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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17 Ways to Create Your Own Spiritual Space

Spiritual

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.

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.

 

 

 

The Lost Art of Respectful Disagreement

TJ2

 

How many times have we gotten into debates with friends or family? How many times have those debates  truly been enlightening or really helped you to clarify your view, opinion or position? We need to stop thinking about “how can I beat the other person and sound smarter than him/her?” We need to start engaging in discussions and dialogues NOT debates. Yes, we can have different views, positions, and understandings on certain issues, but the purpose should not be to “beat” the other person, nor should it be to ridicule, humiliate, or mock the other or his/her position or view. Sadly, we see this today in politics and media and it basically is like watching a boxing match with no end.

As human beings we’re fallible and struggle with our egos on a daily basis—-yet there are those who simply don’t battle their egos and don’t restrain their egos. We let our egos get into disagreements and debates and seek to disprove the other person not to educate them or enlighten them, but to merely boost our egos.

So the question is why are we talking about debate, dialogue and discussion? Sadly today we’ve lost a lot of our humanity,basic morals, values and principles and sometimes we need reminders (me first and foremost). I’ve seen way too many Muslims engage in debates on various issues and it’s come to such a point where we get into character assassination, slander, and misinformation aimed at destroying the image of the Muslim brother or sister we disagree with. We are so quick to post statuses on social media denouncing a fellow Muslim brother or sister—yet did we take the time out to advise them or clarify their actions or words? Who made us the judges of people’s hearts or intentions? Who gave us the ability to read into people’s hearts? When it comes down to it we need to revive mercy in our hearts because right now our hearts are cold and dead—void of any love, mercy and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters. We cry and complain about the condition of the Muslim community in the US and internationally, but we must ask ourselves: are we to blame for the condition?

Maybe our own actions or words are causing the problems. We can point our fingers at everyone, but few of us take time to look a the ugliness in ourselves and work to rectify it. We  must revive mercy, love, compassion and caring in our hearts and learn to love one another even if we disagree with each other.

 

1) The Art of Respectfully Disagreeing: Examples from Our Past

 

However, if we look at the Prophet Muhammad SAW, his companions (RA), and our pious predecessors we see that they lived their life with a vision. They saw at the end of the day their purpose on earth was not to set up Paradise here and live comfortably, but strove to do good on earth, forbid evil, serve others, better themselves, better their families, better their communities, and live righteous lives to gain everlasting Paradise. We see in the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW that there were disagreements on matters of Islam and even management of the Muslims but they did not let those disagreements divide the community, cause bad blood, cause pain or suffering or character assassination to those who disagreed with one another, or labeling or name-calling.

 

The major scholars in our history had such beautiful character that even if they disagreed with one another they did so with adab (manners) and good akhlaq (character). When we study their biographies we see that they had extremely strong opinions regarding Islamic matters, but at the end of the day they had the utmost respect, honor and love for their scholarly counterparts. The thing is the scholars and righteous individuals from our past lived Islam. Islam for them wasn’t merely a theory or a great idea, but a revolutionary way of life, mode of conduct, self-improvement code to live by. Some Muslims today simply talk about Islam’s beauty but don’t embody the beauty in their own lives. We need to go back to the history of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and study his character in greater detail to learn from his adab (manners) and akhlaq (character).

 

2) Disagreements, Character Assassination, and Slander

 

Today, many Muslim activists may advocate for the rights of Muslims or dispel myths, misinformation, and lies about Muslims yet their character doesn’t reflect the very faith they seek to defend. In a way it’s hypocritical to go and advocate on behalf of Islam and Muslims yet not adhere to the very principles of Islam ourselves. Yes, we may pray, fast, pay zakah, and do the very basics of Islam, but if you’re belief isn’t improving your adab and akhlaq—-how is it benefitting you at all? How can we advocate for Islam, talk about its beauty, its justice, it’s universal morals and solutions to humanity yet have ugly characters or hypocrisy in our hearts and actions?

