April 30, 2011

Desperately Seeking Housewives: Why We Need to Train Our Daughters to Prioritize Their Duties in the Home

Umm 'Uthman is a Puerto Rican mother of two, currently living in Maryland, U.S.A. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Modern Languages and Linguistics and Education and is the founder of Hablamos Islam Ninos.  

I got married at the ripe age of 25. During that time, I was working full time and going to school full time, finishing up my undergrad degree that had taken me forever due to work and some frequent relocating. Work, whether full time or part time seemed to have always been a part of my life. I remember asking my parents, actually begging my parents, to let me work at the age of 14 while still a freshman in high school. I didn’t need to work, Alhamdulillah, I had no financial burdens or worries; I was being taken care of by my parents. Nevertheless, I saw work as an escape, a way out of my strict household, where I could not even go hang out with friends or go to a movie because my father didn’t agree.

I came from a Catholic family, and although my parents were not devout church-goers, they were religiously traditional, part of old school Puerto Rican culture, so a young girl my age could not be outside even with girlfriends without a family chaperone present to protect her. But if I worked, I could be outside, breathing fresh air, or at least the fumes from the burgers grilling at the local McDonald’s where I landed a job after I convinced my mother to convince my father. I had told my mother that I would even hand over my entire paycheck for her to manage as she saw fit in order to win her approval. I had to lie about my age on the application, saying I was 16 instead of 14 because I was not legally of age to work yet. Why McDonald’s never verified my age is beyond me.

And so began a journey of juggling work and school; it was a challenge, but I found it exhilarating. After all, I had no other responsibilities at home, maybe washing a few dishes, perhaps cleaning my room every other decade. My mother did the rest. She was a good housewife, always meticulously clean and thorough. She had years of practice and a great role model to follow: my grandmother who is the epitome of housekeeping and childrearing. That incredible woman mothered 9 of her own children and 2 more that my aunt bore prematurely (or should I say immaturely) at 13 years of age, helped raise some of her grandchildren, managed her own farm, and washed clothes by hand in the heat of the tropical sun, among other inhumane tasks.

Although my mother was an Registered Nurse, and the only child of my grandmother’s who finished high school and college, after moving to the US with my father, she stopped working because of the language barrier, her first and only language being Spanish back then. She missed the hustle and bustle of working in the hospital, but at my father’s request, she merely settled into her new role as Queen of the House. So as the Queen continued with her task of keeping the house tidy, I worked and studied. During work I socialized, meeting many different people and enjoying every minute of my semi-freedom. Once I became 16, I moved on to another job legally, without having to hide my real age, and finally stopped working at 17, taking a break to finish high school and restarting after graduation.

Once I was studying in the university, I didn’t know in what direction I was going. I changed my major dozens of times and dropped classes here and there, but I always enjoyed going to work. It wasn’t until I reached the age of about 22 (Muslim by this time, Alhamdulillah) that I realized I needed to get myself together, so I chose a major and stuck with it, even though I still wasn’t sure about my choice. Nevertheless, I didn’t give up working, as a matter of fact, by the end of my studies, I was working two jobs, one full time, the other part time, plus I had a full time study load. Talk about a workaholic!

Finally, as graduation got closer, Allah presented me the chance to get married. He was a brother who lived two states away, but his character and Deen seemed promising. One of the most important questions I asked my possibly-husband-to-be was, “Will you allow your wife to work?” and I added, “Because I plan to do so.” He agreed although he knew that as a Muslim man, his was the full responsibility of providing for the household. I even managed to have my future husband ask his company if they would transfer him to my city so that I could continue with my career and my studies (I planned to do a Master’s degree). Since his company was big and had offices nearby, his boss was optimistic, but she had to ask her superiors and get back to him. I felt rather satisfied that I could continue with my plans and we moved on with the nikkah.

But Allah had other plans. The day of my graduation, my husband received a phone call from his boss letting him know that he could not transfer; he had to continue to work in his home state. My heart sank, but I was already married and by this time there was no turning back. I could always find a new job, and I could finish my Master’s in another school, no big deal. A few weeks later, I found myself living in a new state, in a place where I knew no one except my husband and his family, and even they lived far. The streets were unfamiliar and the highway looked treacherous. I was afraid of driving there and so I figured I would have to find a job that was close to home. Meanwhile, I started trying to adjust to married life. I nearly panicked when I realized that I would have to cook for my husband and clean the house. I didn’t know how to do that, at least not well. One day my husband pointed out my hairs being all over the floor. “Who cares?” I thought, “Clean them up!” After all, my mother would have done that, not point it out to me like I was supposed to do something about it. But the reality was: I was. I thought I better find a job quick so I could have an excuse to only do half the work I needed to do in the house.

