There He Sat…

There he sat, the legs that once leapt so high you thought he would never come back down to earth as us mortal do.  His legs were folded Indian style.  His long muscular arms resting in his lap, his still chiseled chest heaving with humbleness.   He sat there, a majestic being in an extreme contrast with the normality of men sitting around him.   He sat…just listening intently to the khutba.  Occaisionally, he would nod his head in acknowledgment of sentiments shared by the khatib.   He was there on Jummah with concentration (Khushu as the sheihks say), deliberately present in every moment.  There was no nodding off, or playing with his phone or tracing his finger on the amazingly distracting carpet he sat on.   His humbleness permeated in the presence of his creator who had blessed him with tremendous talent.  He sat there just 1 row ahead of me…the first saf; envy of the late comers who missed the chance to procure a spot where Allah’s mercy shines brighter.

Someone so great at what he did in his profession that they wanted to make a statue of his likeness.  He refused.  The likeness of a true slave of Allah cannot be imprisoned by clay, stone, and mud.  He has a much greater purpose than his contemporaries who have their statues shamelessly soliciting praise for themselves.    His purpose for being there in the first row was to put his head to the floor, rub his nose against the clay, stone, and mud.  As he knelt, bowed, and stood with folded arms, you could tell his purpose was to worship the Lord who blessed him with so much.  His strength was in his submission to his Lord.  His thirst was to obtain praise from his Lord; not by those the Lord had created.  He sought after the acknowledgement from his lord.   To have his Lord mention his name in the gathering of the angels; that is why he shuns the praise from the world.  He seeks a greater reward from his Lord than being in the Hall of Fame of the NBA.   He is the NBA all-time leader in rebounds, one of the fiercest centers to ever play the game of Basketball.   He was there sitting 1 row ahead of me.   Yes, I was star struck by his presence but more so with his humbleness in front of his Lord.   My hero was and is Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon.

Strangers

Strangers

I told you not to talk to strangers!  What were you doing talking to that man?  Probably the most common statement made in streets around the world by parents to their children.  This is applicable most when it comes to our overprotective nature as parents.   When they are small, they just say stuff like “but he seemed like a nice man, wanted to give me candy” to them rolling their eyes when they are teenagers.

The creepy mustache guy with piercing eyes is not the type of stranger I am referring to though.  So parents, put away your overprotective yet justified fears away.  So what am I talking about?  Here is a scenario:

You are a Muslim young man or woman who is struggling to have a connection with the creator.  Trying to balance and see that being Muslim and American are not at odds with one another.  You have close friends who you hold to have certain morals and beliefs.  When you are with them, you feel a sense of “belonging”.  Yes these are the brothers or these are the sisters who are in my corner.  They are my hommies (why doesn’t Microsoft word recognize that word?) and dudetes(don’t’ think anyone says that anymore). Anyway, plug in any “hip” word here.

Than one day, a bomb drops.  You find out that your friend actually has a boyfriend/girlfriend.  Or you find out xyz behavior that you would never associate with him or her.  Your whole view on who you thought of them shifts.  Naturally, you are inclined to judge them.

You being a Muslim will bring many challenges and obstacles.  So you found out that friends you thought were someone are actually someone different. Their morals and believes you once aspired to instill in your own life now seem like a slap in your face. The words of Julius Caesar “Et tu, Brute” come to mind.  You feel stabbed in the back by your own brothers and sisters.  You can understand if the actions came from other groups but your own friends?

At this moment, what do you feel?  How do you process and reconcile this within yourself?  Not only that, how do you better yourself as a servant of Allah?  The jihad within yourself/nafs is waging at this moment.  And off course Shaytan is also poking you.  And this is not the friendly Facebook poke either.  He is poking and whispering “yo see what happens when you hang around these “type” of Muslims?, you are better off rolling with the other crowd”  Or ever heard his wisper, “just forget about it, live your life, do you…life is short man, do what you want…worry about things later”.

