Reflections on a decade
Thinking back over the past 10 years, I find my mind racing to recall all the things meaningful to me during this time. Some of it is just a blank in my mind, some extremely vivid. Rather than a chronology of the various events and happenings of the last 10 years I’ve decided to review my emotions this decade. Most of what I write will be spontaneous, discernible to some but may be a but cryptic to others, but that’s the thing with emotions, they’re funny like that. Each and every one of us experience them differently. How we experience them ties together a myriad of thoughts, events, and reactions. Emotions string all this together, like a thread connecting our varying experiences to each other.
Neither positive or negative, every emotion is beneficial even if at first glance it seems to be negative. There’s a purpose for everything that happens in life. When we experience “negative” emotion, that’s very much part of the process of living. We are supposed to feel sad just as we feel happy. We are supposed to feel less than at times, just as we feel more. Life is good, although at times it doesn’t seem so. What we see as negative is what gives us equilibrium, re-calibrates our purpose, and reminds us of our mortality, frailty, and humanity.
As Garry Shandling said “We need something in our society that says let’s give importance to heart and authenticity not just money, power, and how we’re going to control the world.”
So here for you are my reflections and recollections on a few emotions I’ve experienced this last 10 years.
Yes well, what *is* love? This one’s really a difficult emotion to tackle. I think over time my concept of love has drastically changed. While many times we think of it as the warm fleeting feeling we get when we are with those that are closest to us, I think love is something else. Love is dedication. Love is service. Love is devotion. Love is appreciation. All of those things will play themselves out and manifest in different ways throughout your life. The biggest mistake that we make about love is that we think that it’s always supposed to be the same, it’s always supposed to have the same effect, and when that love changes then it no longer exists.
I recall calling my mother after the death of my father. It being the middle of the night where she lives I was sobbing into her answering machine. I said “I know that you don’t love my father anymore but I think you should know that he has passed away.” My mother called me in the morning and said to me words that I will never forget “Son, although we are divorced, it’s not that I don’t love your father. I still love him, I just love him differently now.”
Love is like a seed, it has to be watered, given sunlight, and cared for. Sometimes, like a plant, it grows and has to be moved to a different pot, another land, or a better environment. That doesn’t mean that the love that we had in the past didn’t exist or was wrong. But what it means is that just as we grow, morph, and change from children into adults, so does our love.
After this decade of loss of life and love, I resolve to allow love to remain for those I’ve lost, so that the positive they’ve brought into my life remains something I honor and recognize. I will honor myself by honoring the memory of them, both living and dead.
I was speaking with a good friend of mine who was visiting from abroad. Like me, he had gone through a divorce in the past. I needed to know how to deal with the pain and frustration that is very real afterwards. While talking, he said to me “Do you know what the opposite of Love is?” I said “Yes, obviously its hate.” He said “No you’re wrong. The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of Love is indifference. Hate is an emotion that occupies your heart and takes up space. Don’t give a space in your heart to someone you don’t love.”
There are many things that we love and hate about ourselves. Hate is an emotion that can consume you because you don’t want to honor yourself by allowing yourself to recognize the faults of others, and by extension your own faults. But hate is never a positive emotion unless it is done for God’s sake. We must love the good in people and hate the bad in them. But when we allow ourselves to be blinded to the good in others because of a (relatively) bad thing about them, we allow ourselves to be blinded by hate and that is not the same as disliking something for the sake of God. Malik reports in the Muwatta that Jesus was walking with his disciples and they passed by the carcass of a goat. His disciples said, “It’s so stinky and rotten!” He said, “Yes but look at its teeth they are so white!”
Learn to hate those things that attract you to sin and diminish your righteousness and learn to become indifferent to those things that are simply upsetting to your ego.
In reviewing the things I have “hated” over the last decade, whether that be people and their actions, or even myself and my own actions, in reality none of that was for God’s sake. When I look at hating others it was in reality only jealousy. Mad at what they had been given and I had not, I was envious of how they were able to leverage their resources in ways I was not. My self-hate was dishonesty with myself; I focused on others but failed to recognize my strengths and admit my faults. This is what held me back from my greatest potential.
Hate is an emotion that has to be preserved as a protective measure, to make sure that you dislike those things that will ultimately lead you the disbelief, sin, and lead you away from Jannah. Other than that, you should have no place in your heart for hate.