Alhamdulillah, I swiftly landed a nice job in a school less than 2 miles away as a Spanish teacher. It was a relief to jump back into the workforce although I did not really enjoy this new job. Teaching was way too stressful; I felt like I was expected to entertain these kids more than teach them and they were high-schoolers. About halfway through the school year, I noticed some odd changes in me, mainly I was exhausted and suffering from dizzy spells. After some time, it was confirmed, I was pregnant! Masha’Allah, it was wonderful news, but it was also a bit scary. What did this new chapter in my life have in store? Pregnancy not only comes with joy, it is fraught with worry and responsibility. Part of the worry began to affect my work and this began to affect me physically, so much so that I had to stop working… for the first time in a long time. I thought about trying to find another job, but who would hire me knowing that I would go on maternity leave a few months later? I felt out of my element. SubhanAllah. I was not trained to be a housewife, a :::gasp:::, stay-at-home-mom!

That was my life five years ago. I have not worked a day since, except in my house, raising my two children, teaching them, entertaining them, cooking, and cleaning. And I have to be honest and say that I still don’t think I do it well. This is what inspired me to write this article because what happened to me was not just incidental. It is a growing trend among young girls, growing even more so now than when I was in high school. It is a byproduct of the so-called feminist movement, which force-feeds girls into thinking that they should focus on competing with men in the workforce in order to achieve success, rather than gaining the necessary knowledge of how to raise good children and manage successful households. Allah has identified for us our duties and responsibilities in the Qur’an, where He says,

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property)… (Qur’an Chapter An-Nisa/The Women 4:34)

And if that is not clear enough for us, then we have the hikmah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, sullalahu alaihi wa salaam, as a guide. He also explained the leading roles of men and women in the following hadith:

It has been narrated on the authority of Ibn 'Umar that the Prophet (May peace be upon him) said: Beware. Every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A slave is a guardian over the property of his master and shall be questioned about it (as to how he safeguarded his trust). Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust. (Sahih Muslim, Book 020, Hadith 4496)

This does not mean that a woman cannot have career goals or aspirations. It means that her priority should be her family and maintaining the household in the most excellent way. If she can do this while working full time, then may Allah grant her success in all her affairs. However, we as parents need to instill discipline in our young girls and teach them how to take care of the house and how to manage their time so that they can complete chores and study. Instead of pushing them to become doctors or engineers and to only focus on their careers and delay marriage, we must show them how to lead a balanced life. This is more practical and healthier for a woman. Allah says in the Qur’an,

And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you to excel others. For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned, and ask Allah of His Bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything. (Qur’an Chapter An-Nisa/The Women 4:32) This is the true equality which we should seek. Not “equality” of gender roles.

In my case, by Allah’s Mercy and after some time, I was able to assimilate into my role, but I am still in the process and many days go by where I question whether or not I should go back to work. During these times, I think about my children and how and where and to whom I would leave them. I will be the one questioned for them, not the daycare center, not the nanny, not their grandparents. And realistically speaking, will my paycheck even cover the expenses of childcare? Sometimes, work really doesn’t seem worth it. Other friends of mine are able to balance work and their home life, masha’Allah, however, they admit it is difficult and some of them do it out of necessity.

Again, I stress that it is incumbent upon us to teach our children the responsibilities of home life. Even boys should be taught how to do household work for even the Prophet, sullalahu alaihi wa salaam, mended his own socks! Should we expect less from our sons? No, we should push them to emulate the Prophet, sullalahu alaihi wa salaam, in every way. Not only does this teach them responsibility and humility, but it also prepares them in case they happen to marry one of these poor girls who have been programmed with “tunnel vision,” who don’t see beyond their computer or work desk. At least the husband will be able to help her with the housework and not expect that she will instantaneously know how to handle the chores herself, nor should she be expected to do everything herself. I would have loved that my mother push me more in doing chores and learning my role as a woman, but instead I chose the harder path. Maybe we can help our children to be successful in all avenues of life, not just in their studies or careers; after all, we are their role models.

May Allah guide us all to the Straight Path and keep us firm upon this Deen and may He make us the best parents for our children. Ameen.