It is truly a jihad of the nafs not to judge.  Only Allah has the right to judge.  Leave that to Allah and stay out of the bff drama.  The hardest part is to cleanse your heart from the judgment and when you meet that brother or sister next time, treat them with same or better manner than before.  Know that you are not perfect and it is the mercy of Allah that he has given you the hidaya to know the right from the wrong.

In a time when technological advances are at their highest, the morality is at an all-time low.  Your behavior, manners, character in today’s world may seem strange and not the norm.  Friends and co-workers intermingle with opposite sex, go out drinking, and other immoral acts.  Yet you stay firm in your belief of oneness of Allah and try to follow his commandments to do what is right and stay away from the forbidden.  Indeed you are a stranger in this world of mischief and chaos.

“Islam began as something strange and will return as something strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Narrated by Muslim in his Sahih.  On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him)

Then the people asked, “Who are they (the strangers), O Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Those who are pious and righteous when the people have become evil.” (Ahmad)

As a result of your steadfastness in the time of trial, all the times you seemed anti-social for declining to go to the “happy hours”, Christmas parties, seeming awkward for not shaking hands with the opposite gender, or keeping your eyes down while conversion with the opposite gender, you get the ultimate reward…for the ultimate sacrifices.   You get the glad tidings from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself.

Worth everything you have ever done or sacrificed!  I think you will all agree.

It’s a jihad of the nafs…a fight in which you will feel defeat more than achievement yet within that struggle is the victory.  For Allah only looks at the fight you put up and not the result…this is HIS mercy to us.

So glad tidings to those sisters who go out freely in their hijabs and modesty boldly declaring to the world dripping in lust and immorality that they are different…strangers.  They are slaves of the one and only who controls everything in the universe.  Who will on the Day of Judgment hold to account all those who oppressed, mocked, and degraded his slaves.

So go ahead, be strangers within your community, within your family, within your friends circle.  Know that there is an ultimate reward waiting for you when you are done being strange.  On that day you will be the successful ones (Khad aflahal mumenoon).   On that day you will wish to go back to the dunya and do more strange acts to seek the pleasure of Allah.

Are you too comfortable with your spouse?

Do you remember your high school days? The youthful days full of hormones, endless energy, ambition, frustration, and of course girls! (or boys!).  School dances, proms, and good lord summer time when all the girls would be wearing short clothes.  It was distracting and a big trial to lower the gaze.  Growing up in the U.S. was definitely a trial.  Balancing assimilation with the Muslim morals was a big challenge.  But Alhamdullillah you did it!  Inshallah your effort will be rewarded in Jannah.

How did you dress back in high school and in college?  Probably knew the fashion trends and tried to stay current in your wardrobe.  You probably got haircuts and worked out right?  Boy you were a stud! (Or a hot babe).  Than you got married.

Obviously, you were happy in your marriage thus gained the obligatory 20-30 pounds of fat due to your wife’s amazing cooking.  Since you are now already married your relatives stopped asking you “When are you getting married” Instead, you couldn’t escape the question when are you having a child?  So yeah, sure enough your wife got pregnant within the first year of marriage.

By now, you got really comfortable with your wife and don’t even run the water in the washroom while you do your business (you know what I mean).  You have the same haircut for years now and the clothes are the ones you got in gifts for your marriage.  You’re now working longer hours at work to get ahead in your career to support your family.

On the flip side, your wife doesn’t do makeup anymore and is tired all the time from taking care of the baby.  Imagine the daily routine you got into: You get to work and Ashley the pretty intern waves at you, smiles and says Hi!….You go to get some Starbucks coffee to stay awake in the boring meeting.  Your cashier smiles at you and says please come again.  On the way home, you see billboards with beautiful women smiling at you.  You ring the bell and there is your wife still in her pajamas, disheveled hair from the afternoon nap.  She doesn’t even look at you…just says “where were you?  I have been trying to call you…did you pick up the yogurt?”   What a mood killer!  No hi?  No hello?  What happened to the women I married?

