13 Tips How to Counsel (For the Non-Counselor)

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A lot of us have been there. A good friend, family member or loved one goes through or is going through a tough or difficult time. It can be a loss of a loved one, losing a job, a broken engagement, not getting accepted into  particular school or other issues. We may have been that person who they’ve turned to and we’ve advised them—however most of us may not know exactly how to advise them, guide them or counsel them effectively.

These tips shouldn’t be taken out of context and give anyone a license to think they can professionally counsel someone dealing with deep trauma or grief or anxiety. Seeking professional mental health help is important—these tips are for those who typically are the initial “first responders” or first point of contacts for folks dealing with grief, trauma or emotional or mental pain.

1) Be Sincere

The biggest thing when it comes to advising or counseling a friend, family member or loved one  is to be sincere in your efforts to counsel or guide them. If you’re pretending to guide, counsel a friend, family member or loved one just to get gossip material or the inside scoop on a situation it’s not only unethical, Islamic, but extremely offensive and can really cause more pain than good to your friend, family member or loved one.

2) Show Empathy

The biggest thing when counseling anyone is to show empathy. There is a stark difference between empathy and sympathy which is summarized in the video below.

Empathy is a core part of counseling and without it the exercise of counseling is extremely ineffective.

3) Listen

Listening is so crucial when it comes to counseling. When you listen you’re able to understand your friend, family member or loved one much better and can even identify and help guide or counsel them much more effectively. Also, listening can be a huge act in itself and that may be simply what your friend, family or loved one needs to heal from their situation, trauma or grief.

It can also help you identify whether your friend, family or loved one needs additional or professional counseling.

4) Keep Confidentiality

A huge part of counseling is keeping confidentiality. You may not be a professional counselor or bound by any non-disclosure agreements or legal statutes, but keeping your friend, family member or loved one’s confidentiality is so important. Often time when people are going through trauma or grief they are extremely vulnerable and not in a good state emotionally, psychologically or mentally. Breaching confidentiality and speaking to others about their situation, grief or trauma can add more pain, suffering, and trauma to your friend, family or loved one.

Breaching confidentiality should only happen when your friend, family member or loved one shows signs of suicidal tendencies or some sort of self-harming behavior.

5) Don’t Preach

The last thing a friend, family or loved one needs is a khutbah or a lecture about how dumb they were in their decision making or what they should and shouldn’t have done in their particular situation.  Also, bringing religion into a conversation in a negative manner can inflict more mental and emotional trauma and grief on your friend, family or loved one. Religion should only be brought in to encourage and provide hope and healing .

6) Don’t be Judgmental

This may be an extension of the previous point but it is so important to mention. The last thing someone needs to hear is how their decision-making was poor or silly or how bad of a person they are for acting a certain way or responding to a situation in the manner in which they did. Additionally, judgmental attitudes or comments will not help in healing the trauma or grief of your friend, family member or loved one.  Lastly, being condescending is also not a good way to help in the healing process at all.

7) Don’t Tell How (and how not) One should Grieve

This is probably the biggest mistake we make when advising a friend, family member or loved one. Individuals process trauma and grief pain in different ways. Never ever tell someone how to (and how not to) process their pain, trauma, or grief. This most probably cause more damage than good in helping your friend, family member or loved on get through their pain, trauma or grief.

8) Don’t Belittle Someone’s Trauma/Grief

We may often knowingly or unknowingly belittle someone’s grief/trauma/pain by calling it a “first world problem” or “compared to _____ this is nothing” or “What you went through is nothing like I went through” or similar statements are simply not helpful in helping your friend, family member or loved one heal. People handle stress, anxiety, depression, trauma and grief differently. Belittling one’s suffering is not only extremely insensitive, but also simply a cruel way to break a person even further or harm them emotionally or mentally.

Also, making fun of or mocking someone’s pain/suffering/trauma is probably the worst thing you can do to help someone heal.

“Do not mock a pain you haven’t endured” – Unknown

9) Give Space to Grieve

Sometimes friends, family members or loved ones may need space to grieve. Allow them to. Let them reach out to you if needed, but let them know you’re there. Some people may need that attention or a constant contact with you, but if they need space to think things through let them.

10) Only Advise When Asked

Often times a friend, family member or loved one may simply need a sounding board to listen to them and help them process situations, feelings and emotions. That in itself can be healing. Now, if they ask for help explicitly give them the advice, but to prematurely shoot off tips and advice can often not really help in allowing them to figure things out by themselves.

Allow people room to grow emotionally and learn to navigate their emotions, feelings and thoughts. Essentially be a coach and not like an overbearing parent who holds someone’s hand and doesn’t really allow them to grow and process their thoughts, idea, emotions and feelings.

11) Give Hope & Encouragement

This is important to help stabilize  and help a friend, family member or loved one heal. There are numerous stories in our tradition from the story of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and from the stories of the Prophets of Allah (peace be upon them all). Often times we romanticize their stories and make them out to be super human beings but often fail to realize that they too felt sadness, grief, trauma, fear, pain and other emotions/feelings. We should derive words of healing, hope and triumph over hardships from the Quran, the Hadith and the seerah (biography) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

12) Be With Them

Sometimes when depression and anxiety hits a friend, family member or a loved one the first sign is they avoid socializing with others. They find it hard to interact with others or they reduce their time spent with others. They spend time alone to often process their pain, trauma, grief, depression or anxiety. When you identify these tendencies allow them space, but also encourage them to be among others and/or you can simply hang out with them as a friend to be a shoulder to cry on and an ear who can listen to them.

13) Pray For Them

Lastly, pray for healing for your friend, family member or loved one. At the end of the day only Allah can heal the hearts and minds of the broken-hearted, depressed, and anxious. Sincerely pray for them and the combination of your prayer and you helping them through their difficulty inshaAllah will help them heal and become stronger emotionally, mentally, psychologically and spiritually.