April 23, 2011

Dr. Aisha Utz on Nurturing Emaan in Children

Dr. Aisha Utz (formerly Aisha Hamdan) is an American mother of five, currently living in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from West Virginia University and a Bachelor's Degree in Islamic Studies from the American Open University. She has written over 100 articles on various topics for Aljumuah Magazine (an international Islamic magazine), has one published book (“Nurturing Eeman in Children”), and another book to be released soon ("Psychology from the Islamic Perspective") by International Islamic Publishing House. She has written several professional journal articles and book chapters related to the topic of Psychology and Islam, has presented these ideas at a number of professional conferences, and regularly integrates the Islamic perspective into her teaching. She is also Associate Editor of the Faith-Based Practice section of the Journal of Muslim Mental Health. Her current efforts involve the development of a research program to study the relationship between religiosity and mental health in Muslim populations. She has been Muslim for 25 years and is actively involved in various da'wah activities.

1. Out of all the parenting topics available to write about, why did you select “Nurturing Emaan” as the focus for your book?
Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem. I had read several parenting books from an Islamic perspective and found that many of them focused on similar concepts, primarily that of raising children to be Muslims in the sense of practicing the outward rituals of Islam. I felt that something was missing in these books, which was the inner dimension of belief and faith. Having lived in the Muslim world for several years now, I can say that the education systems are also missing this dimension. Children are taught how to pray, fast, supplicate, etc., but the teaching and actions seem to be void of any true sincerity or faith. It is for this reason that I felt that the building of emaan should be given priority in our families, in our schools and in our communities. We should be attempting to build a generation of true believers rather than mere foam in the sea.
2. In the introduction to your book, you repeat the call for a return to Islamic values as a solution to society’s ills. Please expand on this concept for our readers. What does it entail? What social ills affecting our children in particular do you believe this can remedy? What role does having Emaan play in these efforts and what do you believe is our job as parents in facilitating this?
The foam of the sea that I am referring comes from the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him. The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon) said, “Soon the nations will call one another to attack you, as diners call one another to the platter.”  Someone asked the Prophet, “Will that be because we will be few in number those days?”  He replied, “No, those days you will be many, but you will be foam, like the foam of the sea.  Allah will remove fear and respect from the hearts of your enemies, and He will fill your hearts with wahn (weakness).”  Someone inquired, “O Messenger of Allah, what is that wahn?”  He said, “Love of this world and hatred of death.” (Abu Dawud, Ahmad). The main ill of our ummah today is just as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has described, the love of this world. It is due to this love that Muslims have been willing to sell their deen for a paltry price. As parents, we need to teach our children to love Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, above all else and then His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).  When this love and this emaan is in the heart everything else will fall into place. With love of Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) comes obedience, submission, and strength; strength to face the challenges, tribulations and tests that come to us almost on a daily basis.

3. Explain the importance of emphasizing and prioritizing spiritual education and training over worldly education and training.
One could respond to that by asking the question: "Which would you give more priority to and exert more effort toward achieving: something that will last for eternity or something that may last, on an average, 70 years?"  Please take notice that I used the word "will" for eternity as that is certain, and the word "may" for this life as there is no guarantee that we will be here tomorrow.  So following that, the second question would be, "Which should be given more emphasis: something that is certain or something that is indeterminate?" Of course, this understanding requires that the individual have as the primary goal for his or her family the attainment of Allah's favor and rewards in the Hereafter, a goal that each and every Muslim should have.

This is not to say that "worldly" education and training do not have their place since working for and acquiring them may actually be turned into a form of ibaadah (worship) to Allah and thus ultimately a source of rewards. The danger mainly comes when the correct intention is missing (not done for the sake of Allah) or when prohibited means or forms of education are utilized and even justified in various distorted ways. We should be conscious of Allah at all times and make sure that our children have solid spiritual and religious education first and foremost and then we can move on to other aspects of life.

4. Strengthening Emaan is something that even the best of adults have difficulty with. What advice can you give for strengthening this characteristic in our children and connecting our children to the various pillars of Emaan? 
Although various examples and suggestions are provided in the book, I would say that there are two main keys to strengthening emaan. The first of these is knowledge which is the reason that a complete section has been given to this topic in the book. I can say that for me personally, the acquisition of knowledge has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. It takes you to places that you could never have imagined, in the sense that you understand and see concepts and events from a completely different perspective (one that most humans are not able to perceive). It brings one closer and closer to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) and not only strengthens faith, but leads to a certainty of faith that is beyond description. When one comprehends the complete, comprehensive and perfect nature of Islam and Allah's plan for His creatures, the only appropriate response is to submit entirely with one's heart and soul.

