably angry. When we learn that a Muslimah has been beaten or had her veil ripped off it makes a lot of us feel vulnerable. But I think it’s a bit unfair. Women cannot sit back and complain that we are unprotected when we have little desire to enforce the rules we already have in place of providing safety for us. Most Muslimahs I have met are really against the idea of having a male guardian accompanying them. Many would see it as restrictive, a threat to their independence. The very idea of not going somewhere if you don’t have an mahram male with you is inconceivable.

In conversations regarding how to make women safer women talk about organizing self defense classes or buying pepper spray. These are good ideas and may mean the difference between life and death, but these should be the last resort. The first topic in these conversations needs to be making sure that Muslimahs are accompanied by mahram escorts as much as possible. If a woman has a mahram male and can be accompanied by one there is no reason why she should not be.

A lot of people will say that women shouldn’t have to be escorted by mahram men. We should be able to walk in public without being assaulted, abducted, or murdered. And I agree with them, we should be able to go out without being molested. But safety in public isn’t really guaranteed for anyone. Even non-Muslim women are not completely safe in public. Daily, women are sexually harassed, raped, and physically or sexually assaulted. So if non-Muslim women are not safe in Western society, I can’t understand why Muslim women would believe we could be.

Open Letter To Muslims In The LGBT Community

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Dear Muslims in the LGBT community,

I believe in speaking candidly when it comes to important matters. Without open honesty there can never be a dialogue and without a dialogue we can never progress to our better selves and actually regress to being thought police. So that’s what I plan to do in this letter. I won’t sugarcoat or try to disguise my beliefs because it would be a disservice to myself and anyone who might stumble upon this blog. I will start by examining what homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism actually are.

Some believe that homosexuality/ bisexuality are caused by a child not being exposed to the opposite sex parent. They also believe this about transgender people. However, this is not true. Plenty of boys raised by single moms and girls raised by single dads do not end up gay .What it comes down to is desire. It really is…

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How College Students Leave Islam

“Thus I continued from day to day, in such ecstasies of joy, thirsting for full sanctification, and more intimate communion with God; daily asking what should I render to him for all his benefits to such an hell deserving sinner; earnestly begging that God would find out some way for me , that I might be made instrumental in advancing his kingdom and interest in the world.”

–Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Sarah Osborn (1814)

One would think that a 21st century Muslim convert and a 19th century revivalist Christian woman would have little in common. However, as I read this excerpt from the memoir of Sarah Osborn in preparation for my American civics discussion course, I could not help but be moved by her devotion. While our faiths were different our lives had been taken on a similar path. We were both women who suffered innumerable hardships only to be saved from a life of despair by the grace of God. Months earlier I had retaken my shahada after a lapse in faith that nearly ended in me committing suicide. Like Sarah I felt a gratitude that was outreached by Allah’s mercy and I wanted to spread the joy I was feeling. I remember sitting in class the next day eagerly anticipating for it to start. I had thoroughly enjoyed reading Sarah’s words and I wanted the class to hear my perspective.

Our usual TA was absent that day so the discussion was led by someone else. She opened the discussion by asking if we believed what Sarah wrote in another excerpt or if we thought she was just exaggerating.

“But Satan had still a desire to sift me as wheat. He assaulted me daily; but those words of the blessed Jesus were frequently applied for my support, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ One night in particular, when watching with a dear friend, who was sick, Satan assaulted me in as furious a manner, seemingly, as believed the combat lasted, at least, two hours, as fierce as though I had talked with him face to face. He again ranked all my sins before my eyes, telling me it was impossible, notwithstanding my great hopes,for me ever to be saved. He was still sure of me and would not let me go. I should surely turn back again, and worse than ever.”

Everyone in the class unanimously agreed that she had been exaggerating in order to make an impact on her audience. And just like that, all the excitement I previously had evaporated, the words falling silent on my tongue. How could I, in all seriousness, tell my classmates that I not only believed her but fought the same battles with Iblees? I knew that they would dismiss me as they had dismissed Sarah. My classmates could never understand what it was like to have Shaitan whisper to you, enticing you to sin. They would not know what it was like to see past sins played before their eyes as if on a projection screen. To feel weighed down by the guilt of them, knowing that each one had left a stain upon their soul. I knew they could never believe me because I used to think as they did. Something else Sarah wrote came to my mind.