From the wife’s perspective, the view is even worse.  She sees you every day coming home from work and sitting on the sofa.  Plopped down with belly sagging.  She wonders what happened to the man she married?  The man she couldn’t stop talking about to her friends.  He looked so good in his suit on our wedding day.  Why should I work out and stay fit for him if he doesn’t care about how he looks?

Ah the vicious cycle of marriage blahs.   We are so concerned about being Muslim in our lives but overlook the most essential part of ito-our relationship with each other.  Both the wife and husband kept each other pure throughout high school and college.  They didn’t go on dates or flirt with the opposite gender.  Now is your chance brothers and sisters.  It’s halal now!.  Go ahead, go on a date with your wife, and flirt with her!  Yeah but get out of the rut of marriage blahs.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Guys, get off your ass and workout to look good for your wife!  This is actually the time you should look better than you did when you were in high school.  Do not fall into the cultural norm of “hey you got her now why do you need to make effort to look good”  or ever hear this one: ‘Who are you doing all this workout and dressing for brother, aren’t you married?”  blah blah blah…

STOP!

Just stop and think…you have a beautiful wife.  You need to give her a life time of looking over at you and saying to herself: “Alhamdullillah I have a gorgeous husband, I can’t keep my eyes off of him”.  She deserves that after keeping herself pure for years.  She deserves to have a strong, healthy, fashionable man to look at.  Go and update your wardrobe.  If you are not into what’s trendy these days, go to a nice store and ask the store associate for help.  Go get a haircut.  Ask the stylist to do anything they want to with your hair…something different, trendy…Start working out.  Yeah your life is busy but everyone has 30 minutes to workout.  You have to make the time!  Do something you will be consistent at instead of going overboard and working out every day.  Maybe get some equipment and create a gym in your garage.  Make working out a lifestyle and not a phase where you will give up after a few weeks.    Ibn Abbas(RA) said :  “Verily I love to beautify myself for my wife  just as I love my wife to beautify herself for me because Allaah says:

And the women have the same rights as those that are over them from what is reasonable.” [Sooratul-Baqarah 2: 228]

Our beloved prophet would return home and immediately go and brush his teeth with miswak and freshen up.  He would do this so when he meets his wife, he would not have bad breath and look good for her.  Brothers when you go to work, you dress to impress because you value the opinion of your co-workers.   Did the Prophet (SWS) not say “The best amongst you are the ones that are best to their wives?”  When we go out with the wife, why don’t we dress up?  Why don’t you dress up for her?  If anyone, she deserves to see you dressed the best because you should be the best to your wife that includes the best dressed.

So stop the laziness towards each other!  Start today and make the intention that you are making the effort to follow in the footsteps and Sunnah of the Prophet to look good for your spouse.  You will not only gain hasanat but the appreciation of your spouse.

Domestic Abuse: An Ugly scar in Our Community

“You are worthless! The nail on my toe is worth more than you!”

The above was uttered by a husband to his wife and mother of 2 very small children. These are some of the words men have said to women. Surely all of us has heard or seen domestic violence in our community. Remember the CEO of Bridges TV beheading his ex-wife at the office of the then famous Bridges TV? He waited for her in the dark armed with butcher knife. He beheaded her with brutality. She was mother to his 2 infant children. Of Course you must have heard about the 75 year old Pakistani man who beat his 66 year old wife to death with a stick. She didn’t cook what he wanted. Instead of cooking meat, she cooked lentil soup.

Domestic violence hurts everyone! It hurts our spouse. It hurts the children involved, it hurts the parents of the abused, and as a result, it hurts the community. Children’s view of a marriage and how a husband should treat his wife is obtained from what they see. This gets engrained in them at an early age. When they get married themselves, they emulate what they saw in the marriage of their parents. The vicious cycle of domestic abuse continues every generation unless an effort is made on the part of those involved.