After my friend’s advice I’ve learned that I have to love and if not then be indifferent. See someone with blessings? Love that for them and if not be indifferent. It has no effect on your life. If I myself have been blessed with something then I must recognize that in myself, not hate it, not be ashamed, not feel bad for being good at what God has blessed me with. If there are things that I struggle with and do not like about myself, then my mandate is to focus on the positive, while recognizing the negative and being indifferent to it. This is not an easy thing to do and the struggle is real.
I remember going to my friend and personal trainer Chris and complaining to him about pain and tension in the back of my knee. He told me to lie down on the floor and to twist my foot out while keeping my knees in front of me. He then said to another person at the gym “Look at that, what does that tell you?” Not to bore you with the details but essentially what I thought was a bad knee turned out to simply a signal that other things in my body we’re not working how they should have. I would have to make changes to my lifestyle, in my mobility, and my physical fitness to be able to quiet that signal and solve the problem. It had nothing to do with pain or my knee.
Pain has been a very real feeling over the past 10 years. Whether it is the enduring pain of the loss of my father and my grandmother, the pain of separation and divorce, the pain of raising children and its related challenges, the pain of loss of business and opportunity, the pain of pushing myself forward for personal growth, the pain of consistency and time management, the pain of self-reflection and of learning to be vulnerable. All of this pain is very real, but what did it tell me?
We many times think of pain as a negative emotion. Because we experience pain, we think that we are wrong, bad, or not worthy. But pain doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy, or that you’re a bad person. Like that knee, it is a signal. It’s letting you know that the noise in your life has gotten so loud that you have to be alerted to your need for change. Of all of the different types of pain that I listed above I have become grateful to God for every single one of them. Each has allowed me to grow personally in ways that I would have never imagined had that signal not turned on for me one day.
Always ask, “What is pain telling me?”
At my grandmother’s funeral in 2014, some of my relatives were worried that I would not be able to enter the church because I was a Muslim. My mother quipped “Do you think if he walks in, he’s going to spontaneously combust?!” My aunt said “Jesus, you didn’t have to put it like that!” My mom smiled and said, “Don’t worry he believes in Jesus too!”
Later on, as we gathered for the funeral we the grandchildren were asked to stand at the front of the church with my grandmother’s lifeless body. As we stood there and our parents were in the pews, my stepfather remarked that instead of the thick black jacket that I had worn due to the cold I should have color coordinated with my siblings and worn something gray.
I grabbed the upper button of my coat’s lapel, tugged it a bit, and simply said with a smile “It’s fire retardant.” He smiled back then chuckled, then everyone else in our family audibly laughed, much to the chagrin of other parishioners. We greeted those entering to pay their respects, all of us with a smile on our faces at least for a second. As we walked away, I took one last look at my grandmother in her open casket. I knew that that was the exact level of jovial melancholy that would have made her laugh as well. Looking back on this moment, we were all able breathe a bit easier at a time when the air was very heavy. I was content, and remember this as one of the most beautiful moments in my life.
There haven’t been many times that I feared for my life. Fear comes in different forms. There is one time however when I was living in Saudi Arabia and having been one of the students of that time that owned a vehicle, I drove some friends to Mecca. One of our friends with us was from Morocco. His father lived at the top of a mountain in Mecca and so instead of walking the steep incline we decided to drive. He said to me, “I know these streets like the back of my hand so just continue to drive.” As we went up the winding roads on the side of the mountain scooting past other cars on streets that seems too small, we reached a small incline that we would need to overcome in order to get to flatter more navigable asphalt. My car was at such an incline that I couldn’t even see over my front of the hood. I had no idea what was in front of me. I asked them to get out of the car, lighten the load, and guide me on the street. My Moroccan friend said “Absolutely not! Just drive straight, I’m sure that there’s a road there!” Something in me said this is not the thing to do so, I put the car in park and refused to move until someone got out and guided me. As I drove up one of them said “okay let off the brakes, step on the gas and cut a hard left.” I did as he instructed and as I as I came over the incline, I noticed that had I obeyed my friend in the passenger seat all six of us in the car at that time would have drove off of a cliff and plunged to our deaths into a rocky quarry. I got out of my car, walked up to the edge, and looked down. I felt a huge sense of fear for my life but also an immense amount of relief.