“Some would tell me I was turned fool, and distracted, when I said I have been a vile sinner, for everybody knew I had been a sober woman all my days: and yet I used to do such things too, as well as they: And what was the matter now? Sometimes they would say, “This fit will be over quickly.” But all such answers as these, of which I had great many, would serve to humble me yet more, and put me on pleading of preserving grace, that I might never bring dishonor upon the name of God. And indeed, all the trials I met with, which were various, had, through the abounding goodness of God, this effect, to quicken me yet more.”

This was an unfamiliar feeling for me. Never had I been so afraid to speak my mind. I am not one to be cowed down from whatever stance I take. The classroom was my space. This was a place where my voice was heard, where I could introduce new ideas. I felt that this was especially important since I was the only Muslim in the class as well as the only female student. I saw myself as someone who would stand by her beliefs. Yet, I remained silent, effectively cowed.

I stayed silent until we moved on to a different topic, but for the rest of the class I could only think of how fearful I felt of being rejected by my peers. I began to see a divide, one that could not be bridged. I thought that my classmates were deaf to Allah’s calling and they thought I believed in fairy tales.

This scene plays out every day in the lives of young Muslims like myself: sometimes in a lecture hall, other times in a study group, lunch break, or even at a party. A Muslim who is sure of themselves and sure of their faith will suddenly feel like a fish out of water when confronted with the doubts of their peers, friends, and even professors.

Thousands of freshmen enter college unprepared to effectively challenge and refute the doubts of an increasingly secular and anti-Muslim world. They go off secure in their religious beliefs and in their relationship with Allah but slowly, seemingly over the course of their first year in college, they began to see religion and Allah as flawed. Hijab becomes less important, as does praying, reading Quran, and abstaining from haram activities.  A class in philosophy or theology results in an existential crisis while a gender studies class leads to doubts about Allah’s stance on the LGBT community. They find themselves at a loss for answers to questions they thought would never be asked.

All it takes is one little thread to unravel everything. After the doubt sets in comes the questions. At this point, many will seek the counsel of other Muslims, but find that no answer can really satisfy them. Feeling misunderstood, the Muslim student isolates his or herself or seeks out non-Muslims for comfort. It usually doesn’t take long after that before the student becomes an atheist. Perhaps they still believe in the existence of Allah but just can’t see Islam as relevant to today’s world. Some might follow parts of the religion but cut off anything they personally don’t agree with.

Their community is shocked, parents are distraught. They sent their child off to college to receive a degree, but instead find that their child has abandoned their faith. Things become worse when they discover that there is nothing their imam can do to resolve the situation. Eids and Ramadan are awkward times as the families struggle to adjust to their child’s new identity, which is usually a rebellious one. Many former Muslims feel a certain level of resentment towards Allah and become extremely vocal in their attempts to deter people away from Islam.  One can find a class of former Muslims among the most zealous of Islamophobes.

But for some there remains a small ray of hope. Most of the Muslims I meet at some point have gone through a crisis of faith and have made it out of the storm. I know of a young Muslim mother, the same age as me, who struggled with hijab and reconciling her belief that Islam treated women unfairly based on what she had witnessed growing up. Now she wears hijab and has reminded me to keep faith in Allah when my life seems to fall apart at the seams. I know of another muslimah who became an atheist in college but now is in constant remembrance of Allah. I can’t count the number of times I have stumbled upon her doing dhikr or reciting the Quran. She is well on her way to becoming a student of knowledge. My own story is an example as well. As time went on I became less insecure in expressing my beliefs. I find myself unafraid to talk about Islam and what led me from being an atheist to a willing slave of Allah.  And when I find myself falling into that dark place where doubt and hopelessness reside, I remind myself of the words Allah spoke to Prophet Muhammad when he was afraid that Allah had forsaken him.

“By the morning brightness and by the night when it is still. Thy Lord hath not forsaken thee nor does he hate thee. And the last shall be better for thee then the first. And thy Lord shall give and give unto thee and thou shalt be satisfied. Hath he not found thee an orphan and sheltered thee? And found thee astray and guided thee? And found you needy and enriched thee? So for the orphan oppress him not. And for the beggar repel him not. And for the bountiful grace of thy Lord proclaim it.”