 

There is an unfortunate trend in the Muslim community of character assassination and a mob mentality when it comes to issues facing our community. We’re quick to anger and condemnation, but slow to forgive or show forbearance or mercy. The total opposite of the Quran and Sunnah. A Bedouin came to the masjid of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and began urinating—the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad SAW were ready to berate the Bedouin and shout at him, yet the Prophet Muhammad SAW stopped them and then spoke calmly to the Bedouin. We’ve all heard this story and say how awesome the character was of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, but how many ask themselves: How would I respond? Would I react with anger or would I react as the Prophet Muhammad SAW did?

 

Today, too many of us have a mob mentality where we immediately are quick to condemn, ridicule, character assassinate, label or bash an individual who may not agree with us. We do so with such ease especially in the age of social media. It’s too easy to sit behind a computer and type a few words of hate or character assassination and for us to sleep comfortably at night. We need to remind ourselves that our words will be weighed on the Day of Judgment and be taken to account. For every individual we hurt either in person or online will be given justice on that day. The scary thing about social media is how quickly misinformation, lies, and character assassination can spread. A few key strokes and a click of a button can hurt individuals you didn’t even intend to hurt.

 

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, “Whoever has wronged his brother, should ask for his pardon (before his death), as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither a Dinar nor a Dirham. (He should secure pardon in this life) before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to his brother, or, if he has done no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of his brother are taken to be loaded on him (in the Hereafter).” (Sahih Bukhari)

 

3)  Islam: A Way of Life or Just a Theory?

 

The Prophet Muhammad SAW was a walking Quran. He embodied what he taught. He acted on what he taught. He walked the talk. Today, many of us talk a lot about Islam, but how many of us are actually living Islam? Has Islam penetrated our hearts or is it merely a good mental exercise for us? Is Islam for us relegated to the masjid or to books or has it become just a great theory we talk about? Muslim activists must take a step back and reevaluate their spiritual states and truly look in the mirror and ask themselves: What is the condition of my spiritual heart? What are my strengths, what are my weaknesses I need to work on? How am I living my life?

 

When it comes to Muslim activism and the average Muslim community member we need to begin building each other up not tearing each other down. We’re all striving for the same good, but if you consistently criticize and bash your fellow brother or sister publicly it shows a severe lack of character and sincerity. If you truly love for your brother or sister what you love for yourself you would advise them in private to improve them, not publicly shame them or ridicule them. What good does that do? Yes, our ego may get inflated for a bit, but at the end of the day what did you accomplish?

 

O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers. (49:6)

 

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (49:12)

 

4) How to Respectfully Advise Your Brother or Sister

 

Now, if there is a legitimate criticism is to be made publicly that is causing a problem in our community, by all means we must speak up about it publicly. However, our default reaction should be to privately advise and seek more information about the situation, words or actions. Sometimes it may well be that there was misinformation, misunderstanding or a misinterpretation of the actions or words which simply could be resolved by asking the individual.

 

O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful. (Quran 49:6)

 

We’re meant to cover each other’s weaknesses and have each other backs not just have Islam on our tongues and call each other brothers and sisters, but not truly mean it. If Allah hides our sins, misdeeds, shortcoming from public and we readily expose the weaknesses of our fellow brothers and sisters. It’s become so easy to degrade and humiliate our own brothers and sisters without batting an eye.

 

The bickering, backbiting, and slander in our community are the reasons our community is so weak and divided. We need not look at others to blame about the condition of our community, but look to ourselves and look at the evil in each and every one of our hearts. Every Muslim must look within themselves and see how they are conducting themselves, what the condition of their hearts is, how their adab and akhlaq is, and if we truly are living Islam or is it merely a social identity or a theory for us?

 

5) Dialogue NOT Debate

 

When we have disagreements, we need to have dialogues not debates. Too often we let our egos get in the way when we have disagreements and the very purpose of the disagreement is not to help the other person see your perspective, but to beat them and boost your ego. At the end what did you accomplish? Yes, you “won” the debate, got your ego boost, but really what did you gain from it? We need to stop having debates, but rather have respectful dialogues. Dialogues are ways to see other individuals point of views and truly get where they are coming from. Our default action is to immediately go into debate-mode to prove the other person wrong—yet as Muslims we should always be open to seeking the truth even if it comes from someone who sees the world differently than you do.