It’s amazing how many times the things that we fear in life are not absolute unknowns, but they are the known unknowns. Small children aren’t afraid of climbing trees or petting dogs. But once they are bitten or they fall down they develop a fear of doing those things again. Them falling or getting bit again is probably not going to happen, but our human brains go into protection mode and want to save us from the pain again. So, we suppress our urge to climb higher and to interact with things that were interested in. We allow fear to overcome us, we stash it away deep inside of us, then we sit inactive and do nothing. We wonder why, but in reality, it’s because we are trying to avoid our fears, instead of face them head on and find solutions through them.
Don’t suppress your fear. Expand your comfort zone. Normalize what you’re afraid of.
When we think about happiness, we tend to think about major events that bring joy. A marriage, the birth of a child, a graduation, a major accomplishment. Yes, all of those things make us happy. But is that was “joy” necessarily is? I’ve started to rethink this. I try to look at life as a constant joy. What I mean by this is: when our focus is on making ourselves happy, this means we think we are normally not. When we talk about living a good life, it’s almost as if we assume that life by default is not good.
When I think back on this decade sure there were a few major events that made me extremely happy. My four oldest children graduated from high school. Oldest of the four graduated from college, got employed, finished memorizing the Quran, and got married. I finished teaching several courses and felt a sense of accomplishment. These are things that no doubt made me very happy.
But where do I find my joy. Thinking back over the last 10 years I find my joy in the little things, the things that usually we take for granted, the things that come and go quickly. These things I like to think of as the building blocks of our life. I think back to gifts my children bring home for me from school, to the times when they ask me to take them to buy supplies for their science projects, to the times when someone gives me a firm handshake after prayer and simply says thank you, to the times when parents in the community would mention to me how grateful they were for my ex-wife’s teaching abilities and the care that she showed their children in class, to the expenses that although they seem to take money away from us helped build frequent flyer miles and allowed my parents to be with me when my children graduated, to the blessings of a dedicated class of students study in the Quran together now for five years. All of these things are joy. I remember one Sunday this year I walked into the school building to teach class. As I entered the door someone looked up and simply smiled at me. That smile brightened my entire week and has remained a glimmer of joy in my memory since. Joy is simple. Its those silly memes that a friend and I consistently trade over Twitter DMs. It’s that text from a person who just messages out of the blue to say that you are appreciated. Joy is a warm hug from your child. Joy is the cool breeze that refreshes you while you wait outside. It’s the small things that happen, are almost not noticed, and many times disregarded. They are the small things that are a catalyst for the great things.
I want you to think back to everything that happened over the last decade and realize that the small things that pleased you are the plot points on your timeline of happiness.
No matter how small they are, they are significant and move us forward.
With the year 2020 commencing and a new decade starting, I hope that you can find joy in every moment moving forward, leading you down the line to happiness in this life and ultimate happiness in the next.
Lots of times we as men as told “crying isn’t manly.” It is a stereotype taught to us as men from the time we are small. Not through words necessarily, but many times by the way we are allowed to express our emotions & how emotional interactions are modeled for us.
Crying is a natural reaction to grief.
The Prophet cried when his son Ibrahim died. Someone said “You cry and you’re God’s messenger?!” He replied “The eyes shed tears, the heart grieves, yet we only say what pleases our Lord.”
Crying is praiseworthy. It’s a natural reaction to awe & inspiration. “Those given knowledge before, when it is recited to them, fall prostrate saying Glory to Our Lord His promise indeed comes to pass. They fall prostrate, crying, & it increases their devotion.” Quran 17:107-109
Crying is a natural reaction to God’s remembrance. The Prophet said “There are seven shaded by God’s shade on the day there is no shade but His…” He mentioned from them “a man who mentions God while all alone and his eyes burst with tears.”
Think about this last one. Think about being so full of emotional charge that the mere mention of God brings you to tears. A person who gets to this level has to be not only contemplative but also acutely in touch with his emotions.
Ibn Masūd was asked by the Prophet to recite the Quran. He said: I’m supposed to recite to you & it was revealed to you?! He said: I like to listen to others. So when he recited “so how will it be when we bring from every nation a witness & we bring you as a witness against them?” He said: The prophet then said “that’s enough” and I looked up and he was weeping. Narrated by Bukhari & Muslim.
Here the prophet was man enough to not only listen to others recite, but to cry when he himself was overcome by emotion.