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Top 12 #BlackLivesMatter Songs

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It’s been an extremely difficult past few years for people of color especially the African American community. With the increase of blatant police brutality, killings and lack of justice for people of police killings has shaken the nation to its core. Thankfully, a movement has grown to raise awareness and call for justice for victims and to point out the injustice of police brutality and killings with the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The movement has grown strong enough to move major artists from all genres of music to address the injustice through their music. This list isn’t simply meant to be a collection of songs or artists, but hopefully a starting point for us to encourage the production of more music centered on social justice issues and encourage artists to focus more on these issues and encourage them to produce more and apply more pressure and awareness around the injustices happening against people of color.

So after going through this list Tweet at these artists and call your local radio stations to play these songs.

 1. T.I. – New National Anthem ft. Skylar Grey

By far one of my favorite songs by T.I. and summarizes the depth of the injustice happening against African Americans. The lyrics are really powerful along with T.I.’s commentary in the song is great:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w8JxuXAlzM

 2. T I.-Warzone

I’ve recently been following T.I. While he produces the typical drug, misogynistic, and materialistic music of your average rapper he’s produced some pretty powerful songs that address the injustice of police killings in America. The music video to this song is pretty powerful—check it out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKcw35_saLY

 3. T. I. – We Will Not

Another powerful track by T.I.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg00mbfXsEI

 4. T.I. – Black Man ft. Quavo, Meek Mill, Rara

Another great track by T.I., but featuring Quavo, Meek Mill, and Rara.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPDHlEOq1a0

5. Usher-Chains ft. Nas, Bibi

Another Atlanta artist, Usher produced a song called Chains. The imagery and the lyrics in this song are powerful and heart-wrenching. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slN1CEUhA-E

6. The Game – Don’t Shoot Ft. Diddy, Rick Ross,2 Chainz, Fabolous,Yo Gotti,Wale,DJ Khaled

Not a big fan of any of the artists in this song since they typically rap about the average rapper topics, but the lyricism and message in this song is powerful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkdpcoUlhjE

7. Plies-We are Trayvon

A tribute to Trayvon Martin. Powerful lyrics and imagery.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbCehL-B32w

 8. Seether-Nobody Praying for Me

I’ve been a big fan of Seether’s work since my high school days and was happy to see they made a song about police brutality and killings with this song. The music video is powerful and heart-wrenching. The music video also has an accompanying website:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7uOXHMhaO8

 9. Hasan Salaam ft. Immortal Technique & Hezekiah – JERICHO

Hasan Salaam one of my favorite underground rappers teams up with Immortal Technique and Hezekiah to speak strongly against police brutality and police killings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a7jdtqDqGY

10. Run the Jewels-Early

Killer Mike produces an amazing song with Early.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJJyKlRxyvA

11. Run the Jewels-Close Your Eyes (and Count to F**k)

The imagery in this music video is powerful and symbolic. Check out this article for more details:http://www.spin.com/2015/03/run-the-jewels-music-video-close-your-eyes-and-count-to-fuck-cop-black-man-fight/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkGwI7nGehA

12. Vic Mensa- 16 Shots

Recently found Vic Mensa and thought this was an amazing song and powerful music video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPWXOAYlgOc

17 Ways to Create Your Own Spiritual Space

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After several conversations with friends and family members regarding their frustrations with the masjids in their communities and the lack of a community-feeling in their masjids really got me thinking about what the solution to this problem could be. I’ve studied masjids and tried to identify best practices, but realized that while best practices are important one’s spirituality and imaan (faith) is far more important.

It’s easy to build a masjid, but to build a community is another task all together. Many communities succeed in whatever way they can to at least have a physical structure for their masjid, but many fail miserably to build a community. This lack of community can virtually kill people’s connection to the Muslim community, Islam, and eventually with Allah all together. This trend of being unmosqued and more and more Muslims feeling alienated from the masjid is something that can have significant consequences for the future of our community.

As we continue to pray for and work towards building more warm and welcoming masjids it’s important for one to build their own masjid. No, I don’t mean a physical structure, but create your own spiritual space. What do I mean by this? I have a couple of tips below of how to create your spiritual space:

1) Pray Your Salah on Time

Start off simply by praying your salah on time. Schedule your work schedule or school schedule around the 5 daily prayers. If you need reminders download IslamicFinder’s athaan on your computer or on your phone. If you’re lazy for fajr set two alarm clocks, one on your phone and another on your alarm clock.

2) Slow Down Your Salah

A lot of us, including myself, speed through our salah without even thinking about what we’re saying and what we’re doing. After we pray we feel empty and regretful which further exacerbates our feeling of unease and lack of connection to Allah. Also, make it a point to dress appropriately when you pray. Make it an event—dress nicely, smell nice, and spend your time slowly doing wudhu and concentrate on each action. Try to also learn what you’re reciting in salah to make it more meaningful. Check out the following lectures for tips on how to improve your salah:

  • The Prayer! The Prayer! The Prayer! -Mokhtar Maghraoui(Short Imaan Booster)
  • Understanding Salah-Mufti Ismail Menk (Short Imaan Booster)
  • Sweetness of Salah-Sh Omar Sulaiman(Short Imaan Booster)
  • Sweetness in Prayer (Salah) – Moutasem Al-Hameedi(1 hour)
  • Salah in Focus-Abdul Nasir Jangda(1 hour)
  • Khushoo-Shaykh Yaser Birjas(1 hour)
  • Meaning of Tashahud-Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda(50 mins)

3) Create a Prayer/Dhikr Place at Home

In your home or apartment keep a prayer mat, dhikr beads and a Quran in one area to designate as a prayer/dhikr place. This will help you keep focused in salah as well as create an environment in which you can feel at peace when you pray. Below is my prayer/dhikr area.

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4) Create a Fajr Routine

 

What do I mean by a Fajr Routine?

  • Tahajjud: Try to get up 10-15 minutes earlier than Fajr to pray 2-4 rakahs of Tahajjud and also pray the 2 rakahs of sunnah before Fajr.
  • Read Quran Post-Fajr: Read a couple of pages of the Quran post-fajr
  • Duas: Create a dua list, you can find duas from the Quran and sunnah, simply copy and paste them onto a Word document, print them out, or you can buy Accepted Whispers (I highly recommend it):
  1. Accepted Whispers: http://www.amazon.com/Accepted-Whispers-English-Translation-Munajaat/dp/B0021IZYEQ

2. My Dua List: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101667123/Dua-List-Final

3. Dua by Muhammad Jibreel: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/worship/fasting-ramadan/a-gift-for-the-27th-night-ramadan-dua%E2%80%99-with-english-translation/

  •     Pray Salat-Ishraq: These are two rakahs of salah post-sunrise.

