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Archive for December, 2009
Star Tribune: December 15, 2009
Hoping to encourage interfaith dialogue, an Islamic organization will unveil a pair of billboards in Minneapolis this week.
The Minnesota chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America plans to unveil the billboards Friday, the eve of the Islamic New Year.
Islam takes a holistic approach to health. Just as religious life is inseparable from secular life, physical, emotional and spiritual health cannot be separated; they are three parts that make a completely healthy person. When one part is injured or unhealthy, the other parts suffer. If a person is physically ill or injured it may be difficult to concentrate on anything but the pain. If a person is emotionally unwell, he or she may not be able to take care of him or herself properly or find their minds distracted from the realities of life.
The Quran contains many verses of advice about healthy eating that relate to the interconnectedness of physical and spiritual health. Encouragement to eat only good and pure food is often combined with warnings to remember God and avoid Satan. Healthy eating not only satisfies hunger but also has an effect on how well we worship.
“O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (Quran 2:168)
If one becomes obsessed with food or indulges in too much unwholesome or junk food he or she may become physically weak or distracted from his primary purpose of serving God. On the other hand, if one concentrated exclusively on spiritual endeavours and neglected their health and nutrition, weakness injury or illness would also result in failure to carry out obligatory worship. The guidance found in the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad advise humankind to maintain a balance between these two extremes.
A healthy diet is balanced with a mixture of all the foods God has provided for His creation. The variety satisfies all the body’s needs for carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and amino acids. Numerous verses of Quran mention the foods God has provided for us to nourish and maintain our bodies. It is not an exhaustive list of dietary requirements but rather a general idea of the types of food that maintain a healthy body and prevent illness.
“He created cattle that give you warmth, benefits and food to eat.” (Quran l6:5)
“It is He who subdued the seas, from which you eat fresh fish.” (Quran 16:l4)
“It is He who sends down water from the sky with which He brings up corn, olives, dates and grapes and other fruit.” (Quran 16:11)
“In cattle too you have a worthy lesson. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, between the undigested food and blood: pure milk, a pleasant beverage for those who drink it.” (Quran l6:66)
“There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought. .” (Quran 16:69)
“And it is He Who produces gardens trellised and untrellised, and date palms, and crops of different shape and taste (its fruits and its seeds) and olives, and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste). Eat of their fruit when they ripen…” (Quran 6:141)
“…and from it (the earth) we produced grain for their sustenance.” (Quran 36:33)
God has also provided us with a list of foods that are forbidden and apart from these everything else is considered lawful.
“Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead animals – cattle-beast not slaughtered, blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than God…” (Quran 5:3) “…and intoxicants.” (Quran 5:91-92)
While sweets and junk food are not forbidden they must be eaten sparingly as part of a balanced diet, designed to maintain optimum health. Many of the most common chronic illnesses today derive from unhealthy eating habits. Coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and depression have all been linked to inadequate diets. The traditions of Prophet Muhammad praise moderation as a way of maintaining good health and the Quran stresses the need to strike a balance between any extremes.
True believers need healthy bodies and minds in order to worship God in the correct way. To maintain a sound mind, a pure heart and a healthy body special attention must be paid to health. The heart and the mind are nourished by remembrance of God, and worship performed in a lawful way, and the body is nourished by partaking of the good and lawful food God has provided. Attention to diet and nutrition is a part of the holistic health system inherent in Islam.
It requires a lot of patience to take care of an active young child. Children are naturally curious; babies commonly put things in their mouths to test whether or not they are good to eat, and toddlers may put small objects into their nose or ears! Everyone in the family should by aware of safety rules. Every home with an infant or young child should be childproofed, which means that all dangerous items should be out of the child’s reach.
Here are some good points to remember:
¥ Children should not be left in the car, or at home alone until they are old enough to take care of themselves in an emergency. Babies and young children must be supervised at all times. Even one-day-old babies have been known to roll themselves off tables. It only takes a few seconds for a disaster to happen!
¥ Keep medicines and poisons safely locked away out of the reach of young children. Special stickers can be bought from the chemist to put on bottles of medicine and poisons. They let children know with pictures and symbols that what is inside the bottle is not good to eat or drink. Cleaning liquids, paints, powders and dangerous chemicals should not be stored inside old food or drink containers.
¥ Keep the number of the doctor, hospital and emergency services near the telephone in case of a serious accident. Every home should have basic first aid supplies on hand; milk, charcoal tablets and syrup of ipecac are especially important since they may be needed at a moment’s notice in order to treat accidental poisoning. Keep in mind that the doctor will need to know exactly what the child has swallowed in the case of poisoning, so that he can quickly decide on the best treatment.
¥ Try to learn a few basic rules of first aid – it might save the life of someone you love! Scouting groups, the International Red Cross and other organizations hold special first aid courses for young people where you can learn how to help someone who is choking, drowning, bleeding, or in a dangerous situation.
¥ Electrical sockets and appliances must be protected. Special plugs can be bought for insertion into main sockets so that small children will not be able to stick things into them and electrocute themselves. Never use electrical appliances such a hairdryers and radios where they could fall into the water or someone might splash water on them, such as in the bathroom, next to the baby’s bath or near a swimming pool!