 

Lastly, when it comes to the issue of technical Islamic practices that have legitimate scholarly disagreements, let those arguments be with the scholars—seek knowledge that benefits you and makes you a better person. By all means you can seek to find our more about moon sighting vs. calculations, different prayer methods, prayer time calculations, and other fiqh issues, but don’t let those disagreements become the reason for disunity and bad blood between you, others and your community. When you have a my-way-or-the-highway mentality it does no one any good and doesn’t win you and points with Allah. Stick to that which is clear in the Quran and Sunnah that benefits you and your spiritual heart and leave the rest. Your job is to live a good, clean, righteous life and to get to jannah. Everything else is a distraction.

TJ

 

May Allah guide us all, forgive us all, unite our hearts, and learn to love one another despite our diversity of thoughts, ideas, and actions. May Allah cleanse our hearts of all envy, greed, jealousy, hatred and fill our hearts full of love, mercy, caring, and compassion towards our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. May we be given the power to control our egos, lusts, desires and have the strength to seek forgiveness of those we may have wronged or hurt by our words and actions. May we be given Light in our hearts, our tongues, and every limb of our body. May we become walking Qurans and live Islam and not have Islam merely on our tongues. May our words match our actions and may we exemplify the sunnah of the Prophet SAW in our lives. May we be given the strength to always strive to become better and admit our flaws and faults. May we be given humility in our hearts and unite us all in the company of the Prophet Muhammad SAW in Jannat al-Firdaus. Ameen.

 

The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy. (49:6)

 

 

 

 

From Unmosqued to BeMosqued

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I recently watched the film Unmosqued and for the most part agreed with the majority of the film and feel it was a film that can be a gamechanger for our community.  What this film has done for the community has empowered community members to rally around the cause of improving our masjids and our communities we live in. The film highlighted the urgency in which we need to respond to challenges plaguing our masjids and communities. Our very future of our community relies on our action or inaction of our community members. Our youth, women, convert brothers and sisters, young, old, 2nd generation and 1st generation all depend on our ability to act and spark a positive change in our communities.

 

With that said the film did touch upon issues that a majority of the Muslim community has been discussing for years and is feeling the repercussions of today. The film’s purpose was to start a discussion around the issues, but what is dangerous is how the future discussions and action items can look like. For example those with hidden agendas they could use this film to support their anti-masjid sentiments and use it to further justify their unIslamic actions or beliefs. There are those in our community who have an anti-masjid sentiment and connect it to the irrelevance of Islam, the Quran and even the Sunnah to their lives. We need to ensure that the conversations, discussions and action items that do take place do not take a turn for the worse or further perpetuate anti-masjid sentiment. The film should be a call to action and not just an opportunity for the Muslim community to merely criticize and complain. Muslims are people of action and not people of apathy and inaction.

 

“Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]

 

With that said the million dollar question is “HOW do we fix the problems of our masaajid?” Without answering this very important question the film’s purpose is not achieved. We must act and it must happen now and not later for our future generations to struggle with. I would like to offer my action items to help make move from merely discussing the issues to actually solving them. I appreciate discussions, but am more of an action-oriented individual.

 

Note: before embarking on any change in our communities we need to ensure that our spiritual states are in good condition, our intentions are for the sake of Allah and seeking His pleasure and to purely help build a beautiful, successful and strong Muslim community.

 

Here is my strategy of how to impact change:

 

STEP 1: RALLY YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

 

You may be looking at this and saying: why aren’t starting off with the masjids first? The answer to that question is the demographic that is the most affected by the unmosqued phenomenon is the young professionals and youth. We have to work on rallying young professionals in our communities because they have the money, they have their Muslim identity, and have the activism to help effect change. Also, young professionals are more likely to be respected by elders in masjid leadership due to their financial clout and financial standing. Youth are often brushed aside by elders in masjid leadership or neglected all together.