“Whoever prays fajr in congregation, then sits remembering Allah until sunrise, then prays two units of prayer, has a complete reward of Hajj and `Umrah [The Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, repeated ‘complete’ three times for emphasizing].” [at-Tirmidhi]

5) Pray Fajr and/or Isha at the Masjid

 

If you do have access to a masjid at least pray fajr and/or Isha at the masjid. It doesn’t matter how much you hate going to a particular masjid, but if you simply go to pray in congregation and make it a routine it’ll help you keep your imaan up and give you a imaan-boost. If you can’t make it for Fajr, at least make it for Isha.

6) Memorize Short Duas

 

Try to memorize short and simple duas. What I do is I post duas on my doors or in key areas where I’ll be sure to read them. Post daily duas for when you’re leaving home, after eating, etc.

DUAS

 7) Memorize and Understand Juz Amma (Short Surahs)

We all have memorized the short surahs in juz amma (maybe not all but some). Use this as a starting place to add meaning and purpose to your salah. If you want, try to get friends to review with or even make a weekly halaqa to go over the tafsir and meaning of the short surahs in Juz Amma. Make it a goal by the end of the year to memorize all of the surahs in Juz Amma. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

-Juz Amma Tafsir by Nouman Ali Khan

http://podcast.bayyinah.com/category/juz_amma/

-Word for Word Translation:

http://www.islamicstudies.info/wordtranslation.php

  • Reconnect with the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

Listening to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)s seerah can help you increase your love and appreciation for the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and truly understand who he was.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMu_654ASDk&list=PL7839C1DDE0524207

9) Make Dhikr or Send Salawat on the Prophet SAW in Your Downtime

Make it a habit to make dhikr throughout your day. If you’re sitting in traffic, or studying, or working either make dhikr or send salawat on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

10) Create a Daily To-Do List and Spiritual Routine

Try to create a routine of self-improvement that includes not only spiritual self-improvement, but also personal improvement academically, professionally, or physically (Work out!). Creating a spiritual and workout routine are both good ways to keep your spiritual heart and physical heart healthy. Below is how I organize my to-do list. On the left hand side I have my tasks for the day. On the right side I have my regular daily tasks that I need to accomplish and below that I have a section (since I like blogging/writing) for article/blog or paper ideas.

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On how to create a daily spiritual routine I highly recommend getting Imam Ghazali’s The Beginning of Guidance and also purchasing Sh. Hamza Yusuf’s Purification of the Heart, both are great ways to start your journey of spiritual refinement.

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11) Listen to Lectures of Scholars You Enjoy

Yes, the masjid you may go to may have awful khutbahs, classes, and lectures (or you may not have a masjid close to you), but alhamdullilah for technology we have access to several scholars who we can benefit from. You can take classes on SeekersGuidance or you can simply or you can simply listen to lectures on HalalTube.com. Find lectures you’re interested in and can be imaan-boosters for you.

12) Start a Small Weekly Halaqa with Close Friends

If your masjid is failing to have quality lectures, classes and halaqas that cater to your spiritual needs create a small weekly halaqa with close friends who you can discuss Islamic topics with or make it focused upon a book or studying the Quran.

13) Reduce Unnecessary Socializing

This means reducing time spent with friends or acquaintances who bring no value into your life. You want to keep friends who bring value to your life and push you and encourage you to be a better person at every level (spiritual, emotional and personal). This’ll be a difficult task, but if you start categorizing people and start making quality friends.

Read: 10 Steps on How to Make Quality Friends

https://sabrshukr.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/10-steps-on-how-to-make-quality-friends/

14) Reduce Distractions

This means reduce your time on your smartphone, computer/laptop, and even music. I’m not saying any of these things are haram, but reducing our time on social media and technology can have an immense impact on reviving our imaan and spirituality. I remember taking a Facebook fast during Ramadan, it was the best feeling in the world and it’s amazing how much time you have once you cut down time on social media. Delete apps on your phone which are a distraction or time wasters (this includes social media apps, games and other time wasting apps).

15) Increase Your Dua

Start making dua more regularly and do so throughout the day. It can be a silent internal dua or a silent dua you say to yourself in any situation you’re in. This will help you keep spiritually fresh and help you feel closer to Allah.

16)Keep Clean and Organized

Having a clean and organized home and workplace will reduce stress and allow you to focus primarily on your dhikr, Quran-reading and will allow you to be more productive spiritually and work wise too.

17) Reflect on Events and Situations in Your Day

Use every moment, second, minute and hour of your day assessing, reflecting and pondering about events and situations. What lessons can you learn from them? What can you improve on? What can you do differently? How can you learn from these moments to become a better person? This isn’t to say you need to be obsessive about events or situations, but use every moment of your life to be a moment to learn from and improve yourself, your understanding of others, Allah and the world around you.

Raising Boys vs. Raising Men

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We’ve all heard the phrase “Boys will be boys” when a boy does or says something immature or silly. However, there comes a point when a boy becomes a man. However, having the characteristics and physical traits that a man has doesn’t make one a man it makes one a male. We need to make a distinction between men and boys. A guy can be well into his mid-20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s and still be a boy. This is due to the nature of his inability to emotionally, spiritually and psychologically mature. We cannot seriously say the phrase “he’s just a kid” for 18-40 year old guys. This phrase removes any responsibility or accountability for a guy’s actions by simply writing it off as “they’re just being boys” or “they’re just being kids.”  That argument won’t hold any water in the court of law and it most certainly doesn’t in our day to day dealings with others. Our actions and words have consequences. Every action has an equal or stronger reaction.