¥ Keep sharp and dangerous objects out of children’s reach. Small toys or game parts should not be left where babies can pick them up and swallow or choke on them.
¥ If you must baby-sit or watch a younger brother or sister, use your common sense and keep your mind on what you are doing. Toddlers have drowned in the bath in just a few minutes while their older brother or sister left the bathroom to get something, and became distracted by something exciting on TV! Always test the temperature of the bath water with your elbow or inner arm before putting a baby into it; it should feel nice and warm.
DON’T TAKE RISKS; IT IS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY.
The previous article is reprinted by permission from The Miracle of Life: a Guide on Islamic Family Life and Sex Education for Young People, by Fatima M. D’Oyen, 1996, pp. 39-40.
Written by Dr. Shahid Athar
Seeking Solution to Domestic Violence:
Domestic violence is defined as: “acts of violence or abuse against a person living in one’s household, esp. a member of one’s immediate family’
(i). In the encyclo¬pedia Britannica, the definition is widened to include more forms of abuse. Accordingly, domestic violence: “refers to any abuse that takes place among people living in the same household, al¬though the term is often used specifically to refer to assaults upon women by their male partners”
(ii). Both definitions, however, include any form of violence against spouse, sibling, child or parent. In the news, most Muslims read and learn about domestic violence and let pass as if such news or statistics are of no concern. This was happening until tragic news hit home in the form of the murder of wives and daughters by husbands and fathers in both Canada and the US. Furthermore, we were shocked to know of the vicious beheading of a Muslimah by her high profile Muslim husband.
Building on my formal religious education coupled with practi¬cal experience in teaching Muslim communities in the US, com¬bined with my Islamic leadership of more than 23 years in addition to my M.S. and Ph.D. education, practical experience in counsel¬ing Muslims and training Muslim and non Muslim professionals for more than 24 years, I will, in the article, briefly describe both the Islamic and psychological foundations for inter-family rela¬tions. Furthermore, I will also discuss the damaging effects and consequences for domestic abuse. Because of the serious damag¬ing and devastating effects of domestic violence, I will outline a call to action to the Muslim community to prevent and deal with it.
ISLAMIC FOUNDATION OF FAMILY RELATIONS
Between spouses. The Qur’an speaks of the mawaddha (love), rahmah (compassion) and sakinah (tranquility) [Qur’an 30:21 & 7:189] as being both the reasons as well as the expected results of marriage. The Qur’an mentions this beautifully in the context of being a favor from Allah, a sign of His infinite power and mercy and a source of contemplation. Furthermore, the Qur’an speaks of husbands and wives as being libaas (apparel) for each other [Qur’an 2:187]. Apparel fulfills the functions of covering, beauti¬fying, providing warmth and protection. In case of discord or even divorce, the Qur’an encourages dealing with kindness, generosity and gratitude for the good times and good deeds which were re¬ceived [Qur’an 2:237]. In case of divorce, the Prophet encour¬ages good and kind treatment of women. He states that no one would treat them with generosity and honor except an honorable man and no one would humiliate them but a person who is lack¬ing good character. Furthermore, the Prophet instructed in his farewell sermon to take good care of women and made kindness to women and family the criterion for being good: “the best among you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best to my family”.
Parents and children. The Qur’an makes obedience and respect to parents religious requirements in an unparalleled way. Children are required to be kind to parents, not to say any expression of dis¬gust to them, to be merciful to them particularly when they reach an old age, to lower one’s wings out of humility and mercy to them and to pray for them for mercy as they have raised one in young age [Qur’an 17:23-24].
What is domestic violence? Abuse is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Bat¬tering happens when one person believes he or she is entitled to control another. Assault, battery, and domestic violence are crimes. (Every home is a safe home) In addition to being a crime, domestic violence is destructive. It destroys the human spirit, productivity, morality, spirituality and mental wellbeing for all those who are involved in it as well as for those who witness it while unable to intervene or protect the abused ones particularly children. Children naturally consider home to be their safe haven. When violence occurs at home, it breaks that feeling of safety. While victims of domestic violence can be both men and women, the majority of victims are women. Women killed due to domestic violence in the United States are estimated at 30 % of all women killed.
The Muslim community has its share of domestic abuse against women. In spite of the fact that Rasool Allah , instructed kind¬ness and justice to women before he died and insisted upon it say¬ing what translates to: “Fear Allah with regards to women,” “My advice is to take good care of women”, “I emphasize the rights of the two weak: the woman and the orphan”, “he does not honor them (i.e. women), unless he is an honorable and does not mistreat them, except one who is dishonorable” among many other reports and instructions.
Unfortunately, some Muslim men justify the beating of their wives religiously because of misunderstanding and ignorance. It is unfortunate, that most people use the Qur’an to justify their injus¬tice and wrongdoing. The particular verse which many people use to justify their criminal behavior toward women is verse number 34 in chapter 4 which is translated as follows:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). [Qur’an 4:34].