 

— Qur’an, Sura Al-Duha

The Problem With Modern Day Salafis

 

There was a time when I was thinking of becoming a salafi. I found the emphasis on orthodoxy to be appealing. However, upon observing the behavior of salafis I decided following that path would not be right for my deen. I do not intend to bash salafis although I do have a personal dislike for salafi Islam. Instead this post will be an honest observation of the problems I have witnessed with modern salafis that led me away from salafiism.

Sectarianism

The biggest problem I had with salafis was their sect like mentality. Oddly enough salafis do not consider themselves to be a sect. In fact, they take great offense in being labeled as such. Yet, the behavior of salafis are the same as those within a sect. Common characteristics of a sect are as follows:

  • Separation from other members of the religious group. The sentiment of salafis is that they are upon the right path and everyone else is on the wrong path. This eventually leads to a kind of self righteous thinking where a person  believes that only they and anyone who thinks like them can be correct. No matter what the situation is. While salafis may strive not to separate themselves from other Muslims this is inevitable.
  • Discouraging questions.  Being a young Muslim there are still many things that I do not know about Islam so when I don’t know something I try not to shy away from asking questions. However, I found that asking a salafi a question would often lead to an accusation of me trying to find some loophole to follow my own nafs. This was especially true when it came to something they didn’t know the answer to.
  • Unquestioning devotion to certain leaders (or scholars).  Whenever I simply disagreed with a salafi scholar the reaction was severe. For the salafis I met the only valid scholarly opinion was that of salafi scholars. Anyone else was either labeled as a false scholar or had their character assassinated. Which leads me to my next point.
  • Discouraging opposing opinions. My first red flag was when I was told by a salafi sister that I should never listen to anything that Yasir Qadhi had to say because he did not like salafis. I heard similar things from other salafis  as well. What was even more alarming was how many salafis engaged in character assassination of various scholars.  It wasn’t enough to disagree with a scholar. They often took it a step further and tried to discredit that scholar altogether.  They seemed not to realize just how serious their actions were.
  • Using shame, fear, or guilt to coerce a certain behavior. In many instances the salafis I encountered delivered ilm (or thought they were) by belittling, using threats, or guilt tripping. If I were to disagree with a salafi it was not unusual to be called ignorant or told that I was blindly following a false scholar. I once had a salafi sister threaten me with the day of Qiyamah because I told her that her tone was too harsh. She never bothered to consider that she might actually have been in the wrong. Another underhanded tactic that was used was inciting guilt by accusing someone of following their nafs instead of the religion. This usually happened when there was a difference of opinion.

Divorcing Grace From the Religion in Favor of Rituals

Aisha reported: I was on a camel that was misbehaving, so I started to beat it. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said to me, “You must be gentle. Verily, gentleness is not in anything but that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything but that it disgraces it.”

What drew me to Islam was the mercy, the graciousness, the sympathy of Allah and his messengers. What drew me away from salafis was their lack of these things. When I first became interested in salafis many people warned me to stay away from them. I was told that they were extreme in their beliefs. However, I assumed that these people had some sort of bias against salafis so I chose not to listen. Over time though I found what I had been told to be true. At first I would tell myself that having a bad encounter with a salafi didn’t reflect on all salafis but telling myself this became more difficult after I encountered more salafis who were harsh, who were extreme.

There was a lack of sympathy, a lack of compassion, a lack of gentleness, a lack of manners and almost no awareness of this on the part of salafis. I was baffled by how someone could claim to love Prophet Muhammad but forget about some of his most important messages of forgiveness, patience, and mercy. Their tendency to take a black and white approach to every situation left me questioning if salafis even have an understanding of just how important gentleness is. If there is no sympathy, manners, compassion, or mercy then Islam just becomes a set of rules and rituals that have little meaning behind them.

A Guise For Insecurity

I dont believe that any salafi starts out with the intention of becoming this way. I think people become drawn to salafism for some of the same reasons I was. They see that Islam has sort of lost it’s place in the eyes of the world as a noble religion that can restore peace and justice in society.  They see that the ummah is fractured and as a whole is going further away from the deen. Salafism is presented as a solution to all of this by calling for a return to our former glory.