 

Yes, we’re all learning about life in every stage of our lives, but to not be in a mode of learning, self-reflection, self-improvement and introspection at every point in your life will not help you to mature. Many guys today simply live with their egos, lusts and desires. They seek to simply feed all three (ego, lusts, and desires) and don’t care if in their pursuit of self-gratification of harming others in the process. The guys I see today are obsessed with athletes, celebrities, movies, TV shows, food, and sports. This may not be the case for all youth, but is definitely a trend I see in our youth today. The question is how can we slowly transition these youth out of this mindset to a more mature mindset of thinking deeply about life, reflecting about how they’re living life, and how to better themselves every day? The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was surrounded by youth who took on positions of leadership, took initiative and were key figures in the early history of Islam.

The question is, do we see that same level of maturity in our male youth today?

Sadly, many youth are growing up with this mentality of fast and simple self-gratification. These youth then become college students, then young professionals, and then husbands of families. Yet, as they may have progressed academically and career wise they still are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually at the level of a middle school kid. It’s scary to think that one day the youth that I see at the masjid and in our communities will be future husbands and fathers.

 

It’s easy to think and acts like a boy for all of your life. You can think that your actions and words have no consequences. You can think that everyone needs to respect you, demand respect from other and if anyone disrespects you you put them in their place by cussing them out or yelling at them. You can think that everything must come to you immediately. It’s sad to say though this type of behavior will not fly in the real world. If you have this boyish mentality in your school work, your work life, your family life, and with others you won’t live a very happy life. You’ll meet conflict after conflict, drama after drama and get yourself into more trouble than you want.

 

This is why I say there’s a difference between being a MAN and being a boy or simply thinking you’re a man because you’re male. A man is one who has good character, strong morals, ethics, and principles. A man is someone who is self-confident, respectful to others, builds people up and doesn’t tear them down. A man is someone who doesn’t demand respect, but earns it through his actions. A man is someone who respects women and doesn’t talk about them in a derogatory manner. A man is someone who doesn’t use bad language, yell at others or lose his temper. My question is where are the men today?

 

When I actually sat down to think about why there is such a level of immaturity in our male youth today I can only find one problem: bad parenting. Yes, there are different cases here and there that may be contrary to my finding, but at a core level the level of immaturity stems from bad parenting. If the father or mother doesn’t play a big role their son’s life by teaching him early on about ethics, morals, principles and values then how do you expect him to start adhering to them when he’s well into his teens? If a father doesn’t encourage his son to come to the masjid in his son’s early years and stress the importance of deen (Islam) in their lives how do they expect their sons to know the importance when they become 19 years old? We have parents going to imams, youth directors and the “cool uncle” and ask them “can you speak to my son? Can you encourage him to come to the masjid and remind him about Islam?” It’s sad that it’s come to this point where parents can’t even talk to their own children about their concern for the way they’re living their lives.

 

Another issue that leads to this immaturity is that we’re pampering our boys.We provide them early on with the latest gadgets, clothes, toys and demands early on and continue this trend into middle school, high school, and college. They learn to expect to get their demands at the drop of a hat. They feel entitled to certain things. They feel connected or attached to their gadgets and clothes. They feel that the latest brands are what make them better than others. They feel that can do whatever they want with no consequences.

 

This sets up our sons for failure in life. You can’t expect by giving your sons every luxury in this life at their fingertips while neglecting their Islamic education that they’ll be good human beings and successful in their lives. If you’ve given all the luxuries in the world to your son and not a firm understanding, appreciation and love of Islam then you’ve given your son nothing. We stress the dunya (this world) to such an extent to our sons that their entire lives are consumed by gadgets, clothes, TV shows, movies, etc. Lastly, as parents we can’t demand our kids to be more “religious” if we aren’t even practicing what we’re preaching. If you aren’t going to the masjid on a consistent basis, not reading Quran, not learning more about Islam how can you expect your son to take your request seriously?

 

We can no longer afford to continue this trend or it will hurt our community and our world. We cannot look and say in retrospect “where did I go wrong?” when our sons don’t listen to us, or they go down the wrong path or don’t listen to you when you tell them they should go to the masjid. We reap what we sew. “It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men” as Franklin Douglass said. We cannot easily reverse years of lack of guidance and nurturing after-the-fact of realizing the wrong we did. Sadly, for most of the immature boys we have in our community it will take a tragic event or a life-shaking event to open their eyes to change their ways, wake up and mature. I pray it doesn’t come to that and may Allah protect us from tragic events (ameen), but it will take something to shake them to wake them up to change their ways and become mature adults and men.

 

 

We need to begin raising men and not simply raising boys. We need well-balanced men who live their lives with purpose, with a vision, with a mission, and understand how to live their lives with balance. We need men who live with a strong understanding of their Islamic identity, morals, ethics and values. We need men who can become strong husbands for their families. We need men who can protect our women from the ugliness of the world. We need men who can become strong leaders for our communities.

 

We need men, not boys. No more “boys will be boys,” let them be MEN.

My Ramadan Reflections-2014

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You’re probably going to think I’m a Debbie-Downer after reading these reflections, but feel these are some ideas that need to be expressed. I love my community, but as the Prophet SAW gave glad tidings he also was real about the issues his community faced. May Allah accept our fasts, worship, allow us to gain the full reward of Ramadan and allow us to become better Muslims after Ramadan for years to come, to keep steadfast on repelling our temptations and sins,  and gain the company of the Prophet SAW in Jannat al-Firdaus. Ameen.

1. Life is Short

 

This Ramadan I heard of at least 7 deaths of community members both in my community and elsewhere. I heard and saw the terrible atrocities in Gaza, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world.

 2. We’re Obsessed with Food

This Ramadan I saw recipes and techniques of how to beat hunger and thirst. I saw abundant pictures of what people were eating for suhoor and iftaar. I saw lavish iftar dinners and fancy foods. We seem as a community to be more concerned about the nourishment of our stoamches than nourishment of our souls. Ramadan is not about the food, it’s about reforming our hearts and minds.

 

3. We Need to Get Over the Moonsighting vs. Calculations Debate

 

As a community or average Muslim community member we need to stop getting into the common moonsighting vs. calculations debate. Unity should trump this debate all together. Stick with the decision of your masjid and if you don’t agree with it go to another masjid that agrees with your understanding, but first and foremost be with the people, be with your community.