Another instance, he walked up to some of his companions who were digging a grave. He asked why and they told him who had died. He walked to the edge of the grave, started to cry, and said with a sigh “Yeh brothers, for the likes of this you need to prepare.” Narrated by Ibn Majah. Muslim narrates the Prophet visited his mother’s grave. He cried & all those around cried as well.
Crying because of the loss of a loved one whether a child or parent, whether alone or in the presence of other men is prophetic character. Who is to say that’s not manly?
Abdullah b. Rawaha was sitting with his head in his wife’s lap. He cried, then so did she. He asked why? She said I saw you crying. He said I remembered the verse “Not one of you but he will pass by it” (i.e. hellfire) & I don’t know if I’ll survive or not. ~ alMustadrak
Look at how beautiful this narration is. A husband & wife spending time together. He finds a moment of vulnerability; because he trusts & loves her he shows it. Because she cares for him she cries as well. She doesn’t grill him as to why or chastise him for being weak. She mirrors him.
Allowing our boys to express their emotions naturally is the only way that we will raise boys who will act with empathy, chivalry, and honor instead of lashing out or acting belligerently. Honor your sons, husbands, & fathers’ authentic emotions and they will honor you.
When we let our sons cry, vent, and get it out, it builds resilience and strength. When we tell them to suck it up and chastise them, we bottle up that pressure, suppress positive emotion, and can only wait for that to explode one day.
Suppressing emotion is not prophetic. The prophet kissed his grandson. A Bedouin said I have 10 sons and I’ve never kissed any of them. He replied saying “What can I do if God has stripped mercy from your heart?”
To combat the toxic expression of emotion we have to have a holistic understanding of how that toxicity is created. Boys don’t grow up into men with toxic emotions simply because they are male. It’s not a function of genetics or gender. It’s a function of conditioning.
Both men and women, mothers and fathers, need to encourage boys and young men to express their emotions naturally without stigmatizing them or calling them toxic, weak, effeminate, or lacking. They shouldn’t stifle them by holding them to a standard of resilience and perseverance that is beyond the human condition.
Next time a boy or man comes to you, regardless if he is in trouble or is simply not feeling well, do this:
1- Listen to what he has to say.
2- Ask if he feels sad or down.
3- Give him a hug & tell him it’s ok.
4- Tell him to cry if he wants to. Say: Just let it out.
By allowing the men in our lives the ability to pass through the crucible of difficult emotions we allow them to rewire their brains for more positive interactions and the level of resilience that we want to see from them so that they can pass it on to others.
Welcome Development, Cautious Celebration
Princeton theological seminary recently announced that it would be awarding 27 million dollars in scholarships as reparation for its involvement in the history of slavery, although it – as an institution – was not involved in the slave trade itself. The PTSEM was founded in 1812. While it did not own slaves, it did benefit from the slave economy through investment. By doing business with Southern banks and accepting donations from those who profited directly and indirectly from slavery. Its founding faculty and leaders used slave labor during their lifetime.
“Princeton Theological Seminary will set aside more than $25 million to pay reparations for its historical ties to slavery, thrusting the seminary to the forefront of a national debate over how America’s should reconcile with its slave-owning past. Calling the payments an act of repentance, President M. Craig Barnes said in a statement Friday the seminary is “committed to telling the truth,” even though the seminary itself never owned slaves.” [link]
Princeton theological seminary has a 1 billion dollar endowment, largely a result of the Seminary’s long history of accepting donations as mentioned previously. The details of this involvement can be found in the PTSEM’s “Slavery and the Seminary as Institution”.
The reparations will not include cash awards, but instead scholarships and programs will be created for students. 30 new scholarships, at the cost of tuition plus $15,000, will be awarded to students who are descendants of slaves or from “underrepresented groups.” Among the other initiatives planned are the seminary designating five doctoral fellowships for students who are descendants of slaves and hire a full-time director for the Center for Black Church Studies. While this certainly is a welcome development, in my opinion we have to be cautious in celebrating too soon, as it is unclear what is meant by “underrepresented groups.” In a strictly legal sense, reparations are due to descendants only to the exclusion of others, however underrepresented they are.
Islamic Legal Precedent for Reparations
So what is the Islamic legal position on reparations? Are the descendants of slaves due restitution of the damages caused to their ancestors? One of the first instances of reparations being awarded is recorded by Ibn Rushd al-Jadd about an incident in Cordoba circa 5th century. While I have been working on a detailed paper on this issue for sometime I’ve held off until I read both Jonathan AC Brown and Bernard K. Freamon‘s recently released books on slavery and the Islamic world.