At the root of salafism is insecurity caused by a fear of not knowing what place Muslims have in a world that is constantly evolving. This leads to salafis taking on a hyper-vigilant disposition towards the religion. The harshness, arrogance, and extremism that salafis are known for are really just defense mechanisms to combat the fear they feel.

 

 

Ramadan for Diabetics

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As April winds down, many Muslims I know are getting excited about the holy month of Ramadan. They’re researching which food will give them the most energy, making plans to cut out certain vices like cigarettes or music, and preparing their menus for iftar. The preparations alone can be exciting. However, if you are a diabetic like me you often feel left out.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Fasting helps Muslims develop a closer bond to Allah. By abstaining from sexual relations, food, and drink during the daytime, we are better able to focus and develop taqwa. It is also meant to remind us about those unable to eat, allowing us to be more grateful for the bounty Allah has already given us.  Muslims often experience a renewed sense of spirituality as a result. But how is one supposed to achieve this without fasting?

Feed The Hungry

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous [Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during then] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” Surah Baqarah 184-185

One of the goals of fasting is to help those able to feed themselves realize what life is like for those who can’t. Since not eating is dangerous for diabetics, feeding a poor person is equivalent to fasting. This can be done by donating money to charities or giving to a food pantry. However, if you lack the funds to do this, then volunteering at a soup kitchen works just as well. In many ways this is actually better.

While in public I have often observed that people refuse to even acknowledge the homeless as fellow humans. When they speak, many people refuse to make eye contact and pretend that they are not even there. They are sometimes made fun of if they smell bad, and if one of them is mentally ill and having an episode people, will record it to upload it to the internet, further taking away that person’s dignity.

Volunteering in person reminds us that homeless people deserve just as much dignity and recognition as everyone else. Spending time with them allows us to get to know their personal struggle and avoid generalizing their situation. This is a great opportunity to give dawah. In-person interaction will lead to a dialogue, allowing us to spread Islam easily.

Cut Out Distractions

Time spent outside of the necessities such as work or school is often wasted with distractions. Hobbies and friends can easily become distractions as we devote more and more time to them. Think of Ramadan as a chance to cut back on these things.  Devote your time to reading and then re-reading the quran, sunnah, and biography of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Take time for sunnah prayers. Spend more time in the
masjid or perhaps take an online Islamic course. The biggest distraction that could be cut out is unnecessary internet usage. Instead of surfing the internet at night, devote it to Allah.

“They used to sleep but little by night (invoking their Lord (Allâh) and praying, with fear and hope). And in the hours before dawn, they were (found) asking (Allâh) for forgiveness.” [Surah Ath-Tharyât 17-18]

Use Iftar to Focus on Loved Ones

A month in which food is supposed to be restricted is, oddly enough, centered around food, at least for some. There can be such an overemphasis about the meals we break our fast with that people often forget that fasting is supposed to help discipline us. Mealtime is spent gorging ourselves when it should be spent connecting with our family and community. For diabetics this behavior is especially dangerous. An entire month of repeating this could easily land us in the hospital. We don’t have to stop ourselves from partaking in iftar altogether, but we need to know our limits. When you’ve reached yours, spend the rest of your time interacting with those around you and establishing new connections with those you don’t know.

There is no reason that Ramadan can’t be just as special for diabetics as it is for other Muslims. How we experience it depends upon what we choose to do with our time.

 

What Makes Someone An Extremist?

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What makes someone an extremist?
This is a very good question because the word is sometimes attached to any practicing Muslim. But being Muslim doesn’t make a person an extremist because there is nothing extreme in Islam. What makes a person an extremist is how they interact with the rest of the world. An extremist believes that they and anyone who thinks exactly like them are the correct people in any situation and that anyone who is different is deviant and will never see Jannah. Because of this belief an extremist will separate themselves from the rest of the ummah and only interact with people like themselves. You can spot an extremist by how they treat others. Basically they act like their s**t don’t stink. When someone who isn’t an extremist sees someone not following the Qur’an or sunnah they will lead by example or maybe give that person a…

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