The other important component, I believe, is connecting Islam and Emaan to our lives, as I have mentioned in the book. We need to contemplate and become aware of Allah's constant presence and the signs that He sends to us during our existence in this world. So many people are sent signs but simply allow them to pass by without taking heed or obtaining benefit. These signs indicate to us that there truly is a God, that He cares for us, and that He does intervene and have an influence in our lives. The more that we learn and grow, the more we are able to perceive and contemplate Allah's signs in the Qur'an, in the universe, and within our own selves. As we become aware of these experiences, we need to share them with our children and use the day by day opportunities to nurture emaan within them.    

5. From a psychological standpoint, what affect can not having a strong Muslim role model have on a child’s Emaan? What affect can it have if a child has a strong Muslim role model, but he or she is not the child’s parent? 
It is still possible to develop emaan without a strong role model, but the effect is more powerful if a model is available. It is not necessary that the model be a parent, but a parent will have more opportunity to teach a child due to the uniqueness of the parental role and the greater amount of time that they will have together. As I have mentioned in the book, one of the ways in which children learn is by observing and imitating others around them. In psychological terms, this is known as observational learning or modeling, and it can have a strong influence upon behavior. In reality, however, we do have the model of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) "alive" and available as his teachings have been preserved. When one reads the ahadith, the seerah, the stories of the companions, it is as if they come to life and the "model" stands before one's eyes. This is one of the amazing aspects of Islam in that it has been preserved in such detail and to such an extent that someone 1400 years after the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is able to benefit from his model. He is our spiritual model and will be such until the end of time.

6. In chapter five of your book, you call the child’s fitrah (innate tendency to know Allah) an “important favor for parents”. Please explain how the fitrah is a favor for parents and how we can best utilize this favor in educating our children.
This concept is basically described in that chapter of the book, but it might be best to provide an analogy here. Let us say that there is a university student who loves medicine and really wants to be a doctor. He has always been interested in biology and related subjects and just finds it so natural to study this major. When he enters the university and begins studying medicine it will come so easily and he will thoroughly enjoy the experience. If that same student were to be forced to study engineering it would be much more challenging and he would probably dread attending classes every day.

The same idea can be applied to the fitrah which is our natural inclination to believe in the existence of Allah and to worship Him alone. It is a favor to parents as it makes the process of teaching children so much easier, just as the medical student finds the study of medicine to be easier than other disciplines. It actually takes more effort to teach children to go against their fitrah. The favor can be utilized in teaching our children in two ways: 1) beginning the education of children at a young age, even at the time of birth, as the fitrah will already be present and 2) by focusing on tawheed and the principles of emaan as has been described in the book. In our day and time, Muslims have lost the importance of tawheed in their lives and have been led astray by various ideologies and foreign concepts. We need to reclaim the significance of tawheed, not only for this life but primarily for the Hereafter for that is the only key that opens the door to Paradise.  

7. In many ways, the world we live in encourages the compartmentalization of beliefs. It’s okay to pray, but not while we’re at work or school. It’s okay to believe in God, but not okay to share those beliefs with others. How can we counter this way of thinking when it comes to teaching our children about Islam and Emaan?
Unfortunately, Muslims have fallen into another trap of the disbelievers in attempting to separate religion from life (secular perspective). This is tied to the early point about loving the dunya (this worldly life). It is important to teach our children that Islam is not simply a religion, but it is a complete way of life that is structured in such a way as to provide guidance on even the most mundane of activities. Our every action, our every intention should be for the sake of Allah and in accordance with shari'ah and in that way everything that we do becomes an act of worship. This is the only way that we can fulfill the purpose of our creation. When we fall short of that we are not completely submitting to Allah, but are submitting to other things whether it be peer pressure, fear of evaluation or backlash from others, etc. We need to submit ourselves completely to Allah and fear Him above all else.    

8. For many women, there is a lot of pressure to be a “super mom”, juggling marriage, children, career, volunteer work, and “higher” education. What impact do you think this mindset has on the Muslim family unit? What impact do you think this mindset has on a Muslim child whose own mother may be burning herself out trying to meet this expectation?
In my work with university students, I have seen the pressure for young women to gain higher education degrees and to subsequently enter the workforce. Many of them are delaying marriage and the starting of a family in order to pursue "career goals." I have counseled female students who do not have the ability or desire to pursue higher education but who are forced by their parents or other societal pressures. They experience a great deal of stress and may suffer from anxiety and depression due to their situation. This is happening in the Muslim world and it seems to be yet another example of blind imitation of the disbelievers, who societies were destroyed, in part, by the disparagement of the role of motherhood. I believe that this phenomenon is having and will continue to have a major effect upon the functioning of Muslim families and upon Muslim communities as a whole. Any time that humans stray from the commandments of Allah, the intricate balance is disturbed and they are the ones to ultimately suffer.