To answer those who misuse this verse to justify the beating, I would state the following:
Domestic violence can lead to either divorce or murder. The Muslim community is reminded violently of the horrible murder of wives, daughters and even beheading in the United States. Muslim communities ought to take responsibility for hiding the problem of violence at home and not educating about it and how to avoid it. Violence can lead to divorce or even spousal abandonment and may cause children to run away from home to escape the unsafe environment. Children can end up going to far riskier environ¬ments that may be detrimental to their lives and wellbeing.
Of the negative effects on children, Divorce and Domestic Vio¬lence can cause the following:
It affects children in the following ways:
Every individual, male or female, who suffers from the tendency to be violent and get angry easily and act upon his/her anger, owes it to Allah, his/her religion, himself, his/her family and community to seek treatment and learn anger management and positive rein¬forcement.
What Muslim families and communities should do to prevent violence:
Obstacles to helping Muslim families:
Seeking Solutions. The Islamic Learning Foundation (ILF) pro¬vides educational and training seminars and workshops to Muslim communities regarding the prevention, services and post-inter¬vention treatment of domestic violence. Furthermore, ILF offer training or parents on communication and parenting. ICNA Relief USA provides education, counseling and services to individual and family victims as well as to those involved in domestic violence.
Ahmed Kobeisy is Director and Resident Scholar at The Islamic Learning Foundation, NY. He is also a Consultant to ICNA Relief USA
Domestic Violence: How can I help a friend or family member who is being abused?
Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse. Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.
Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation. Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure him or her that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.
Be supportive. Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for him or her to talk about the abuse. Let him or her know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.
Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. He or she may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize his or her decisions or try to guilt them. He or she will need your support even more during those times.
Encourage him or her to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family. If he or she ends the relationship, continue to be supportive of them. Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. He or she will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Help him or her to develop a safety plan. Encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with him or her to talk to family and friends. If he or she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” him or her. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support him or her and help them find a way to safety and peace.
Written by Dr. Shahid Athar
When God created human beings, He created many emotions and desires within him, which we call human instincts. These include positive qualities such as recognizing truth and expressing it, love and compassion, pure physiological desires such as being thirsty , hungry and in need of sex.
Then there are some negative qualities such as hate and anger, with resultant violence and dejection. The angels who were the witnesses to Adam’s creation knew about some of the negative qualities of man and questioned the creation of this new being who was to create “‘mischief on earth.” (Quran 2:30)
However, at the same time, the Creator also instilled some protective mechanisms for fighting these negative instincts.
“Man was created weak,” says the Quran. During the moment of weakness, we succumb to the designs of our enemy, that is, the devil, who “will attack us from front, from behind, from the side,” in order to divert us from God consciousness and return to our true animistic nature. Thus anger by itself is not unnatural; it is the expression of anger which if done wrongfully, can lead to problems. The difference between the wild beasts and wild humans is the difference of free will.
When a lion or a wolf is angry, he does not think. When a man becomes angry as a result of provocation, he has a choice to control his anger or to respond to it as he has been taught by the teachings of prophets and saints, or forget all that and become a wild animal. Thus anger takes place when we are not in control of ourselves, but the devil is controlling us.
Anger is a de stabilizing thought. It is the most dividing emotion between friends; it takes away judgment, leads to depression, madness and wrong actions that we would repent later on when we are not angry. But why do we get angry to begin with? It is either an unexpected provocation or unexpected situation which leads to frustration and an angry response.
During anger, one can physically or verbally abuse a person that he or she loves, hurt another living being like an animal, or during the dejection phase of anger, one can even hurt him- or herself and even commit suicide.
When anger is directed toward a group of people, then it can manifest in terrorism, whether against people of other faiths or nations, or against even one’s own government as is seen in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing. However, all anger is not of satanic origin. How can we blame Satan for a child who is angry because he does not get his toy or when he is hungry ?
The point I am making is that the natural fulfillment of normal desires, whether in terms of food or sex, is a prerequisite for prevention of anger. There are many chemicals and hormones which affect our moods and behavior. It is well known that hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism precipitate irritability and anger. We must keep our hormones in balance in addition to facilitate our spiritual well-being.
Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh), who was sent to mankind to teach them good moral conduct, learned to control his anger toward the Unbelievers and teach them appropriate expressions. He constantly spoke against being angry. One companion asked him, Give me some short advice by virtue of which I hope for good in the life hereafter, and he said, “Don’t be angry.” Another person asked, what will save me from the wrath of God, and he said, “Do not express your anger.” A third person asked three times, 0 Prophet of God, give me an order to do a short good deed, and he said, “Don’t be angry.” Once he asked a question of his companion, “Who among you do you consider a strong man?” They said, the one who can defeat so-and-so wrestler in a fight, and he said, that is not so. The one who is strong is the one who can control himself at the time of anger. He also said that anger is like fire, which destroys you from within, and it can also lead you to the fire of hell by your own expressions of anger unjustly.
Being angry is like being drunk. In both cases, we do not know what we are doing, hurting ourselves or someone else, and afterwards when the intoxication is over, we repent. Caliph Omar used to say, the one with all its goodn anger gets salvation. Shiekh Hassan Basri said that one of the signs of the Believers is that his anger will not prevail over him.