 

Now how would “rallying young professionals” look? A great example is the Atlanta Muslim Young Professionals ( www.atlmyp.org). This organization brings out the best, brightest and visionary young professionals who set up professional networking opportunities, mentorship, and community service opportunities. Yes, while this organization is outside of any masjid it is important to create an organization for young professionals outside the masjid to rally them, have discussions, identify leaders in the group and then have them slowly gain traction in their masjids they frequent through networking and programming with masjids. Hopefully over time the young professionals can become the future board members in the masjids they do programming with via the young professional organization.

 

STEP 2: RALLY THE YOUTH

 

This is extremely important because youth are the must susceptible to the unmosqued phenomenon. They are under constant pressure from their families’ culture/traditions, social trends, secularism/atheism, Islamophobia and several other negative trends and influences. What is important is that a youth group, youth programming and an organization is created outside the masjids to draw youth in. Having a youth group or organization outside the masjid empowers youth and avoids financial constraints that a board may impose on the youth.

 

How would “rallying the youth” look? We have great examples like The Roots in Tennessee, Uplift, MIST and MSA to help develop strong Muslim identities. However, to make this model successful we must connect the youth to young professionals. Young professionals can mentor the youth and help mentor them professionally, spiritually, etc. This will solidify the Muslim American identity and create a sustainable model. Thus the flow chart/sustainability would work as such: youth would be mentored by young professionals, young professionals would engage with masjids and hopefully eventually become board members of the masjids they’re reaching out to.

 

Flowchart

 

 STEP 3: START TOWNHALLS + STEERING COMMITTEES*

 

I know I said I’m more of an action-oriented person, but feel that it’s also important to rally individuals around causes and also have a discussion prior to taking action. A lot of good can come out of having townhall discussions.

 

How would townhalls and steering committees look? Well find a group of passionate and visionary individuals (3-5 people) and brainstorm a list of issues that are facing your community. After that brainstorm organizations, speakers, research reports, etc. that already exist in which you can start the conversation around. Conduct the townhalls in a bi-monthly format or whatever schedule you feel is appropriate for your community. However, what’s important is that a steering committee is created out of these discussions to actually implement and work towards changes discussed in the townhalls.

 

STEP 4: REVIEW YOUR MASJID ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE, CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS

 

They say knowledge is power. In this case it definitely is power if you understand how your masjid functions. Review your masjid constitution, organization structure, by-laws and even the finances. If this doesn’t exist then mention the lack of transparency in your list of grievances in Step 5.

 

STEP 5: RALLY YOUR COMMUNITY MEMBERS

 

In order to apply pressure to masjid leadership an ultimatum must be made to masjid leaders who are not fulfilling the needs of the community, nor being responsible with their power, abusing their power or neglecting their responsibilities and commitments all together. This is not to say that we get a pitchfork and torch mob to go and start a revolution at your masjid. What we need is a very deep understanding of the issues in our communities. We need to rally community members who have good intentions and an intention to improve your masjid void of any hidden agendas or intentions. Collect a list of grievances and compose a letter in which a group of the community members brings up the issues within the letter (which should be hand delivered to the masjid leadership) and try to set up a meeting with the masjid leadership to constructively solve the problem. If this doesn’t work and you’ve exhausted every opportunity to change things productively and the masjid leadership is unresponsive or unhelpful you should issue an ultimatum in which you rally community members to call for an election.

You can also conduct a survey in which you survey the community’s rating of the masjid transparency, youth programs, etc. Create a “Report Card” for your masjid in which community members can rate the quality of the services, programs and resources your masjid provides. You can then take this data to the masjid board and start a productive discussion on how to change things for the better.

It is crucial in this step you don’t pull an Asra Nomani and try to destroy the foundation, split the community or cause an unneeded amount of stress and problems. You will need to approach your masjid with a strategy, with intelligence, wisdom, good intentions and most importantly abiding by the Quran and Sunnah in your steps toward change.