Motherhood is a valued and honorable role in society and it needs to maintain its position in society for optimal functioning of families and communities. Children need their mothers more than anyone in the world and no one can ever take her place. This is another message that we need to give our children and we need to give our daughters the opportunity, and actually encourage them to choose motherhood as a lifetime career. This is not to say that work outside the home is completely prohibited as we do need female teachers, doctors, etc., but we need to make sure that our priorities are in the correct order. I am currently writing another book on this topic as it is so relevant to our current times.

9. With so much scrutiny and animosity being projected towards Muslims around the world, how can we encourage our children to maintain positive self-images and hold firm to their Islamic identities?
When children have strong emaan they will automatically have a positive self-image and a strong Islamic identity, so they go hand in hand. This is one of the reasons that the building of emaan is so important in our current times. With so many efforts to denigrate Islam, our faith needs to be especially firm to face the inevitable challenges.  I recently went to Spain to attend an international conference on women's mental health, and had a taste of the negativity and animosity that others carry toward Muslims (one is somewhat sheltered from that while living in a Muslim country, alhamdulillah). One could almost feel the icy glares slicing through the soul. But with certainty of faith, the ice is quickly melted and turned to peace and contentment. The contentment of knowing that what you have is the truth and that no matter what they do or so they can never take that away from you, for it is in the heart. And that no matter what situation you may find yourself in you will never compromise your beliefs for any worldly gain.

This brings to mind the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): "Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers." It was asked, "Who are those strangers, O Messenger of Allah?" He replied, "Those that correct the people when they become corrupt." [Reported by Abu Amr al-Dani, from the hadith of ibn Masoud. It is authentic according to al-Albani. Another narration says, "Those that correct my sunnah which has been corrupted by the people after me."] In another narration he said in response to the same question, "They are a small group of people among a large evil population. Those who oppose them are more than those who follow them." [Reported by ibn Asaakir. It is authentic according to al-Albani.] . So, in essence, we should be content and proud to be amongst the strangers as the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) gave glad tidings to those who follow his Sunnah and call others to the message of Islam.

10. What roles do bonding, love and affection play in nurturing our children’s Emaan?
I believe that these elements are essential in the overall formula. One of the things that I remember being taught as a graduate student in clinical psychology is that discipline can only work if a strong parent-child relationship has been developed. If that is missing, no discipline in the world will have an effect in changing behavior. I believe that the same principle applies to nurturing emaan in children. We will not be very successful in our efforts if we do not take the time to build a relationship with our children.  Relationships are built through love, affection, bonding, spending time together, laughing together, crying together. Once the bond has been formed, children will respond more readily to the message that we are trying to get across. It is an ongoing process and one that requires effort and dedication.

11. In what ways do you believe that striving to nurture Emaan in our children can assist us in nurturing Emaan in our own selves? 
I have discussed this in the book as well. I believe that parenting provides a natural opportunity to nurture emaan within ourselves. We learn and grow along with our children as we share and study and experience the wisdom and blessings of Allah in our lives. If we are to teach and be good role models it becomes necessary for us to learn and try to build our own emaan for the most effective results. This is ultimately one of the purposes and goals of parenting.

12. What impact has your experience as a mother had on your own Emaan?
Parenting is not an easy job and there will be challenges, but I think that one of the greatest effects that parenting has had on my own emaan is the realization that Allah is there to assist, to guide, and to reward any efforts that are made. This is part of the signs that were mentioned earlier and one sees it playing out in life. These experiences increase one's emaan and certainty of faith, and are the treasures of parenting that only few are able to discover and comprehend.  These are the moments when Allah provides the opportunity to make hijrah to the Muslim lands for the benefit of the family, when He sends a good Muslim friend for your child or teenager, when He guides you to that knowledge which is best for your children.

The other element is to obtain the fruits of one's efforts. These are the moments when your child comes and tells you that she informed her teacher about an extra mark that was mistakenly given on an exam; when your child tell you that other students were cheating on an exam or assignment, but she refused to cheat; when your teenager who has been a bit distant in the search for independence, comes one day to stand beside you in prayer once again. These are the bounties that Allah bestows upon His believers in this world due to their righteousness. And the rewards in the Hereafter will be far beyond these and far beyond our imagination.

May Allah accept our efforts and grant us His Paradise in the Hereafter.

Beautiful Reminder: Luqman's Advice to His Son, Part 3

Lessons to Take, cont. 
5. Being Patient
Towards the end of his advice, Luqman tells his son to be patient.
"...And bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily, these are some of the important commandments." (Qur'an: Luqman, Verse 17)

Commenting on this, Ibn Kathir says in his tafsir, "Luqman knew that whoever enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil, will inevitably encounter harm and annoyance from people, so he told him to be patient...Being patient when people cause harm or annoyance is one of the most important commandments."