Anger should be distinguished between the natural response to wrongdoing and disbelief.
A person who has no feelings about oppression, wrongdoing and disbelief is, in fact, an impotent person emotionally. It has been said, “Evil flourishes when a few good people do not do anything to oppose it.” Thus response to injustice and operation in a civilized way is the appropriate expression of anger. Being neutral to injustice is equal to contributing to injustice. Sometimes taking arms in order to fight the oppression and injustice, in defense or in off is the basis of “the just war.” However, this “just war” is not justified on a personal level.
Caliph Ali was once fighting in a war imposed on Muslims, and the chief of the Unbelievers confronted him. During the fight, the Ali was able to overcome him, who fell down on the ground and Ali was about to kill him. This person, knowing his fate now, had no choice so he spit on the face of Ali. Ali immediately got up and left him alone. The man came running to him and asked, “You had a chance to kill me since I was defeated; how come you didn’t use your sword?” Ali said, “I have no personal animosity toward you. I was fighting you because of your disbelief, on behalf of God. If I had killed you after you spat on my face, then it would have become my personal revenge which I do not wish to take.” That Unbeliever chief became a Muslim immediately.
When Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh) became angry at someone else’s wrong actions or disbeliefs, he never expressed it with his hand or tongue. His companions knew that he was angry by looking at his face, which would be red and with some sweat on his forehead, and he would keep quiet for a moment, trying to control himself.
What happens to us physiologically when we are angry? Our heart rate and blood pressure go up; this is a direct effect of excessive adrenalin in our system. Our physical strength increases although spiritual strength decreases. Our intellect or power to reason goes away, and things we would not justify in a normal state become acceptable. The organs of our body which are otherwise under our control, become out of control. Thus, our tongues become abusive, and we would say words which would hurt someone else. Our hands are out of control, and we will hit someone or sometimes ourselves. Our feet are out of control, and we might kick some one whether a human, an animal or sometimes a broken machine.
How do we control anger? Contrary to other teaching, I believe that to root out anger is impossible and unnatural, and may even be harmful. A person who does not control or redirect the expression of anger may have built up anger within himself, which may hurt him physically. Apart from being depressed and having a feeling of dejection, during the phase of unexpressed anger, his constant, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure may harm his heart and even lead to a heart attack over the long run. Apart from being violent, during the phase of anger since his mind does not work, he may make a wrong decision about his job or personal relationship which will affect his future.
Medicine for Anger
The first preventive medicine is to avoid being too sensitive to provocation and become “deaf, dumb and mute.” It may be necessary for some people to engage in something else to divert themselves. For saints, it may be advisable to engage in remembrance of God or meditation, but for common folk, they need some worldly tools. A couple went to Prophet Mohammed and said, We have been fighting each other for many years. Each time she says something to hurt my feelings, I become angry, and then I fight back and this fight comes to such a degree that I am afraid that this verbal fight may,become physical, or we may end up divorced. So please advise how we can control our anger. He told the husband that when your wife provokes you and makes you angry, take a sip of your water in your mouth and do not swallow it or spit it out, but keep it there until she has calmed down. Well, he practiced that and a few months later, he reported back that it did work.
Since we believe that anger is an expression of satanic control, we must not let this control take over. The Prophet had advised us to say, “During anger, I seek refuge from lead to problemrotection of God.” He also advised us that when angry, one should sit down or lie down as it is not easy to hit someone else in those positions. Obviously, the best remedy is to think about God and “ask yourself a question, “are you in control of yourself, or would you allow God to take control of you?” Think of God’s anger and punishment. Is God’s wrath less than your wrath? And what happens when He expresses His wrath? We humans who seek forgiveness from God must forgive others first. When one forgive someone else, it establishes peace and tranquility in one’s heart, but at the same time, the matter of injustice or wrong actions which made one angry, become a dispute between him and God; and if one do not take revenge and forgive, God might act on ones behalf.
The first attribute of God/Allah that we Muslims are reminded (of) is Ar Rahman-Ar Rahim that is, Kind and Merciful. God Himself said, my mercy overtakes my wrath, and He told in one of the hadith qudsi , ‘O son of Adam, when you get angry, remember Me.” Thus, remembrance of God and meditation will keep us on the right track. One of the meditation words is ya Halim, which is one of the attributes of God, being the Mild One. One can also pray to God to take control of the situation and the person or the people who have caused His anger. We must also think that tone life so dear to us, is a temporary life, and we must not forget our death and destroy the life of eternity at the cost of this life. Washing one’s face with cold water or taking a cold shower is also helpful.
Thus it is important for one to redirect the energy in engaging in something else. However, the height of sainthood is to do the opposite of the provoking person expects one to do. If he expects you to rebuke him or verbally abuse him back, then one should tell him, I love you, and mention his good qualities. If he expects one to physically attack him, then one embraces him and forgives him.