Excuses

The 75 year old man who beat his wife to death said something interesting. Per his lawyer:

“He comes from a culture where he thinks this is appropriate conduct, where he can hit his wife,” Clark said in her opening statements at the Brooklyn Supreme Court bench trial. “He culturally believed he had the right to hit his wife and discipline his wife.”

His statement which sounds ridiculous gives a glimpse of the culture we have created to support domestic violence. The Patriarchal dominated culture is installed and propagated everywhere in our community. Even the mosques are not safe from this disease. In fact, religion is often used as a weapon by men as an excuse for domestic abuse. The husbands and sheiks at the mosques are quick to quote Quranic verses and hadith in regards to how women should treat their husbands.

Enabling Domestic Violence

What’s disturbing is the enabling behavior of some of the Muslim women. Mothers tell their daughters how she should make sure the husband is always happy and she should always obey and never anger him (he may lose control at any time). During Ramadan, the local mosque either had a potluck dinner or catered the dinner from a restaurant. The food was divided between men and women. However, the women did not eat until the men had finished their dinner. Men had no problem asking for food from the women’s side. Some of the women drank coffee and took a few bites of food. This self-sacrificial attitude was observed by several of the younger women who expressed how it is unfair for men to get all the food and women to go hungry. Thus the seed of inferiority is planted in the young women at an early age. My observance may sound harsh but it is the reality and women cannot continue this cycle of enabling unfair treatment. This is only alienating our youth and new Muslims away from Islam. Islam does not permit tolerating injustice for anyone. Culture is very frequently mistaken for religion and used as a weapon to enable domestic violence.

Solution

First step in ridding our community from this disease is acknowledging that the problem of domestic violence exists in the Muslim community. We are not immune to this disease. I am not sure if there are any statistics specifically regarding the Muslim community. However, I am certain if there were statistics, they would point to a growing trend of domestic abuse. We do not need statistics to know there is a problem. Just listen to the stories, the existence of women’s shelters housing Muslim sisters who decided enough is enough. Look at the broken families and pain on the faces of the children whose only fault was being born in an abusive house.

Second step is to educate the Muslim community through creative, thought provoking mediums. One of the requirements for every imam should be to go through domestic violence certification. They need to be well versed in counseling and pointing the people to the appropriate resources. Imams need to balance the scales regarding spousal rights. It’s not acceptable to speak of the rights of a husband for 40 minutes and skim over the rights of women in 5 minutes. The imams need to have a good understanding of the culture and the time we are living in to appropriately guide the community.

The curriculum of Sunday schools and Islamic universities must include courses on domestic violence. Our youth need to be taught the respect for opposite gender at an early age. Islamic universities specifically have a higher responsibility in this regard as the youth are in the marriageable age. Summer camps are also a very good opportunity to address this issue with the youth. The point is to use the opportunities when we have youth’s ears to address the issue of domestic violence in a creative, personal, youth centric manner.

Perhaps one of the most important and overlooked aspect with regards to domestic violence is the role of a father in the family. We tend to emphasize the role of a mother in raising children but often overlook the role of the father. Fathers are relegated to merely a provider of shelter, food, and other necessities. Fathers are not expected to communicate with children. Rather, they are the second level of discipline when mom’s threats go on deaf ears. We have all heard “Wait till your father gets home” right? Fathers also demonstrate to the son and a daughter how to treat women. They are a reference point to how the son will treat his future wife and what the daughter expects from her husband.

When our youth are ready for marriage, we should encourage both the genders to go through pre-marital counseling. We have to train knowledgeable brothers and sisters from our community to become counselors. We can than send our young men who are about to get married to a trained knowledgeable brother who can have a one-on-one private counseling session (s). Same can be done with the young women with a female counselor. The counselors can cover several important areas of marriage over several sessions. These consolers can also serve as mentors to the youth as they become husband or wife. Often times, it is difficult to discuss marital issues with our relatives. Having counselors who keep client confidentiality would encourage newlyweds to obtain guidance at a critical time of their lives.

