The following is an excerpt from a collection of short essays I’ve been writing over the last few years, each one encapsulates an event in my life that I’ve titled “The Greatest Gifts.” I’ve decided to release this one as realizations that lead me to write it helped me tremendously, and I hope they will do the same for you.
When autumn approaches, we see the leaves fall from the trees. We stare at the barren branches stripped of their life, striped of their lushness, stripped of their greenery. As Winter enters, bark falls off and branches are laid bare, like bones protruding out of the soil.
This is not, however, the permanent nature of trees. Forests are not graveyards. By observing life, we know how foolish a notion it is to think that.
When a tree sheds its leaves, we think of it as useless. We what we don’t see are the seeds planted; the richness imparted to the soil; the gifts given only discovered the following season.
When I think back now, with over 12 years since the loss of my father, I lived most of that time – by choice – in pain. There was the pain of not understanding why he would take his life, the pain of not being able to talk about the pain, the pain of living with someone who could not acknowledge my pain, who struggled to console and comfort me in my times of sorrow. I lived with the pain of friends who never gave condolences, who never cared to even make a gesture.
But as I’ve grown, I’ve come to know that while pain is real, it is also not constant. The pain that we experience in life is usually from something that upsets, but is not, the normal course of life.
Things happen day to day. They happen without choice. They happen without selection. They happen because they’re from God’s providence, from the endless blessings that we have in life, and the small portions of grace that we experience in this world. Both good and bad, sweet and sour.
After shifting my perspective from focusing on the pain, focusing on the hurt, focusing on what was abnormal, I was able to see pleasure, joy, and comfort in the very normal things of life. In the very mundane, boring things of life. Only then was I able to realize what the greatest gift that my father ever gave me was:
It motivated me to stop being merely a student, but to actually get out, make money, and support my family.
This provided me with a career of over a decade now. It provided me with a passion for research. It provided me with the intention to become a better person, a better father, to be more involved, to provide for the family, and not merely subsist.
His death allowed me to inherit him. This single act of receiving money from the demise of another human soul opened countless doors. I now have one child who has finished college debt free. I have others that are working their way there. I have a stable, safe and clean home for my children, where they reside until today. It’s hard to think about death as a gift. But in this case, it was.
When I think about my father’s death, I now realize the world – on that fateful night I discovered he had passed – seemed cold and uninviting. But winters are not permanent, and many great things blossom if we have the patience to tend to them.
Tend to the soil around you until you too see your blessings blossom.
ITS IMPORTANT TO SAVE
One of the core things that a person needs to do order to prepare for emergencies, major purchases, and retirement is to save money. Saving money is not hard but it takes consciousness and intention. When I tell people they can save $5 dollars a day, then often think I’m crazy. I can’t possibly save a whole five dollars a day, can I!? Yes you can. Let’s look at it this way. Many of us spend money on things that cost us daily and we don’t realize how much it costs us until we need the money. So if saving $5 a day is crazy but how is it that some of us spend more than $150 monthly on cable television. Now that’s an average American household and I know that some of you spend less than this maybe around $60 to $75. But add in all of the streaming services and whatnot and you’re probably pushing close to $150.
So let’s assume you spend $150+ on entertainment & cable television. That’s $1800 a year! If we divide that by 365 days, guess what we get?
$5 dollars a day 😊
Not that hard then is it? That’s $5 a day for a service that you use probably no more than an average 5-6 hours a week.
What can you do with $5 dollars a day? Well if you just saved $5 a day, at the end of the year you’d have $1800. In 5 years, you’d have $9000. In 10 years, $18,000 dollars. That’s just cash savings.
BETTER THAN JUST SAVING CASH
But what if you put that money into an investment account. If you are in the US, you can contribute to a Roth IRA and make that money compound, working for you. Now when I say “compound” I am not talking about compound interest. I’m talking about a compound return. That means that through the growth of the investment I put my money into, it will roll over and be reinvested into that investment and grow. It has nothing to do with interest.
We can estimate how much companies will grow based on their economic activity. If we estimate that a group of companies we’ve invested in will grow an average of 6% per year, and we reinvest that increase back into the same companies, what will happen? Let’s assume you are 25 years old, will retire at 65 years old, and pay 25% in taxes.
After 40 years, with only putting $1800 into a Roth IRA account, you’d have nearly $280k.
I know what some of you are saying: What good is 265k at 65 years old? Well let’s look at another example. Instead of only putting $1800 in, let’s max out every year. That means we’ll start with $1800 in our account, and then contribute $6000 a year with the same %6 estimated return (which remember is low).
Do this and you’d have almost one million dollars stashed away.
Want to try it yourself? Here’s the calculator I used.
BUT I’M WORRIED I’M INVESTING IN HARAM…
I understand that you are sensitive to investing into things that go against your values. I am the same. So what can you easily put into a Roth IRA that would save you the time of having to do Sharia compliance?
There are now a number of mutual funds, ETFs, and tools you can use to easily build a portfolio that only invests in shariah compliant (read: Halal) stocks and funds. Use the following tickers: $SPUS, $HLAL, $AMANX, $AMAGX, $AMDWX, $IMANX, $ADJEX, $WISEX as well as a few others.
If you want to buy individual stocks and need to see if they are Shariah compliant or not, you can sign up to Zoya.Finance, a free app that lists all the stocks in the US and gives you a report on whether they are shariah compliant. I am the company’s Shariah Advisor and supervise the screening logic used for the app.
WHAT IS STOPPING YOU?
You. You are stopping you. There’s no shortage of resources out there to educate yourself. But you are afraid. You are worried. You don’t want to jump into the unknown. Not investing and just leaving your cash sitting there is because you don’t know if it will earn anything is like saying you won’t pray today because you might miss a prayer tomorrow. It’s an illogical position and one based on fear. How can you get past your fears? Education.
The point here is, it’s not that hard and its not impossible. You can do this if you simply take very deliberate steps to putting money away for yourself first before spending it on things that you hardly use.
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.