What is an Islamic Theory of Reparations based on?
The Islamic position on reparations centers itself on three core concepts:
- The prohibition of selling a free person
- The imprescriptible right to restitutionary damages for harm and injury
- The invalidity of escheatment of these rights when living heirs exist
In the simplest terms:
Kidnapping a person and selling them into slavery is forbidden. If that person cannot be returned to their family, then you owe blood-wit for their murder as well as the projected value of their work in supporting their family.
As long as these amounts go unpaid, they compound and remain due to the heirs of that individual. Failure to pay represents a form of unlawful seizure that damages are due for as well, due to lost opportunity costs. The simple passing of time does not forfeit their inheritors’ rights to these compounded amounts and they cannot be stripped away by the state. If specific lineage cannot be established, but general relationships can, an equitable pro-rated distribution would be awarded.
A Core Concept of Justice
For Muslims it is a core concept of justice to support the idea of slavery reparations. Texts of the Quran enjoining justice and hadith texts invoking God’s curse on those that enslave the free and profit financially from their misery should come to mind here. While it is natural to ask how such reparations would be equitably distributed, it is not natural to consider that a delayed right finally being awarded to the descendants of people oppressed and wronged is somehow unfair to those who are not included in that category. Asking a question like “Isn’t this unfair to people who won’t receive money?” is like saying “Isn’t it unfair that you inherit from your father & I don’t?” Ensuring that the rights of lawful recipients are awarded and safeguarded is a core function of Islamic legal justice.
“One who resembles his father has done no wrong…”
Its said that Ru’ba b. Ajjaj once saw the generosity of ‘Adi b. Hatim, and so he recited this line:
بأبه اقتدى عدي في الكرم *** ومن يشابه أبه فما ظلم
“It was his father that Adi followed in generosity *** and one who resembles his father has done no wrong.”
This line of poetry and its related story came to mind today as I was scrolling through my phone. I came across a photo collage made by my phone that had “matched” two pictures of the same person. To my surprise, the two pictures my phone said matched were a picture of my father and one of me. After remembering this line of poetry, another memory came to mind. One of my sons – known for being particularly animated and somewhat of a busybody, always “into stuff” – used to jokingly be called “Fa maa Zalam” i.e. “has done no wrong” by one of my teachers, who would recite this line and nod at me as if he knew exactly how I was as a child as well when he’d see him playing in the background during classes.
With these memories in mind, I decided I’d take a moment and talk a little about the respect due to parents in general and particularly fathers as a core of Islamic character. We often hear the texts about respect for mothers, that they are three times more deserving of our companionship, etc. There is no doubt that that is the case. Having lost my father over a decade ago, I thought it was a good reminder to remind others that fathers too are due respect and are doors to Paradise. If your father is still alive, make sure you use that opportunity to gain Paradise.
“Dumb Ole Dad” & The Culture of Disrespect
In times when rights are neglected and responsibilities are shirked, it becomes a must to highlight the respect and veneration due to our parents, and specifically our fathers. This, to me, is particularly important because we live in a media saturated world that inculcates a culture of disrespect for both parents, and for “dumb old dad” especially. A cursory glance at TV programs show the kids as smart (or smart-asses), the mother as doting but clueless, and the father as either a) absent, b) an imbecile, or c) an abuser.
We can change this culture of disrespect by teaching our values to our children, putting the sanctity of the family before the recreation and ease of children, and by holding each other as spouses to a higher standard of respect as well. Children will often reflect what is happening at home, and so when one parent is disrespected by the other – secretly or even worse openly – it is only a matter of time that they will not only disrespect the parent who encouraged such behavior but then also other figures who are due respect such as grandparents, teachers, and employers. This reciprocity in treatment is echoed in another related text, narrated by Al-Bukhari from Abdullah b. Amru, where the Prophet said “No one should curse his parents.” Surprised, as if to say this was inconceivable to his companions, they asked how that could be? He replied: “One of you curses another’s father, and so he curses your father. You curses another’s mother, and so he curses your mother.”
This is a recipe for societal disaster, one that cuts to the bone and slowly saps us of our energy to be better and do better, by slowly chipping away at the sanctity of the family. In fact from the signs of the Day of Judgment is that “the slave-girl will give birth to her master” interpreted by some scholars to mean that children would become so oppressive to their parents that they would order them around like slaves. Children must be taught that disrespect of parents is a major sin, and parents themselves must remain cognizant of the fact that by encouraging disrespect, they are complicit in their children committing a major sin, and earn the same sin for doing so.