 

4. Fasting is More than Fasting from Food

 

It’s unfortunate, but many of us may abstain from food and water, but may backbite, slander, and gossip. The funny thing is we may be doing this as we drive to the masjid, in the masjid, before or after salah. We also may do this online over social media which not only amplifies your sin, but may encourage others to do so, cause disunity, cause bad blood, and hurt others.

 

Why potentially miss out Allah’s forgiveness during Ramadan because of your tongue?

 

6. We Need a Spiritual Revolution

 

We all followed the Arab Spring and the subsequent revolutions that occurred in the Middle East, but  honestly we need a spiritual revolution. What do I mean by this? As much as we may want to protest and be active in the world we must work on fixing our internal spiritual state first. It does us no good to advocate for Islam and Muslims when our own actions or words are in total contradiction to Islam? We must study the seerah and the Quran for lessons on how to deal with issues in our lives and the challenges we face in the world. The Quran and Sunnah are a manual for how to respond to certain issues and challenges we may face. Why try to reinvent the wheel when we have the solution in the stories of the Prophets (AS), the Story of the Prophet SAW and the Quran? History repeats itself. Technology and clothing trends change, but Man is still the same, thus the Quran deals with Man’s internal state which is pretty much constant from Adam (AS) to today.

 

Thus, we must begin truly learning our religion and living it. I’m not saying activism is not important, but to truly be an effective activist study the manuals for your activism, derive lessons, gain spiritual nourishment so you don’t get burned out, and find solutions to your personal and community challenges.

 

6. Change in the World Really Begins from Yourself

 

Change really begins from within. It begins with yourself. We all know the famous ayah of the Quran that tells us change comes from within, but it really hit me during this Ramadan after I spoke to a friend of mine about the lack of youth in the masjid for salah.He said that how can we expect the youth to come if we are not coming consistently ourselves? It got me to thinking that if you want to truly change your community you need to set the tone and then encourage others to change too.

We can look at the problems the world faces and point fingers. We can blame politicians, we can blame other Muslims, we can blame our imams or scholars, we can blame masjid boards, we can blame the economy, we can blame lobbies, we can blame corporations, we can blame Shaytan, we can blame as many people and things as possible, but to change any of it wemust change.

 

We can demand change in the world, we can demand justice, we can demand peace, we can demand unity, and other things, but are establishing those morals and values in our own lives? Before we point fingers at dictators and criminals we must look into ourselves first and see if we have that evil within us. It’s like someone protesting against a dictator’s violence and oppression while he goes home and beats his wife. Or someone complains about a masjid being empty during congregational salah, but not going him or herself.

 

We need to make the change first in ourselves through introspection, purifying our intentions, cleansing ourselves of our sins and make a firm commitment to change. Change starts with you, then your family, then your friends, then your community, then the world. This is the sunnah of the Prophet SAW and how he changed the world.

 

7. We Need Unity

 

Muslims know and talk about the need for Muslim unity, but how many of us are actually promoting it? We are quick to condemn and bash each other, but are slow to forgive or show forbearance with our own fellow Muslim brothers or sisters. We’re quick to slander them, gossip or backbite about them or even have the gaul to publicly character assassinate them on social media. Is this how you call for unity? Is this how you seek to unite the Muslims? I saw some pretty ugly Facebook and Twitter exchanges between Muslim American activists literally two days before Ramadan started and then saw that continued character assassination and arguments happening during Ramadan too. It got me to thinking what good is our activism if our manners and character are awful? How can you claim Islam promotes peace as an activist when you’re not even being peaceful with your own brother or sister? How can you say that Islam promotes justice if you’re not even promoting justice with your own brothers and sisters? How can you say that Islam promotes unity when you yourself are hurting your own brother or sister?

Don’t point fingers at the Saudi Arabian government or the Muslim leaders in the Muslim world for the disunity in our communities. We’re causing disunity here in our own communities. Have we taken time to meet a new brother or sister at the masjid? Have we given proper greetings to those who greet us with the greetings of peace? Do we give people half our attention when they give the greeting of peace to us? The Prophet SAW used to turn his full attention to the one giving him the greeting of peace. Today, we may give a quick handshake or greeting and not actually give the one who greeted you the proper attention or warmth.

 

Simple things like greeting each other with attention and warmth can go a long way in promoting peace and unity in our community. Thus, as was said before change begins from within. Promote unity in your community through meeting someone new, offering the greetings of peace with warmth and full attention. Ask for people’s names too. We may attend the masjid for congregational prayers but not know the brother or sister praying next to us despite them coming every day.

 

These small things can go a long way in helping build mercy, love, compassion and unity in your community and the world.

 

8. We’re Missing Out on Building Communities During Ramadan

 

Many masjids are missing out a great opportunity to actually build a community during Ramadan. Our masjids fill up during Ramadan and afterwards they empty after. Year by year the same cycle happens why have we not done more to encourage people to come to the masjid?

 

We complain about empty masjids, but have we really taken the time and effort to help tie people’s hearts to the masjid during Ramadan? We must stress the importance of coming to the masjid during Ramadan and provide interesting and relevant programs for youth, women and the general community to feel tied to the masjid.

 

Simply having tarawih prayers and iftars at your masjid is not enough to tie people’s hearts to the masjid. You must proactively meet people, greet them warmly, and encourage them to come to the masjid. Make it a theme that is constant throughout Ramadan to encourage people to come to the masjid. This responsibility lies solely in the hands of the masjid leadership to promote this, but also requires a community effort to encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to come to the masjid.

 

9. We need to Reduce Our Time on Social Media

 

Social media is a huge distraction for me during Ramadan—especially Facebook which is a reason I take a Facebook Fast every Ramadan. While many may not see the need to deactivate their Facebook account or reduce their time on social media, I truly believe that we’re spending way too much time on it to the point we may be missing out on more important things in Ramadan—like reading Quran and actually making dua (not just talking about it on social media). Yes, you can spread much good on social media by sharing hadith, Quranic ayahs, inspirational stories, Quran recitations, etc. but how many of us truly use social media to promote educational and inspirational talks about Islam? Most of us use social media to post pictures of our iftar or suhoor or take a picture of us at tarawih prayers or take a picture of a scholar we’re listening to (rather than actually listening to him or her).