In the Sahih collections of Bukhari and Muslim, it's narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said, "No one has been given anything more excellent and more comprehensive than sabr (patience)."

In his work, Patience and Gratitude, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah says, "Every person has to exercise patience in order to face difficulties, whether he does so willingly or unwillingly. The noble person exercises patience willingly, because he realizes the benefits of patience, and he knows that he will be rewarded for his patience and will be criticized if he panics. He is aware that if he does not have patience, panicking and impatience will not help him to regain missed opportunities, and will not take away things he dislikes. Whatever is decreed and is qada’ wa qadr cannot be prevented from happening, and whatever is decreed not to happen cannot be made to happen. So an attitude of impatience and panic actually causes harm...The ignoble man exercises patience only when he realizes he has no choice. After wasting a lot of time and energy and panicking and struggling, he realizes that his impatience will not help him. Then he exercises patience in the same way that a person who has been tied up to be whipped exercises patience."

It's narrated in Bukhari that 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab, radiallahu anhu, said, "We considered the best part of our lives to be that in which there was sabr (patience)."

6. Humility
Luqman ends his advice to his son urging him to be humble and moderate, and to refrain from being prideful and arrogant. Luqman says, "And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster. And be moderate in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the braying of the asses." (Qur'an, Luqman: 18-19)

In Sahih Muslim, it's related that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said, "Whoever has an atoms worth of kibr (pride) in his heart will not enter Paradise." So a man said: What about a person who loves (i.e. takes pride in) wearing beautiful clothes and beautiful shoes? So he replied: "Indeed Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Kibr (pride) is to reject the truth, and to despise the people."

In his work, Pride: A Barrier to Paradise, Shaykh 'AbdurRahman Ibn Naasir as-Sa'dee explains that to completely reject the truth of Allah, the Most High, and His Messenger, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, out of pride is equal to disbelief (kufr) and to reject parts of the truth out of pride or preference for personal opinion is not disbelief, but still an act that is punishable by Allah.

Shaykh as-Sa'dee says in regards to this, "So it is obligatory upon the seeker of knowledge to give complete and absolute precedence to the saying of Allaah and the saying of His Messenger sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam over and above the saying of anyone else, and that he should make that the basis to which he returns, and the foundation upon which he builds; following the guidance of the Prophet sal-Allaahu 'alayhe wa sallam, striving hard to understand what is intended from it, and following this, both inwardly and outwardly."

The Shaykh goes on to explain the second type of pride mentioned in the hadith, saying that to despise the people is to look down upon them due to some amazement a person may have with himself, thinking himself to be better or higher than others.

In Sahih Muslim, it's narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said, "It is enough evil for a person to despise his brother Muslim."

Ibn Taymiyyah said about the worshipper, "the more humble, needy, and subdued he is before Allah – the closer he will be to Him, and the dearer he will be to Him, and the greater in status he will be to Him. So, the happiest of the Creation is the one who is greatest in servitude to Allah," (Majmu' al-Fatawa' 1/67).

April 13, 2011

Beautiful Reminder: Luqman's Advice to His Son, Part 2

Lessons to Take, cont.
3. Having Taqwa
How often do we commit small sins, thinking that they're no big deal or that no one will know? As Luqman points out so beautifully, Allah knows EVERYTHING that we do and He will hold us to account.

Explaining verse 16, Ibn Kathir says in his tafsir, "If a wrong action or sin be equal to the size of a grain of mustard seed, He [Allah] will bring it forth on the Day of Resurrection, when it is placed in the Scales of Justice and everyone is rewarded or punished for his actions -- if they are good, he will be rewarded, and if they are bad he will be punished. This is like the ayat...'So, whoever does good equal to the weight of a speck of dust shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of a speck of dust shall see it (Qur'an, Al-Zalzalah: 7-8).'"

Because of this, we should have taqwa, fear of Allah. To have proper fear of Allah is to leave all acts of disobedience to Him for those acts that are in obedience to Him, all while hoping for Allah's mercy.

In his book, The Fruits of Taqwa, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih Al-'Uthaymeen mentions the advice a righteous person once gave regarding taqwa: "One of the righteous, wrote to his believing brother: 'I advise you with taqwaa (fear) of Allaah who knows your secrets and sees your open actions, so remember Allaah at every time of the night and day, and fear Allaah according to His nearness, and the power He has over you. And know that He always sees you. And do not leave His Rule for another rule, nor His Dominion, for another dominion, So glorify Him, by fearing Him immensely.'"