That is how the saying, “turn the other cheek” came about. One will become a calm person when he makes peace with himself, his Creator and his surroundings. Anger is a costly weed; it costs one his health, life in this world, and the life in the Hereafter. This weed must be rooted out to allow the healthy plant of righteousness, piety and service to God and His creation nurture and grow.
Dejection is a state of sad thought, depression and a feeling of being worthless. This could be a result of anger with self or someone else, unexpressed anger, failure and frustration. Dejection is a deadly disease which can harm the body acutely or on a chronic basis. and can irreversibly destroy one’s relationships. It is during this state of dejection that people have suicidal thoughts and sometimes actions. During anger, however, a person tries to manifest his verbal and physical strengthening dejection, he completely gives up, thinking he is no good. Dejection slowly builds up while anger is a more acute manifestation, which is like a moth which slowly eats away the human spirit and body.
Dejection can be the result of losses, financial or of a dear one, or even failure in work, education and business. Many times terminally ill patients, without any hope of getting better, would also be dejected. Sometimes dejection or depression is due to a chemical imbalance just like anger, whether it is a psychotropic condition with depletion of brain amines, epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine, or hormonal imbalance like hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease. Therefore, in all cases of depression, when a physician sees them, he does and he must evaluate them for a treatable organic cause.
The way to fight dejection again is a mind-control phenomenon. We must realize that we are not in control of our destiny. Certain failures and adversity have been designed to teach us certain lessons. We must know that someone else is in control of our past, present and future. This is what believer in God is what Caliph Ali once said, that “what makes me a believer in God is the fact that I realize that after doing everything humanly possible to make certain things go right, it goes wrong unexpectedly, making me believe that someone else was in control of that situation, not me.”
When we give good advice to our teenaged children, encouraging them to do good and avoiding something wrong and they don’t listen, as a result they get into trouble. It is human to be sad, but it is unnecessary to be dejected, thinking that I am not a good parent. We will be questioned for things we can do that we must do, but we will not be questioned on things that are beyond our control.
The remedy for dejection is hope. God made hopelessness unlawful by saying, “Do not despair of God’s mercy.” Thus, no matter at what level of despair, depression and frustration we are, whether loss of a loved one or a job, or as the result of anger from someone else, we must not give up hope as there is a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel. The greatest hope is mercy from God.
Thus, whoever has lost worldly possessions, expects and hopes that God will replace his losses in a better way. The.he person who has lost a dear one hopes to see that dear one in the life hereafter.
Hope is the medicine which keeps one alive and going, which is when we say, hang on, we mean hang onto the thread of hope. It is not unnatural to be sad over situations and events. Even Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh) used to be sad, looking at the plight of Unbelievers and their rejection of his message for oneness of God, and not becoming Muslims. And God reminded him by saying, “It is not your duty to make them Muslims, but just proclaim the truth, and God gives guidance to those whom He wishes.”
During dejection, there is darkness, but in hope, there is light. Therefore, one must pray for this light to illuminate the heart so that we can see beyond what is causing the suffering today. If I knew that I would not see tomorrow, I might get depressed, but the fact that I hope I will see tomorrow with all its goodness, the love of my family, my friends, dear ones, the flowers, the music, that I go to sleep in peace, turning myself to God. We must pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness so that we can love and forgive ourselves and God’s other creations and have peace with ourselves, our Creator and our surroundings.
We Muslims believe that all our suffering, failures and adversities are nothing but a test from God, who has said that “You will not enter Paradise until you are tested. ” He has also said, “Be sure we will test you with something of fear and hunger, a small loss in wealth and lives and the fruits (of your labors), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, when afflicted with calamities, to God we belong and to Him shall we return.”‘ (Chapter 2:15, 5-157).
While women in many parts of the world have made advances in areas previously closed to them, the problem of violence against women remains pervasive. Unfortunately, this violence takes many forms and occurs across national, cultural, racial, and religious borders.
If you’re an Imam who has come from abroad, you have seen how heavy the burden is on Imams in the West. While in Muslim countries, your role may have been simply leading prayers and teaching children Quran, for example, in North America, you cannot do only this.
The Imam is the leader of the community in the fullest sense of the word, and his responsibilities include more than leading prayers and teaching. He must deal with issues perhaps never touched upon “back home”. Domestic violence in the Muslim community is just one of them.
Below are 12 tips for how Imams can deal with the issue of domestic violence in Muslim communities:
1. Know the definition of abuse.
There are different types of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, etc.) Know what types of abuse there are and know their telltale signs. There is plenty of material on this subject which can be found at police stations, women’s centers and libraries about this topic.
It will also help you read a few books about the domestic violence. May be you want to add some good books on this topic in your Islamic center’s library as well.
2. Understand that this is not a personal matter
Domestic violence is not a private matter between a husband and wife that should be ignored. Domestic violence can lead to the destruction and separation of a Muslim family, which is already so fragile in a predominantly non-Muslim environment. The destruction of one family is the destruction of one unit of the Muslim community. As leaders, Imams have a duty to help those suffering in this crisis.