Here are some texts about respect for parents in general, and in particular fathers.
The Imperative of Filial Piety: A Focus on Fathers
Filial Piety (Birr al-Walidayn), the fancy term for “treating your parents well,” is an obligation that follows immediately after worship of God alone.
وَقَضَى رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَاناً إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلاهُمَا فَلا تَقُلْ لَهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُلْ لَهُمَا قَوْلاً كَرِيماً
“And your Lord decrees you worship none but Him and show excellence with your parents. If they were to reach old age – one or both of them – then don’t say ‘uff’ to them or chastise them; instead speak to them kindly.” Surat al-Isra 23.
Muslim narrates from Abu Hurayra from the Prophet who said: “Ruined is the one, ruined is the one, ruined is the one that finds his parents in old age – one or both of them – and they are not cause for him to enter Paradise.” (1)
Al-Tirmidhi and Ahmed both narrate from Abu al-Darda who said: I heard God’s Messenger say: “The father is the middle most door of Paradise, so neglect that door or preserve it.” (2) Commenting on this, scholars said that the “middlemost” in Arabic is a phrase reserved for those things which are easily accessible and best. Respect for one’s father then is easy to achieve and best if you want to make it to Paradise, and by extension respect for mothers even more so.
Al-Tirmidhi narrates from Abdullah b. Amru b. al-’Aas from the Prophet who said: “The Lord’s pleasure is in your parent’s pleasure, and the Lord’s anger is in your parent’s anger.” (3)
al-Hakim narrates from Anas that God’s Messenger said: “Two doors that open up expedited punishment in this world: oppression and disrespect for parents..” (4)
al-Daynuri mentions that Umar b. AbdulAziz said: “Don’t show love to one who is insolent to their parents. How could they love you back, when they’ve disrespected their own father?” (5)
Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi mentions a question posed about respect for parents: What if a person’s parents have passed away and they were angry with them? What do you do in that situation? Can they be pleased even after their death? The response: Yes, you can please your parents and show them respect in three ways: 1) That you yourself be a righteous person, because parents wants anything more than for their child to be a good person, 2) stay connected to their relatives and friends, 3) seek forgiveness for them, pray for them, and give charity in their name. (6)
References with texts:
(1) روى مسلم عن أبي هريرة عن النبي ﷺ قال: رغم أنف، ثم رغم أنف، ثم رغم أنف من أدرك أبويه عند الكبر أحدُهما أو كلاهما فلم يدخل الجنة.
(2) روى الترمذي وأحمد عن أبي الدرداء قال: سمعتُ رسول الله ﷺ قال: الوالد أوسط أبواب الجنة، فإن شئتَ فأضع ذلك البابَ أو احفظه.
(3) روى الترمذيُّ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو بنِ العاص عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: رِضَى الرَّبِّ فِي رِضَى الْوَالِدِ وَسَخَطُ الرَّبِّ فِي سَخَطِ الْوَالِدِ.
(4) روى الحاكمُ عن عَنْ أَنَسٍ، رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: بَابَانِ مُعَجَّلَانِ عُقُوبَتُهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا الْبَغْيُ وَالْعُقُوقُ
(5) وذكر الدينوري عن عُمَرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ رحمهُ اللهُ قوله: لَا تَوَدَّنَّ عَاقًّا، كَيْفَ يَوَدُّكَ وَقَدْ عَقَّ أَبَاهُ؟!
(6) قَالَ أَبُو اللَّيْثِ السَّمَرْقَنْدِيُّ رحمهُ الل في تنبه الغافلين: فَإِنْ سَأَلَ سَائِلٌ أَنَّ الْوَالِدَيْنِ إذَا مَاتَا سَاخِطَيْنِ عَلَى الْوَلَدِ هَلْ يُمْكِنُهُ أَنْ يُرْضِيَهُمَا بَعْدَ وَفَاتِهِمَا، قِيلَ لَهُ بَلْ يُرْضِيهِمَا بِثَلَاثَةِ أَشْيَاءَ: أَوَّلُهَا أَنْ يَكُونَ الْوَلَدُ صَالِحًا فِي نَفْسِهِ؛ لِأَنَّهُ لَا يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ أَحَبَّ إلَيْهِمَا مِنْ صَلَاحِهِ. وَالثَّانِي: أَنْ يَصِلَ قَرَابَتَهُمَا وَأَصْدِقَاءَهُمَا. وَالثَّالِثُ: أَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرَ لَهُمَا وَيَدْعُوَ لَهُمَا وَيَتَصَدَّقَ عَنْهُمَا.