Ahhhh Eid Mubarak!

Ahhhh Eid….Ramadan fasting completed successfully Alhamdullillah.  It was an awesome Ramadan.  This might have been the best Ramadan of my life.  I enjoyed the company of very dear brothers who helped me learn a lot about myself and about the world around me.  I pray that Allah blesses them and their lives and enriches them with his love in their hearts.  Eid ul Fitr was a busy day for us this year which is stark comparison from the past several years.  But this year, it was different.  

Eid Salah was at Reliant stadium close to downtown Houston.   Houston has a very unique situation when it comes to the Muslim community.  The masjids are run by an organization called Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH).  ISGH organizes the two eid prayers each year at a large venue.  I am sure just like other cities, Eidul Fitr salah is a bustling, crowded ordeal.  Sometimes our family did not go to the large venues such as this because there were several sisters who dress inappropriately with tons of makeup.  The setup which did not have proper entrance and separation created space where people would bump into each other. 

This year though something changed dramatically.  I had the best experience of my life at the eid salah.  I am not sure if this was due to actual organized effort by ISGH.  I really think this positive experience was due to my changed view of the whole Ummah.  I read this amazing quote from Imam As’Shafee:

“Be hard on yourself, easy on others.”

I read this story somewhere which also caused a paradigm shift within me:

A newlywed couple moved to an apartment in a very busy neighborhood. On the first morning in their new home, after she had made coffee, the young bride looked through the window and watched her neighbor hanging sheets out to dry. “What dirty sheets!” she thought to herself. “Maybe she needs to buy a different kind of detergent. I should go and teach her how to wash them properly.” Every few days, she muttered the same thing to her husband with disdain while watching her neighbor hanging out the dirty laundry in the early-morning light. A month passed, and one day the young wife was surprised to see that her neighbor was hanging out perfectly clean sheets. She exclaimed to her husband, “Look! She finally learned to wash her clothes. I wonder who taught her how.” The husband replied, “Well, in reality, darling, the only difference is that I got up early this morning and cleaned the window.

I also noticed that this time around, I worried about mine and my children’s positive experience.  As we were walking into the hall, I started walking towards the front of the prayer hall.  My son told me “ Daddy, are you trying to go to the front of the hall so we can as close to the imam as possible?”  I said yes Yousuf.  Also, keeping your gaze low and reciting the takbeerat gives you this sense of spirituality and removes the worldly sights around you and puts your sight to the goal of getting near to Allah. 

Was my great eid salah experience due to the changes in the organization of the eid salah?  Maybe; I believe it was because of the change in the lens through which I chose to view the Ummah .

 

 

A Strong Binding Knot

Today we have many concepts of what it means to love a women or a man.  We have holidays such as Valentine’s Day.  We have wedding anniversaries, celebration of spouse’s birthday.  Some husbands buy their wife flowers.  Some buy expensive jewelry.  Although these actions can display your love for your spouse, what happens to the rest of your life?  Is our love for display on rare occasions or holidays only?

For a marriage to be strong, love needs to be professed constantly and in everyday life.  We can study the love story between Prophet Muhammad (SWS) and Aisha (RA) as the supreme example of love between spouses.

Prophet Muhammad (SWS) has been recognized as the most influential individual in the history of mankind.  After all he was Allah’s gift to all of humanity.  As Allah says that he is the Rehmatul Lil Alameen.  A mercy to all of mankind (Muslim or non-Muslim).  Prophet Muhammad (SWS) excelled as an orator, a warrior, a politician, a civil rights activist, a philanthropist.  At the same time he was the greatest husband who demonstrated to us how to love your wife.

Lessons can be derived from the life of Prophet SWS regarding this topic which we do not discuss very often.  Do we consider this to be a taboo topic?  If so, why?  Let’s take a glimpse into the intimate, romantic moments between Prophet Muhammad (SWS) and Aisha (RA) to learn.