Shaykh 'Uthaymeen also quotes Umar ibn Al-Khattab as having wrote to his son, "To proceed: Verily 1 advise you to have taqwaa (fear) of Allaah the Mighty and Majestic, for whoever fears Him, Allaah will protect him, and whoever gives a loan to Him, Allaah will reward him, and whoever thanks Him, Allaah will increase him."

Some of the benefits of having taqwa as outlined in 'Uthaymeen's book include: protecting oneself from the Shaytan, increasing in blessings and good actions, easing difficulty, increasing in Allah's love, attaining knowledge, attaining Allah's mercy, and being amongst those who enter Paradise. May Allah make us among those who have taqwa, ameen!

4. Encouraging Good and Forbidding Wrong
After speaking of Allah, Luqman goes into the next portion of his advice, telling his son to pray, enjoin Al-Maruf and forbid Al-Munkar.

In his work, Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong, Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah, defines Al-Maruf as including everything internally and externally that has been allowed by Allah, the Most High, and the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. Al-Munkar, by default then, is everything that Allah and his Prophet have forbidden.

According to Ibn Taymiyyah, enjoining right and forbidding wrong is an obligation to be fulfilled to the best of one's ability, sometimes by the tongue, sometimes by the hand, and other times by the heart.

In a hadith narrated in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "Whoever of you sees wrong being committed, let him rectify it with his hand, if he is unable, then with his tongue, and if he us unable, then with his heart, and this is the weakest of faith."

Ibn Taymiyyah quotes a saying from Ibn Masood, radiAllahu anhu, where he was once asked, "Who are the living dead?" His response was, "He who does not acknowledge the right as such, and does not reject the wrong."

An important concept to note is that in our efforts to enjoin good and forbid evil, we must ensure to the best of our ability that what we allow and what we forbid is in accordance with what Allah and His Messenger have set down for us.

Ibn Taymiyyah says, "...the love of a believer for what is good, and his hatred for what is evil, and his desire for the accomplishment of the good and his desire for the avoidance and prevention of evil should be in harmony with what Allah loves and hates.

It is also imperative that in doing these actions, we do them purely for the sake of Allah, to seek His pleasure.

Ibn Taymiyyah says, "It is a requirement of righteous deeds that they be done solely for the Face of Allah ta'ala, for Allah does not accept any actions except for those with which His Face alone was sought. This is as in the sahih hadith narrated by Abu Huraira that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: 'Allah ta'ala says: I am the partner least in need of any partner. Whenever someone does an act, partly for me and partly for an imagined partner, I am completely free of that action, and it is wholly for the partner which was associated with me.'"

None of this can be done without proper knowledge, compassion, and patience.

To be continued...

April 7, 2011

Beautiful Reminder: Luqman's Advice to His Son, Part 1

One of the beautiful reminders that Allah sets for us in the Qur'an is the story of Luqman and the advice he gave to his son. This story can be found in Surah Luqman, Chapter 31.

Who was Luqman?
According to the tafsir of Ibn Kathir (taken from tafsir.com), his full name was Luqman bin 'Anqa' bin Sadun and his son's name was Tharun. The majority of the salaf considered Luqman to be a righteous servant of Allah, but not a Prophet. Sufyan Ath-Thawri was quoted as having said, "Luqman was an Ethiopian slave who was a carpenter." It was also narrated from Mujahid that "Luqman was a righteous servant but he was not a Prophet."

Allah, the Most High, speaks of the virtue of Luqman in the Qur'an. In verse 12 of Surah Luqman, it says, "And indeed we bestowed upon Luqman Al-Hikmah (wisdom and religious understanding) saying: 'Give thanks to Allah.' And whoever gives thanks, he gives thanks for the (good of) his own self. And whoever is thankful, then verily, Allah is All-Rich (free of need), Worthy of all praise."

What was Luqman's Advice to His Son? 
In verse 13, Luqman began his advice: "And remember when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him, 'O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily, joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zulm (wrong) indeed.'"

After this, Allah says in verses 14 and 15, "And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years - give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination."

"But if they both strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not; but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do."

Starting with verse 16, Luqman's advice continues:

"O my son! If it be (anything) equal to the weight of a grain of a mustard seen, and though it be in a rock, or in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Verily, Allah is Subtle (in bringing out that grain), Well-Aware (of its place)."

"O My son! Aqim-As-Salat (perform As-Salat), enjoin Al-Maruf (Islamic monotheism and all that is good), and forbid from Al-Munkar (polytheism and all that is evil), and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily, these are some of the important commandments (ordered by Allah)."