Joe answers the question “Is Life Insurance Halal?” discussing:
- What is an insurable interest,
- how insurance companies are structured,
- and how they invest the insurance pool (i.e. the money that you pay for the policy).
Lots of people ask me year after year, “I’ve paid my Zakat, is it wrong for me to claim a tax deduction? Am I benefiting from my charity by taking a tax deduction?”
In this video I answer the question “Can I claim a tax deduction for paying my zakat?”
1- How tax liabilities and deductions work.
2- Charitable Deductions.
3- Claiming a tax deduction for your Charity (Sadaqa, Zakat).
p.s. Want the shirt? You can get it here: (https://amzn.to/2OrAWke).
In this video I discuss three issues:
1- Can Muslims inherit from non-Muslims? Here I go over the classical opinions on the topic.
2- The difference between a testamentary gift and inheritance. The former being allowed in all cases.
3- The principle of the appropriate preservation of wealth that may go to waste.
Addendum (3 Apr 19):
In this video I cover a few issues related to inheritance & testamentary gifts from non-Muslim relatives. Inevitably, I will be asked if this position is normative in Sunni law or not. Let’s talk about that.
Inevitably I will answer “Yes it is” to that question. Usually the retort is “Well I’ve never heard that before!” Well true, you’ve probably never heard *anything* about Islamic probate law either, and probably never studied a basic Fiqh text back to front either.
So here are a few texts from the 4 Sunni schools that point about this:
- al-Sawi al-Maliki – “Or a kāfir, his testamentary gift is valid so long as he does not gift to a Muslim something like wine (i.e., property which the Muslim may not validly own).”
- Ibn Qudama al-Hanbali – “It is permitted from a sane adult, sinful or righteous, man or woman, muslim or kafir…”
- al-Nawawi al-Shafi’i – “The testamentary gift of every legally liable free adult is permitted, even if he is a kafir…” Notice that the phrase “even if” is to reject the idea that doing so is illegitimate.
- al-Marghinani al-Hanafi – “and it is permitted for a Muslim to leave a testamentary gift to a Kafir, and a Kafir to leave one to a Muslim…”
This is not to be trite, but the border-line neurotic reaction to stating things that are so normative in Sunni law they almost don’t need to be stated explicitly shows the need for more teaching and study in our community, especially from those labeled community workers/leaders.
Qunut al-Nawazil or Group Supplication During Difficult Times is a special dua made when there is a special need for prayers and solidarity. This short video discusses how it is done and why.
The mantra of Islamic Finance has been “Islamic Finance prefers partnership over debt.” Hammering this idea into the minds of the masses has resulted in many people using less than optimal structures for their business needs. At times its better to finance through debt, at times through partnership, and at times through revenue sharing. In this short article, I discuss a few of the pros and cons of each and when to use them.
DEBT BASED TRANSACTIONS
Loans at interest are synonymous with Riba, the pre-Islamic practice of charging a premium on a debt, whether that premium is stipulated at contract or on default. Given this prohibition, Muslim jurists encouraged the sale of assets, allowing for long term deferred debts to be created by these sales and the time value of money to be embedded in the value created by the sale. So while debt-based sales are feasible, they are not optimal for all business situations. Almost sole reliance on these contracts by nearly every segment of the Islamic finance industry has resulted in growing debt, greater default, and legal artifice that uses these structures to synthesize a guaranteed interest rate. When are debt-based sales optimal? When you are short on cash for a large purchase that ownership of will boost your business’ ability to grow and profit. Example: equipment for a construction company.
With partnerships, there’s several ways they can be structured. I wrote a bit about this for Oxford that you can read here. With partnerships, there are certainly upsides. By pooling financial resources, partners talent, and sharing time to improve the business, partnerships can prove lucrative. Where they falter is when the mission and vision of the partners is misaligned. When this happens, there will naturally be a misalignment in the human capital contributed. So regardless if both of you committed funds, when someone intentionally (or negligently) doesn’t pull their weight, the partnership will experience a downturn and all partners suffer.