 

I advise myself first and foremost to reduce our time on social media. I’ve actually deleted my Facebook app on my phone and am actually downloading educational apps like Quran apps and Arabic apps to learn Arabic and increase my Arabic proficiency. The less we think about witty statuses, posts, pictures, videos, and memes to post on social media the happier we’ll be.

 

Social media isn’t the Devil nor is it a bad thing. The issue is how we use it and how much time we spend on it. Are we using it to post selfies of ourselves and be narcissistic? Or are we using it to promote good, educational thoughts, ideas, and positivity. Yes, we can be funny or silly, but not to a degree where we are seen as comedians or court jesters seeking attention. We must be people who’re balanced and neither too silly/goofy and neither too sullen and serious. We also must be a people who’re not arrogant and narcissistic. We need to reduce the need for attention and stop become attention-seeking. It shows a great deal if insecurity if we continuously post selfies and constantly post pictures on Facebook or social media.

 10. I Love My Community

 

With all of that said and done I truly realized this Ramadan that I love my community and am blessed to be a part of such a beautiful community. I am blessed to be a part of this beautiful religion of Islam and have the Prophet Muhammad SAW as my Prophet. It really is awesome seeing the youth and the younger children at the masjid and I make dua when I see them that they become strong Muslims and leaders who help our community take things to the next level. I see future changemakers in each and every one of them and pray they become strong, confident and beneficial leaders of the community.

15 Ways to Recharge Your Imaan This Ramadan

Ramadan Recharge

So a few of my friends have asked how to make the most of this Ramadan and that they were feeling spiritually low. I sat down and thought about it and here are my simple ways to recharge our imaan (faith) this Ramadan and inshallah for year to come.

1. Tune out Distractions/Drama + Decrease Socializing

-Spend as much time as you can by yourself by making dua, dhikr, etc.

-This isn’t to say to not be nice to people and turn down invites to iftar dinners, but don’t make food the focus of your Ramadan

2. Read more Quran + Review the Meaning

-Find a Quran Translation You Find Easy to Understand

-Find a Quiet and Peaceful Place to Read Quran (I like to read Quran after fajr up until sunrise and then pray Ishraq after)

-The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever offers his morning (fajr) prayer in congregation, then remains seated making the dhikr of Allah until the sun rises, and thereafter offers two rak’ats, they will receive the reward of performing a Hajj and Umrah.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 586)

 

3. Make Dua Daily

-Create your own dua list

-OR buy: http://www.amazon.com/Accepted-Whispers-English-Translation-Munajaat/dp/B0021IZYEQ

-Dedicate a special time to make your dua with sincerity and focus)-After Fajr or Every Salah

-Here is my list of duas: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101667123/Dua-List-Final

 

4. Add one Small Sunnah to Your Routine

-Add the Sunnah Before Fajr

– 2 rakahs after Maghrib, Dhuhr, Isha

5. Slow Down Your Salah!

-We all rush through our salah, but try to slow down and understand what you’re saying and what position you’re in relation to Allah in your salah. Think to yourself: ok I’m in prostration to Allah, this means I am submitting myself to Him, I’m in Ruku, I am in a position of weakness and am proclaiming His strength.

-Great Lectures about how to gain tranquility in salah:

The Prayer! The Prayer! The Prayer! -Mokhtar Maghraoui(Short Imaan Booster)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0efbrGqO1Os

Understanding Salah-Mufti Ismail Menk (Short Imaan Booster)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGPCMJZ7zto

Sweetness of Salah-Sh Omar Sulaiman(Short Imaan Booster)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3k3ZkQUHYU

 

Sweetness in Prayer (Salah) – Moutasem Al-Hameedi(1 hour)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O724d95udWg

 

Salah in Focus-Abdul Nasir Jangda(1 hour)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhV4p0_QGxk

 

Khushoo-Shaykh Yaser Birjas(1 hour)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KRqNv22F6E

 

Meaning of Tashahud-Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda(50 mins)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IevbR3-SnSk

 

 6. Learn Daily Duas

-Post Duas Up On Your Fridge so whenever you open the fridge you read the dua

-Post Duas in Common Places like Your Front Door (Dua When Leaving the House and Dua when Entering on the Other Side of the Door)

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 6. Reconnect with the Seerah

-Seerah Series by Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda: http://www.qalaminstitute.org/category/podcast/seerah/

-Omar Ibn Khattab (RA) TV Series:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMu_654ASDk&list=PL7839C1DDE0524207

-Omar ibn Khattab (RA) TV Series Study Guide

http://www.scribd.com/doc/231024116/Omar-Ibn-Khattab-MBC-TV-Series-Study-Guide

 

 7. Learn Tafsir, Learn the Meaning and Memorize Short Surahs (Juz Amma)

-Juz Amma Tafsir by Nouman Ali Khan

http://podcast.bayyinah.com/category/juz_amma/

-Word for Word Translation:

http://www.islamicstudies.info/wordtranslation.php

 

8. Make a Dua List (of Things You Need in Dunya/Deen)

Make a dua list where you divide your needs for your dunya (immediate needs) and your deen (i.e. spiritual needs). Also, make a list of things you’re grateful for and thank Allah for them.

9. Ask Forgiveness for People You May Have Hurt

Write an email, text or call someone you may have hurt recently or in the past to ask for their forgiveness and also make a point to forgive others who have wronged you as well!

10.Make a Commitment to Repent for and Stop Any Sins You Are Engaged In

This is easier said than done, but if you look at the way your life is going you’ll begin to realize your sins have already caught up with you or will catch up with you one day or another. Key is to keep struggling against the sin(s) or temptation and never give up.