"And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not any arrogant boaster. And be moderate in your walking, and lower you voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the braying of the asses, (Qur'an: Surah Luqman, verses 13-19)."

Lessons to Take
1. The Importance of Calling to Tawhid
The first thing that Luqman began his advice with was a reminder to believe in Allah, alone, without partners.

Providing an explanation of this, Shaykh Rabee Al-Madhkhali writes in his article, Luqman's (the wise) Advise to his Son, "Wisdom is to put something in its place and this is from the wisdom of Luqman and every caller who is wise...From the aspects of wisdom is that you start with the most important of affairs just as in the hadith of Muadh ibn Jabil which is a clarification from the Messenger (Sallaahu alayhi wa Sallam) concerning the methodology of this call to Allaah, the exalted. The Messenger (Sallaahu alayhi wa Sallam) said, "You will come to the people from the Book (Jews and Christians), so let the first thing you call them to be to testify that none has the right to worshipped except Allaah" then he mentioned Salat (prayer) and Zakat (obligatory charity)," (Ahmed, Bukhari and Muslim)."

The Shaykh continues saying, "Likewise, Luqman called his son to be upon Tawheed (maintaining the Oneness of Allaah) and forbade him from Shirk (to associate partners with Allaah) then after that he ordered him with prayer and to enjoin good and forbid the evil. This clearly shows his wisdom."

2. Being Mindful of Our Duties Towards Our Parents
In verses 14 and 15, Allah tells us of the duties owed to our parents, reminds us of the hardship our mothers bear in raising us, and commands us to be thankful.

Ibn Kathir comments on these verses, saying, "Allah mentions how the mother brings the child up, and how she gets tired, and suffers stress from staying up with the child night and day, to remind the son of her previous kind treatment to him."

Shaykh Madhkhali comments, "His statement 'unto Me is the final destination' is a warning from Allah that He will call you to account with what you have put forward in this life. Were you grateful to Allah? Have you established the obligations upon you that Allah has legislated?"

Commenting on verse 15, Shaykh Madhkhali says, "If they help you in the obedience to Allah and guide and cultivate you with a correct upbringing then they deserve to be obeyed. If, however, they both deviate and strive with much effort with you to fall into Shirk with Allah then there is no obedience to them (in that). However, the general righteousness that you should have towards them does not become void even if they try and strive against you and harm you to disbelieve in Allah, it is upon you not to forget their rights.

His statement "but behave with them in this world kindly" means that you have good conduct towards them, be righteous to them, spend on them even if they be disbelievers. You obey them in other than the disobedience to Allaah. You serve them and fulfil their needs. All of this is considered to be kindness to them."

Ibn Kathir mentions a narration recorded in At-Tabarani where Sa'd ibn Malik said that ayah 15 was revealed concerning him: "I was a man who honored his mother, but when I became Muslim, she said: `O Sa`d! What is this new thing I see you doing? Leave this religion of yours, or I will not eat or drink until I die, and people will say: Shame on you, for what you have done to me, and they will say that you have killed your mother.' I said, `Do not do that, O mother, for I will not give up this religion of mine for anything.' She stayed without eating for one day and one night, and she became exhausted; then she stayed for another day and night without eating, and she became utterly exhausted. When I saw that, I said: `O my mother, by Allah, even if you had one hundred souls and they were to depart one by one, I would not give up this religion of mine for anything, so if you want to, eat, and if you want to, do not eat.' So she ate.''

To be continued...

April 5, 2011

The Stylish Blogger Award

Alhamdulilah, tabarakAllah!

World of Umm has just received the Stylish Blogger Award from Aisha Al-Hajjar at Saudi Birth Story. JazakiAllah khair to Aisha!

With the award, I've been requested to do a few things:
1. Link back to the person who gave the award (check!)
2. Share seven things about myself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact the bloggers to tell them about their awards

So, here are seven things about myself:
1. I accepted Islam at the age of 22.
2. Contrary to popular stereotypes of female converts, I was a Muslim long before I was married. Alhamdulilah. =)
3. I am passionate about being a mother.
4. I enjoy reading up on matters of Islam, parenting, nutrition, and holistic healing.
5. I enjoy baking sweets filled with fat, sugar, and other "good stuff".
6. I am a college graduate.
7. I love being in the sun.

I don't keep up with 15 other blogs, but inshaAllah I will pass the award on to the few I listed below:
1. My Halal Kitchen
2. The Well Read Muslim
3. Verbage
4. Aqabah Karate
5. Ummah Reads
6. Muslim Fathers