Remember that Muslims must help their brothers and sisters, whether they are the oppressed or the oppressor. Not only must we help the sister who is being abused, we must also help the brother who is abusing to make him stop. Domestic violence can lead to murder of the sister, and the brother being put in jail. Children would be separated from parents and most likely put in non-Muslim foster homes if this happened.
3. Approach domestic violence as you would any social problem
Provide solutions, not just threats of Hellfire to men who abuse. Remember that a person who has this problem can change Insha Allah (if Allah wills) if there is help and support from the community and leaders like the Imam.
4. Know what services exist in the community
Imams should know where the nearest battered women’s shelter is, for instance. They should know if there are crisis hotlines available, as well as safehouses where women can stay if they are trying to escape from a violent husband.
5. Be able to assess a crisis and protection plans
Consult a counselor about knowing how to assess the level of crisis in a home and help women develop protection plans (see tips for victims of domestic violence in the West for details of the protection plan).
6. Give your name to a local women’s shelter or a crisis line
7. Bring the issue to community’s attention
It’s easier to deny a problem exists when no one talks about it except in hush hush tones. But when an Imam starts giving Khutbas (sermons) on the topic and discusses it in Islamic study circles (Halaqas) men and women have to start taking it seriously.
A Khutba or discussion on this topic could be structured in the following way:
a. Start off giving the example from the Quran (4:34-35) regarding the five steps of conflict resolution and explain that this is not violence.
b. Mention that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was married 38 years of his life and never hit his wives.
c. Mention the steps in verse 4:34-35 are only applicable if the man is totally innocent and the woman is at fault.
d. Explain that the last step referred to in this verse is a symbolic gesture with Miswak which is only allowed in two cases: 1. if the wife is guilty of lewd behavior 2. if the wife, without any medical reason, refuses to share his bed.
e. Be clear and give examples of the kinds of abuse that do exist. For example, a husband regularly threatening to divorce his wife, intimidating her, telling her she is a failure, that she will go to Hell. Telling her he has a right from Allah to abuse her. Mention that abuse in Muslim homes includes pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, beating, bondage, and refusing to help a wife when she is sick or injured.
f. Remind people that the Islamic rules of good behavior apply to one’s family just as much as to the Muslim community.
g. Remind people that Allah does not turn down the Dua (supplication) of the oppressed person, and if a man is abusing his wife and she makes a Dua against him, Allah, if He wills, will accept it and make it happen.
A note of caution: if you do decide to use a case study from the community when talking about domestic violence, make sure not to disclose details which will make it obvious to listeners which couple is being discussed. This is a violation of privacy.
8. Open up the mosque or Islamic center for abused women
Make sure the mosque or Islamic center is open at all times for abused women to seek refuge in. Remember that Muslim women would prefer to turn for help to their community before going to non-Muslim shelters and calling non-Muslim run crisis lines. Making sure the mosque is a “safe spot” can make women consider the mosque as one of their first points of refuge in an emergency. Ensure there is adequate safety in the mosque for women fleeing violence.
9. Make yourself available
Contact information and Timings when you, the Imam, are available should be known to all in the community, either through announcements and/or newsletters and bulletin boards. All Imams should have a pager where people can easily reach them in emergencies. There should be one locked mail box which only you can open. There should be an email address for those who wants to seek guidance maintaining their anonymity.
10. Establish a social services system or committee
In cooperation with Muslim social service professionals in your community, establish a committee which will develop a system for social services in your community to tackle issues like domestic violence in Muslim homes.
11. Set up support groups
In mosques and Islamic centers, encourage the establishment of support groups for abusers and the abused (separately) so they can share their experiences with other Muslims who may have suffered from domestic violence as well. Make sure the group is run by wise, trustworthy individuals.
12. Make Dua
As a leader of the community, the well-being of its members is part of your responsibility. Make Dua that Allah helps you in this heavy task and that He eases the difficulties of all those suffering in the community, men, women and children.
By Dr. Jamal Badawi
In the event of a family dispute, the Qur’an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not overlook her POSITIVE ASPECTS (see Qur’an 4:19). If the problem relates to the wife’s behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner, by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment and expresses contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but NEVER ON THE FACE, making it more of a symbolic measure then a punitive one. Following is the related Qur’anic text:
by Dr. Mahbubur Rahman
For too long, the American Muslim community didn’t recognize, let alone respond duly to the problem of domestic violence. Whenever any incident of domestic violence was reported, our usual response has been one of denial — as if his is exclusively a “non-Muslim” issue and/or the Muslim community has nothing to do with it. But some high profile
While commenting on the brutal murder of Assiya Hassan, one community leader thus remarked: “This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and cannot be ignored. It must be addressed collectively by every member of our community ….. Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, or social status. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence.”
Indeed, we betray our faith when we turn a blind eye to the occurrence of domestic violence in our midst suggesting that “it’s a personal problem.” We often forget that domestic violence is a crime against Islam and humanity. We should neither remain silent nor uninvolved when we become aware of cases of abuse. In fact, the Muslim community should be proactive in providing marriage counseling and provide support and help to the victims (if so is warranted in cases of bad marriages) by offering them safe refuge, information on their rights, as well as referrals to social service providers in their respective areas. After all, anger management and conflict resolution are learned skills and individuals lacking them hence require professional help and management. Instead of simply asking the victims to be patient, the Muslim community should offer counseling services and make them widely known and accessible to vulnerable members of their community. Our mosques, community centers and religious organizations should provide guidance to those who are trapped in the unfortunate web of domestic abuse, in ways that will enable the sufferers to connect with such resources and improve their lives.