 11. Attend Tarawih Prayers

Here some tips to get the most out of your tarawih prayers:

http://www.atlantamuslim.com/2014/jul/05/5-ways-improve-tarawih/

12. Learn About the Stories of the Companions of the Prophet SAW

-Learning About the Companions can be a source of Inspiration for Us

-Here is a Great PDF: http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/books/compprophet.pdf

-Youtube Sh. Zahir Mahmood lectures on Youtube, he has some great short clips about the Companions that are Imaan Boosters. There are other lectures too so find them on Youtube.

 13. Make a Commitment to Fast Mondays and Thursdays

-Plan now to fast the extra 10 days after Ramadan–you’ll get used to fasting so why not fast Mondays and

Thursdays?

14. Try to do Ithikhaaf if You Can in the Last 10 Days

If you can’t go to the masjid and stay in the masjid for the full 10 days at least dedicate a few hours on weekends or evenings and make the intention of it counting as an ithikhaaf and inshallah you’ll get the reward for it from Allah. Dedicate the last 10 days of Ramadan just for you and Allah time to ask Him for any of your needs, forgiveness, and use it as a time to realign your life according to the Quran and Sunnah

15. Make it a Habit to Go to the Masjid for Salah

If you’re attending the masjid for Isha and tarawih then after Ramadan stick to at least coming

 

 

11 Things We Need to Stop Doing on Social Media

Social Media

I’m not anyone to tell you how and how not to use social media. Nor am I saying social media is the Devil or it’s awful. It has a lot of great uses, but for most of us (including myself) we either waste way too much time on it, seek attention to the point of narcissism,  and engage in countless hours of wasted time.

We have an obsession with taking pictures (I’m guilty of this too) to a point of madness. We take pictures of virtually everything and anything. Yes, in some cases taking pictures is okay and maybe beneficial to others. We do, however, need to make sure we know what we’re sharing and who we’re sharing information with.We live our lives virtually without actually living our lives. We’re so concerned in capturing the moment in video form or picture form. Now I’m not saying never to take pictures of video, but do we really need to take so many and so often?

It’s funny, we get upset when we learn about the NSA spying and our sensitive information being compromised by social media networks, yet do we really make it that difficult for our information to be compromised? With the amount of details we post on social media it’s not too difficult to track someone, find out where they live, who their friends are, who their family members are, where they work, etc.

Here are a few things I think we need to stop doing on social media:

1. Sharing Sensitive Information

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Posting sensitive information in the form of:

  • Your Relationship Status
  • Your Physical Location (Checking-In to Locations)
  • Pictures of You and Your Spouse
  • Pictures of You and Your Family (Especially Kids)
  • Personal Information Regarding Your House, Address, etc.

There is more sensitive information I can list out, but it requires a bit of discernment from the user him/herself. All of this seems pretty obvious, but many of us do so without even thinking about it. There are too many of us who post up sensitive information knowingly or unknowingly. Regardless, we need to be cognizant of what information we are sharing and with whom.

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We need to realize that we’re exposing ourselves to praise, criticism, jealousy, backbiting, and slander. Why expose yourself or your loved ones to that? If you want to share personal information ensure your security settings are set in such a way that only the individuals you want to see it see that information. However, in our social media age information is hard to truly secure so use your own discretion when you do post up information, statuses, pictures or videos of you, yourself, your family or friends.

 

2. Posting Selfies

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I find it extremely ironic how as a society we despise those who gawk or stare inappropriately at girls, yet are totally fine with taking selfies which in essence allow the same creeps or stalkers to stare at your photo or browse through several selfies that you take. Also, our obsession with taking pictures of ourselves is concerning as it shows a complete lack of confidence and sincerity. When our cameras are constantly pointed at ourselves it shows a level of narcissism, ostentation, attention-seeking behavior and obsession over our image.

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Selfies at the gym or pictures of you doing community service can render your good deed null and void if we are seeking any praise or have the intention of showing off to others of how good of a person we are by serving others. Keep your intentions pure and ensure pictures you take aren’t focusing on yourself, but the project or service at hand.

 

3. Taking Pictures (or Video) of Other People Without Their Permission

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Many of us may see a funny moment of a person (or people) in our lives and take a quick sneak picture and post it on social media and tell everyone how funny it is. However, what separates us from those who are voyeurs or spy on people without them knowing. How would you like your picture to be taken by a complete stranger, ridiculed, mocked, slandered, made fun of, etc.?

Also, your intentions may be good sometimes to show the poor, needy or helpless you are serving at a community service event, but when you do take the picture at least ask the person or people. People have their own dignity, self-respect, and honor so do your part by respecting that by asking them before taking a picture of them.

4. Posting Pictures of Food

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Unless you’re a chef or a food blogger there shouldn’t be a need for us to share every meal we eat. Sadly, we see individuals posting virtually every meal they eat. We even have a disgusting term to describe this phenomenon: food porn. The word porn is a disgusting word, yet the term summarizes our attitude towards these pictures—are they simply an item to be drooled over like actual pornography? The very phrase is offensive. Social Media-11

 

Food is to be eaten as a source of nutrients and nourishment. Our food shouldn’t be the center of our lives, nor the obsession of our lives. Think about those who have less food than ourselves—do they care about how food looks or what others are eating? We need to remind ourselves that food should be seen as a blessing of nutrients and sustenance from Allah, not something to be obsessed over and the object of obsessive attention.

5. Excessively Sharing Photos and Posting Rapidly

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This pretty much goes with #2. There are individuals I have had to take off of my newsfeed due to their excessive photo sharing and photo uploads on Facebook. If you’re uploading 5-10 pictures in a span of 10 minutes there is a problem. We’ve come to a point in our lives that we are more concerned about taking pictures than actually living in the moment or experiencing the moment we are in or the place we are. Our first knee-jerk reaction is to take a picture and upload it on social media. Experience the moment and post your pictures or share your pictures with those who truly care.

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We also need to be very wary of jealousy, evil-eye, slander and backbiting that may occur to the photos you may post. You’re essentially opening yourself up to criticism, praise, jealousy, slander and backbiting. Also, it’s a huge violation of your privacy if people know where you are at all times.