The prophet SWS would kiss Aisha (RA), each time he leaves the house or exits to lead the daily prayers; every time and every day! Despite all his duties and responsibilities for the final message, the prophet SWS would still find time for Aisha (RA); special moments for her. And in those special moments, he SWS would only think about the things Aisha (RA) would love and enjoy. Like what? Racing for instance!

He SAW used to take Aisha (RA) for a romantic walk in the desert, and then he would tell her “Aisha (RA), let’s race!”, and the first time she won. Then later on, Aisha (RA)  gained weight, and raced the prophet SWS again, but this time he won and jokingly told her “This time I won!”.

The prophet SAW used code language to denote his love for Aisha (RA) . She once asked him how he would describe his love for her. Now please pause for a moment, and try to think of the most romantic words to describe your love for your husband/wife? Seriously, Do it! The prophet used four words to describe his love for Aisha (RA) as follows “Like a strong binding knot” (The more you tug,the stronger it gets). And the beauty of this love story isn’t just about how the prophet SAW described his love for Aisha (RA), but also about how she cherished it! Every once in a while Aisha (RA) would playfully ask “How is the knot?” and the Prophet would answer “As strong as the first day (you asked)”.

The prophet SAW stopped a whole army, in times of hostility in the desert, to look for Aisha (RA)’s misplaced bead necklace. Now this is love! The prophet used to mend his clothes and look after the domestic affairs of Aisha (RA)’s household, to make life easier for her. That is love!

Now let us ponder upon one of the most romantic scenes between prophet Muhammed SAW and his beloved Aisha (RA). Once the prophet was fixing his shoes and Aisha (RA) happened to look to his blessed forehead and noticed that there were beads of sweat on it. Mesmerized by the beauty of her beloved husband, Aisha (RA) remained transfixed staring at him long enough until the prophet noticed. So he asked her “what’s the matter?” Aisha (RA) replied “If Abu Bukair, the poet, saw you, he would know that his poem was written for you”.

Aisha (RA) explained “Abu Bukair said that if you looked to the majesty of the moon, it twinkles and lights up the world for everybody to see”. Wallahi the words would make any sane and sensitive person cry of joy. Yes indeed, he SAW was as beautiful as the moon lighting for us.

And would you think this romantic scene ended there? Then you’re terribly wrong, because theirs was a non-stop love story full of romance. The Prophet SWS got up, walked to Aisha (RA), kissed her between the eyes, and told her “Wallahi ya Aisha,you are like that to me and more”.

That is a love story we should aspire to instill in our marriage weather we are newlyweds or have been married for some time.  Our bodies may age but our love for our spouse is within the heart and soul which does not age.  So love your spouse daily.  Turn the redundant moments into romantic ones. Learn from the greatest love story of all time.

Hello people! Assalamu Alaikum! Peace be Upon You!

As a Muslim son, brother, uncle, father, and husband living in the United States, I wanted to share my experiences, frustrations, advice, lessons, and interact with you on a regular basis.  This is my first blog.  So let me introduce myself to you:

My name is Ahmed Farooqui.  I am married to the most amazing and beautiful woman that I ever met.  We got married in 2003 and just had our 11 year anniversary on July 4th (yes we got married on 4th of July so I can tell my love that the entire U.S is celebrating our union lol).  We have 3 awesome children (Girl-Asiya-9 years old, boy-Yousuf-8 years old, Girl-Maria-5).  I live in Houston, Texas. 

I am a Muslim.  I grew up in Chicago and moved to Houston about 6 years ago.  Growing up in the U.S as a Muslim has given me a unique experience which I would like to share with you all.  This blog is a place where I can vent and share some issues I see within the Muslim community in the U.S.  I hope this blog serves as a learning tool for myself and also relay my opinions on Muslim Family Matters.

Feel free to contact me, advise me, correct me, guide me, counsel me, laugh with me or at me :).  When you see me around, say Salam and let’s chat about anything and everything.  I will try to post frequently Inshallah(God Willing).

Ahmed Farooqui