It is also true that domestic violence happens in different forms and levels and it can be caused or initiated by any party- either husband or wife. The available statistics give us horrible pictures. In many cases, it starts simply as emotional or verbal abuse, but it is only after the occurrence of physical abuse, do people consider it domestic violence. Islam prohibits and denounces all forms of these abuses and violence. In the Islamic way of life, marriage is not just a legal contract: it’s also a sacred bond between a man and a woman in which both husband and wife take a solemn pledge to abide by the divine dictum in their conjugal life. As stated in Surah Nisa (4:01) of the Qur’an, it’s by God’s name by which the married couple claims mutual rights and fulfills their marital obligations. Unfortunately, in many Muslims’ lives, this “religious” dimension is absent and even if it exists, it’s all but a formality that they perform at the time of wedding and afterwards many remain totally ignorant about these “religious injunctions” and some deliberately stay far away from God (i.e., divine prescriptions) especially when dealing with their spouses.
However, if we turn to the Qur’an, we notice how noble the institution of marriage is in the sight of Allah (swt) and how much mindful, careful and merciful we have to be while dealing with our spouses: “And among His Signs is this; that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put
Last but not least, domestic violence demonstrates the darkest side of a man’s soul. It is clearly a devilish practice. While human beings are fallible, nothing justifies domestic abuse or domestic violence. To have a fulfilling marriage and a virtuous life, we have to deny the dictates of devil and abide by the Commands of Allah (swt) in our daily lives.
Source: The Message Magazine
Family and Marriage in America
By Father John Flynn, LC
Family life in many countries has undergone radical changes in the last few decades. The situation in America is, however, substantially worse compared to other countries, argued Andrew J. Cherlin in a book published earlier this year.
According to the arguments in “The Marriage Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today,” (Alfred A. Knopf) Americans have embraced contradictory models of personal and family life. The first involves a commitment to share one’s life with another; the second emphasizes personal growth and development.
Cherlin is the Benjamin H. Griswold III professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University and has spent the last three decades analyzing family life.
Marriage as a cultural ideal is a strong force in America, he points out. In fact, there are government programs promoting marriage and the fierce debate over proposals to introduce same-sex marriage testifies to the way marriage is strongly defended by many.
Nevertheless, Cherlin comments that in no other Western country is the waiting period for a no-fault divorce so short. One study he read said that children living with two married parents in the United States have a higher risk of experiencing a family breakup than do children with two unmarried parents in Sweden.
Cherlin recalled the experience some years back of some states that introduced a “covenant marriage” option for couples getting married in a civil ceremony. In such a marriage both spouses agree to restrictions on how quickly and easily they can obtain a divorce.
At the time, Cherlin recalled, he thought that maybe up to a third of couples would choose this option. Experience showed this to be a wild overestimate. Several years later, less than 2% had opted for a covenant marriage in Louisiana and Arkansas.
So even though the covenant marriage option was introduced in Arkansas in 2001, in 2004 it had the second-highest number of divorces per person of any state — coming after Nevada, a notorious divorce destination for people from other states.
At the same time, in 2004, Arkansas also had the third highest per capita rate of marriage. Arkansas is part of the U.S. “Bible Belt,” with above average church membership. In fact, six of the 10 states with the highest divorces rates are in the South — the other four are in the West — and all of them tend to be socially conservative.
Thus, while marriage is held in high esteem in America, Cherlin pointed out that the postmodern cultural trend to self-expression and personal growth is also very influential.
There are societies with strong marriage values, where few children are born outside marriage and there are low levels of cohabitation. Italy is such a case, said Cherlin. Then there are countries with a culture that places a high value on individualism, such as Sweden. Only in the United States, however, do both these cultural tendencies co-exist.
As a result, Americans value the stability and security of marriage, but they also believe that individuals who are unhappy with their marriages should be allowed to end them. “What Americans want, in other words, is for everyone else to have a covenant marriage,” he concluded.
This is reflected in the statistics on marriage in the United States, Cherlin pointed out. The percentage of people who aspire to marriage is close to 90%, higher than in other countries. Yet America has the highest divorce rate in the Western world, higher even than countries such as Sweden.
Half of all first marriages occur by age 25 in the United States, compared to 29 years-of-age in Italy, 30 in France, and 31 in Sweden. Cohabitation also commences earlier for Americans than in many European nations.
Marriages in America also break down at a higher rate. Nearly half of all American marriages end in divorce. In fact, after only 5 years more than one-fifth of Americans who married are separated or divorced. Among those who began cohabitating over half had broken up 5 years later, a substantially higher figure than in many other countries.
In the United States, 40% of children born to married or cohabitating parents experience a breakup by age fifteen. In Sweden the rate is 30%, and in other countries it is in the high or low 20s.