 

STEP 6: EDUCATE YOUR COMMUNITY

 

If your community is lacking scholars or adequate Islamic education then it would be a good idea to invite scholars from out of town to help benefit and educate the Muslim community. Educating your community doesn’t mean just Islamic knowledge, but any type of knowledge that helps develop your community. Identify issues in your community and do research about what Muslim organizations, speakers, scholars and experts you can invite to help educate and empower your community.

 

With that said, don’t let this be a drive-thru workshop, program or seminar. Build a long-term relationship with institutions, organizations and experts who can continue to come to your community and can help “teach the teachers” and make it a more sustainable educational model.

 

 

STEP 7: BUILD A WAQF/FOUNDATION

 

Building a waqf or a foundation in which individuals donate to support community development will be a powerful tool in ensuring the right causes, projects and organizations are getting the correct amount of funding. Building a waqf that has a substantial amount of donors can help a community grow, but also can give power to the donors of what causes they would like to support. This will give a tremendous amount of financial power to the community for those masjid board members who are less likely to be open to ideas and change. Masjids and non-profit organizations can apply for grants from this waqf and donors can vote on which cause they would like to support.

 

STEP 8: IDENTIFY BUSINESSOWNERS AND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

 

Identify individuals in your community who are business owners or social entrepreneurs who want to contribute financially to causes, organizations and projects. Begin discussing investement opportunities and business venture ideas with them in ways that can help develop the community.

 

One sample project can be the following:

 

Find a group of investors to invest in commercial and residential properties. These properties will be owned solely by the investors. Investors will approach masjids which they feel are professionally run and operated and offer an agreement with the masjid to be a partner in the residential or commercial property. Over time the masjid can pay off the investor or investors to gain more equity and thus make a steady revenue for the masjid. This will empower community members as well as by default require masjid leadership to be financially transparent through their financial transactions with the investors.

 

STEP 9: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP FORUMS*

 

Set up social entrepreneurship forums in which you tap into the youth and young professionals for their ideas to present to venture capitalists in your community. The presenters would present to investors, venture capitalists and business owners who would offer seed money to invest into these business ventures based on their feasibility.

 

In addition to this, the forum could have an area in which masjids would be required to present in front of investors who would want to invest in certain masjids to gain funding and/or financial stability from the venture capitalists, business owners and social entrepreneurs.

 

STEP 10: CREATE A CITY COMMUNITY COUNCIL*

 This would be a long term project in which you would create an umbrella organization of like-minded organizations, masjids, community leaders, youth, and young professionals to coordinate efforts on projects, Eid prayers, community iftars and also coordinating efforts on how respond to certain community crises that may occur or social justice causes that may occur.

 

*=I have a strategic document outlining how to set this up, contact me for more information and I’d love to have a discussion with you about how to make it happen in your community!

 

Here are a couple of strategy documents I drafted up:

Muslim American Masjid Best Practices
http://www.scribd.com/doc/209540994/TMP-Muslim-American-Masjid-Best-Practices

Masjid Standard of Excellence Certification Application
http://www.scribd.com/doc/182883091/TMP-Masjid-Standard-of-Excellence-Certification-Application

Guide to Effective Community Outreach and Marketing
http://www.scribd.com/doc/198720294/tmp-guide-to-effective-community-outreach-and-marketing

New Muslim 101: Your Masjid Orientation Guide
http://www.scribd.com/doc/173191813/New-Muslim-101-Your-Masjid-Orientation-Guide

Muslim American Masjid Community Strategy
http://www.scribd.com/doc/97119358/Muslim-American-Masjid-and-Community-Strategy

And here are some resources:
Business Leadership Institute
The Balanced Leadership Institute was formed by Muslim professionals with decades of experience in non-profit, corporate management, and governance who have a shared desire of elevating the level of professionalism and effectiveness of Muslim organizations.
Muslim Strategic Initiative
Unmosqued
Side Entrance (by Hind Makki)
Blog that documents the women’s facilities and prayer areas at masjids.