There are several other downsides to partnerships, the greatest one being dilution of ownership. In order to bring in capital, owners must valuate their company and solicit investors to purchase shares of that company. Problem is, the capital contributed in exchange for the shares may not be worth the perpetual return that a partnership of any form offers. Why give up 5% of your business FOREVER just for a cash injection? Why invest significantly in a business that won’t give you more than 1% of the business? This is obviously where negotiation comes in, and finding that sweet-spot means creating the market for your offer, beating the best alternative to what you are offering. When are partnerships optimal? When all partners are aligned and your efforts now have a greater net future value than doing anything else.
Lastly, there are revenue sharing agreements. While there were very common in the pre-modern period, due to it being almost wholly agrarian, they are not as widely used today. Any deal in which an individual receives distributions based on the revenue (i.e. the amount of money the business makes) rather than on the amount of work that was done is a form of revenue sharing. So let’s say you own a car but can’t operate it for profit, so you give it to someone to operate and share 1/3 of the revenue generated. Another example is you inject $1000 into your friend’s business for inventory, and take a little off the top of every sale until you’ve recuperated your capital and a profit.
WHICH ONE DO I CHOOSE
Each of these structures has their pros and cons. Deciding which one to use can make of break your business before it ever turns a profit. Want to discuss which one is best? Let’s talk.
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Ever Wonder Why You Do So Much But Achieve So Little?
Working with a non-profit client this morning, we reviewed their giving policy and services. Because previously the org tried to do *everything* for everyone, they essentially limited the funding they could secure. Why? Because it was that much harder to define exactly what they do and who they serve. Mission creep is a huge issue in non-profits. The assumption is that by doing less you somehow are less. That can’t be further from the truth. Do less, be more, and earn more. It’s all possible.
You Can’t be All Things to All People
Out of fear of losing donors, organizations will serve *all* needs instead of *unmet* needs. They induce paralysis in their donor base. Trying to please everyone and do everything simply won’t work. When faced with too many choices, customers, clients, and donors will make worse decisions or simply walk away. Pare down the decisions to what you are amazing at and what they are looking for, and you have a recipe for success.
When everyone is doing everything, it becomes that much harder for donors to understand where their choices will be the most effective. Let’s say you are a non-profit focused on hunger. You’d think that your mission is pretty simple: find hungry people and feed them. Its easy to get caught up in the ancillary needs of your community or even your target group. Feeding the hungry becomes clothing them, leading to sheltering them, leading to financial assistance, leading to a ton of operational overhead that you don’t need. You’re most probably duplicating other organization’s services, diluting their effectiveness and your own.
Guide Your Clients, Don’t Cower to Them
So if you want to retain dedicated clients/donors, you have to guide their choices so they are most effective. Think of it like a restaurant. Ever go to a restaurant that has a GIANT menu and offers a cornucopia of items, only to actually make one or two things constantly? How did your restaurant get to this point? Someone probably showed up and said “I want fish!” and you attempted to meet that need, then everyone else did the same. Soon after you were serving 100 items but really only making 10. In reality your customers, after scrolling through your ginormous menu, feeling the pressure to choose quickly (so the line isn’t held up), and seeing so many things they’d rather not take a chance on, will pick what’s familiar and easy.
So you’ll make lots of sub-par plates of Biryani, Hamburgers, Shawarma, or similar. Each item will cost you more as well, because your cost of goods to make at any time all those items is too high. You’ll make lots of less than happy customers due to the anxiety related to the process. Make your menu smaller, and your customers will choose faster, your cost of acquisition will be less, and you’ll make more on volume.
Saying No is a Superpower
So what’s our hunger non-profit supposed to do if their clients need clothes? Say no. It’s a superpower. It takes a lot to say no (here’s one of my favorite books on the topic). It takes even more to say no and know how to direct that client or donor’s energy afterwards. So if it was a client being served, you’d either refer them elsewhere, partner with a specialist, or make a pilot program to spin off into another entity. If it was a donor asking to earmark funds for something you don’t do, you’d either refuse, hone your pitch to convince them of your mission, or send them to a referral partner.
So while to most it seems paradoxical, by focusing on the 2-3 core things you are great at, you can devote more time to serving more people, and by extension bring in more money to do so.
Want to discuss your non-profit or business? Hit me up on Clarity and we’ll chat through it.