After their breakups, Americans are also more likely to seek a new partner. Nearly half of children who experience a breakup see the entry of another partner in the household within three years, a much higher proportion than in other countries.
Frequent marriage, frequent divorce, more short-term cohabitation, this is what creates great turbulence in American family life, according to Cherlin. What he calls “this merry-go-round” of American families is more than a statistical quirk, he continues.
The impact on children is of particular concern. Some children experience great difficulty in adjusting to a series of partners. Children whose parents have remarried do not have higher levels of well-being than children in lone-parent families, despite the addition of a second parent. This is in spite of the fact that remarrying brings with it an increase in income and an additional person to parent the children.
New stepparents disrupt the existing relationships between lone parents and their children and repeated changes of parents or partners affects a child’s emotional development.
Looking back over the last 50 years or so, Cherlin commented on the dramatic changes in family and marriage. In the 1950s, having children out of marriage was a shameful experience, while today it is commonplace. Living together before marriage was a rarity, but today not living together before marriage is the exception.
Marriage is still considered as something important, Cherlin admitted, but it is now seen as an option. Moreover, we have seen an unprecedented decline in marriage being considered as the only acceptable arrangement for having sexual relations and for raising children.
Cherlin points out he is not arguing for a return to some idealized 50s model of family life, nor is he against the trend to individualism. What he does conclude is that Americans need to slow down and take more time to consider their decisions about marriage and family life.
At the same time, he isn’t hopeful for any big immediate changes. Cherlin also points out that while the United States is a strongly religious nation, divorce has always long been a part of the culture and it was legal in America long before it was allowed in Europe.
The challenge, he continues, is to find a way to minimize the unwanted effects of individualism. How to this is not obvious, he concedes. Stable two-parent families provide better environments for children than do other arrangements.
The problem is that many people today see marriage in a different light, viewing it as a private relationship centered on the needs of adults for love and companionship. “This postmodern, relationship-based view of marriage has carried the day,” Cherlin admits.
As a result, it is doubtful that government promotion of marriage or changes to welfare programs will be able to make a substantial impact on the structures of families.
No doubt Cherlin’s urging that people slow down and take more time to make their choices when it comes to marriage is good advice. One can only wonder, however, how much difference that will make. The real solution is to change the cultural and social expectations and values that orient people’s priorities. Achieving that sort of transformation of society is indeed a challenge.
Homosexuality in a Changing World: Are We Being Misinformed?
Discussing the issue of homosexuality has been taboo in most societies for ages. Being considered an act of sin by most cultures and religions, there had not seemed to be much that required discussion. In recent years, however, gay lobbies have cropped up in the West, and talk of “coming out of the closet” has become common place. The pressure formed by these lobbies on political and legal institutions, the media, and society in general has resulted in a different definition and concept of homosexuality in the mindset of the common Westerner. Not only this, but the approach to homosexuality by scientists and psychiatrists has completely changed.
In November 2001, human rights groups severely criticized the Egyptian government for arresting a group of suspected homosexuals, which resulted in raising the issue of Islam’s stance on homosexuality. Groups of gay Muslims have also become more vocal and have been organizing in an effort to convince themselves and others that there is no contradiction between being a Muslim and being a proclaimed homosexual.
Ignoring the issue and not properly discussing it only makes the issue more confusing for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Below is an attempt to commence such a discussion and to further understand this issue in an Islamic and a scientific light.
By Dr. Nadia El-Awady
Diseases Related To Homosexuality
In October 1999, the Archives of General Psychiatry published two studies related to homosexuality and mental health. The first, “Sexual Orientation and Suicidality: A Co-twin Control Study in Adult Men” by Richard Herrel et al, reported that same-gender sexual orientation is significantly associated with each of the suicidality measures. The study found that men with same-sex partners were 2.4 times as likely as their co-twins to have thoughts about death, 4.4 times as likely to want to die, 4.1 times as likely to have suicidal ideation, 6.5 times as likely to have attempted suicide, and 5.1 times as likely to have any of the suicidal symptoms. After adjustment for substance abuse and depressive symptoms (other than suicidality), all of the suicidality measures remained significantly associated with same-gender sexual orientation except for wanting to die.
What Constitutes Normal?
NARTH comments on the issue of normality in an article that summarizes a paper written by Irving Bieber, M.D called “On Arriving at the American Psychiatric Association Decision on Homosexuality.” The article notes that Dr. Bieber was one of the key participants in the historical debate that culminated in the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the psychiatric manual. His paper describes psychiatry’s attempt to adopt a new “adaptational” perspective of normality. During this time, the profession was beginning to sever itself from established clinical theory-particularly psychoanalytic theories of unconscious motivation-claiming that if we do not readily see “distress, disability and disadvantage” in a particular psychological condition, then the condition is not disordered.
I have been reading a lot about Islam lately. I find it interesting and appealing. One question I do have. I have a gay (homosexual) friend. He is a good person who hurts no one. We have been friends for a very long time. I would never want to lose his friendship. If I converted, would I be told to end the friendship? I am curious what the Islamic teachings on this are.