6. Engaging in Debates

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Social media debates are a waste of time and not productive at all. If debating offline is a waste of time then you can definitely believe that debating or engaging in a debate online is a bigger waste of time, energy and effort. It’d be a better use of your time to discuss,have a dialogue or educate someone than debate someone who is set in their ways.

7. Public Character Assassination

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Islamically we know that backbiting and slander is forbidden, yet we engage in it too easily on social media. This is so easily done with people we may or not know. This includes embarrassing our own families and friends or those we may not know. You may disagree with someone online or disagree with an individual but don’t go to a point where it becomes slander, backbiting, and gets into foul language or profanity.

Also, for the love of Allah we need to really stop being so passive aggressive in our statements. If you really want to address an issue go tell or advise the individual(s) or group. If you truly love for your brother/sister what you love for yourself then go advise them in private and discuss your concerns with them. Offer solutions, not just criticisms.

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8. Posting Content with Profuse Profanity or Inappropriate Language

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Many of us may in a joking manner or in a fit of anger/rage post a status with profanity or inappropriate language. Many of us may joke or post a joke or some sort of content be it a meme, music video, video, article or other type of content which may contain profanity or inappropriate language. Yes, some content may be educational or raise awareness and if it does serve that purpose at least due your due diligence in ensuring those you’re sharing the content with that it does have profanity or inappropriate language.

Also, be wary that you will be asked about the content you do post on social media by Allah and if it exposes individuals to unneeded profanity or inappropriate language. We all are adults and understand language we need to remove from our vocabulary. Using crude language or profanity in our vocabulary shows a lack of character, morality, and values. It also shows others that we

9. Posting Nudity or Offensive Content

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We may not think we do this, but sometimes we may post pictures that are somewhat revealing in some manner or another. We need to make sure the content we post is not violating anyone’s privacy, nor is it offensive, or too revealing in nature. If we’re to post nude or revealing content what makes it any different than those who post pornography online be it video or picture content? No, we may not do this of ourselves, but it may be in the form of music videos, memes, articles, etc.

You may be exposing others to inappropriate content unknowingly and getting the sins in the process. Realize the trend in posting anything up can lead to us promoting or perpetuating bad behaviors which in the end come back and hurt ourselves. It also shows a lack of poor character, bad morals/values, and just an overall lack of concern about the consequences for our actions and words.

We must do our best to ensure the content we are posting is not offensive either in the form of ridiculing someone’s beliefs, way of life, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. This includes light-hearted jokes or humor. Even if one person is offended and they tell you it is then immediately delete it and apologize. One person being offended is enough for you to remove the offensive content if you truly are cognizant of Allah.

10. Posting Pictures of Partying or Hanging Out (In a Non-Halal Manner)

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One of the silliest things we can do is post pictures of ourselves partying or hanging out (in a non-halal manner) or doing anything haram or sinful. Imagine 5 years or 10 years down would you be proud of those pictures? Let’s forget about the future would you be comfortable sharing the pictures or videos of yourself doing unspeakable or stupid things to your own mother,f ather, grandmother or grandfather or extended family? I say this because maybe we don’t have the level of taqwa (God-consciousness) of Allah that we should have so it may take embarrassment from people to change our behaviors.

Imagine this conversation happening with your future child:

Your Child:“Wow, let’s look at your photo album”
You: “Yeah here are some of my college pictures”
Your Child: “Who’s that you’re hugging? Is that mom/dad?” OR [nsert any embarrassing moment
captured in a picture here]
You: “No, that was just a friend from college”

Try explaining to your child or your future spouse about the inappropriate pictures you have posted
on social media. Guys, would you be happy with your future wife’s arm around another guy? Ladies,
would you be happy seeing your future husband’s arms around 2 girls? Would you be happy to see
your future spouse partying and acting crazy in pictures? Is that something that shows a great
character, self-respect, or good morals/values?

I’m not saying people don’t change and people do change for the better, but when you post pictures
of you doing questionable things in pictures on social media you essentially label yourself or set an
image in people’s minds. You could look at this as a self-character assassination. You’re essentially
telling people this is who I am, this is what I do and this is what defines me.

Your pictures may also actually encourage others to engage in that spiritually, emotionally and
socially detrimental behavior. You never know how people may interpret the posts or pictures you
post. They may say “if he/she is doing it, it’s ok.” You will be held responsible in the sight of Allah for
the promotion of an evil action and get their sin for it too.

It’s funny when we do post pictures that are questionable and a friend or family member advises us
on how it may be detrimental to our image yet we act defensively and tell them they’re being
judgmental, conservative, or being a hater, etc. You share these pictures on an online public forum
and then complain about when people advise you for your own good. May Allah guide us and
remove the blindness from our eyes and realize our own shortcomings and change for the better.

11. Telling People they are Hating or Judgmental about Your Posts

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If you produce some sort of public content be it a video (Mipsterz Video anyone? :P), picture, public status/statement, etc. be sure to realize you will receive both praise and criticism. If you can’t handle the criticism then you need to remind yourself you’re posting on an ONLINE PUBLIC FORUM. Be it Twitter, Instragram, Facebook or Youtube or any other social media platform realize you’re using an online public forum. It’s similar to you getting up on a soapbox in the middle of your city and telling or showing something to people walking by. People walking by will either appreciate your thoughts or praise you or they may disagree vehemently with you. So be prepared for praise, apathy or disagreement.

 

Also, if there’s some sort of online (or offline) social behavior you’re doing that may be detrimental and someone advises you to change your lifestyle or actions then genuinely think about your actions. If someone is saying something reflect upon it and see if there’s any evidence to support what they’re saying. The problem today is we hide behind the phrase “don’t judge me” or “Only God can judge me.”

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Also, everyone who may criticize you online may not be “hating” or being “judgmental” if they do express a differing view from your own. It’s hating or judgmental only in the tone in which they do state their disagreement or criticism. You can also learn from these criticisms and differing views to truly look into yourself and ask yourself: Do I need to look into this criticism? Who is the criticism coming from? What lessons can I learn from this? Am I potentially wrong?

These moments are ego-breaking moments and learning moments for all of us to learn from and only make us more intelligent and wiser the next time we do post or opinions, products, or projects online.