Duties of Muslims Living in the West

Question

As-Salamu `alaykum. Could you please give me a detailed response concerning the duties of Muslims who live in the West? Your earliest response will be very much appreciated. Jazakum Allahu Khayran . 

Answer

Wa`alaykum As-Salaamu Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, thank you very much for having confidence in us, and we implore Allah, from the depth of our hearts, to guide the baffled Muslim Ummah to the best, and to gather Muslims together to work for the common weal of Muslims every where.

Muslims all over the world especially those living in majority non-Muslim countries in the west should try their best to give non-Muslims a positive view about Islam and the real traits of Muslims. Muslims in those parts of the world are ordered to be law-abiding citizens and they should work for the wellbeing of their respective communities.

Responding to the question, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states the following:

There are many religious duties for a Muslim who lives in the West. Some of those religious duties may be classified as follows:

The Duty to Keep One’s Muslim Identity:

This can be achieved by sticking to Islamic commands, trying to understand the tenets of faith, showing keenness on performing daily prayers in the masjid, cooperating with fellow Muslim brothers on that which is good and righteous, and seeking religious knowledge from reliable scholars regarding new problematic issues.

The Duty Towards One’s Family:

Although every Muslim is obliged to take care of his family, such an obligation is stressed in the West because when the Muslim lacks the watchful eye, this rings alarm for family disintegration that may ensue, in addition to children lacking the proper Islamic care.

In more than one occasion, I told brothers and sisters living in the west that if they find it extremely difficult to bring up their children Islamically, they should go back to their countries of origin, as staying in the west in this case will cause an irreparable harm to the whole family. It will be of no avail to amass worldly riches and neglect religious ordinances.

Duty of Muslims Towards One Another:

With Muslims being a minority in those non-Muslim countries, they ought to unite together as one man. Referring to this, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “A believer to his fellow believing brother is like a building whose bricks cement each other.”

Hence, Muslims in those countries have to unite and to reject any form of division that is capable of turning them to an easy prey for others.

Duty of Muslims Towards the Society Where They Reside:

Muslims in the west ought to be sincere callers to their religion. They should keep in mind that calling others to Islam is not only restricted to scholars and Sheikhs, but it goes far to encompass every committed Muslim. As we see scholars and Sheikhs delivering khutbas and lectures, writing books to defend Islam, it is no wonder to find lay Muslims practicing da`wah while employing wisdom and fair exhortation.

Duty to Adopt and Champion the Rights of the Muslim Ummah:

Such kind of duty involves championing the Cause of Palestine, Iraq,Kosova, Chechnya (and other places where Muslims are facing great ordeals), with the sincere intention to return back the usurped rights to their legitimate owners.

Nowadays, we see the Jews, from the four corners of the world, championing and backing Israel, and we call on all Muslims in all parts of the world saying that it is high time to champion the rights of their Muslim Ummah.

10 Things Families can do to fight poverty

by Sound VIsion Staff writer 

1. Make sure to pay Zakat

What is Zakat? It is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is also an obligation which primarily benefits the poor and the needy.

Find out today what you are required to do to fulfill this Islamic obligation, and what assets you and your family have which are Zakatable. Whether it’s the family business or your wife’s jewelry Also, educate your kids about this necessary pillar of Islam in a family meeting.

2. Start a family Sadaqa (charity) box

Wouldn’t it be great to give charity as a family? You can do this in a systematic way by setting up a family Sadaqa box in a particular spot of the house. Then, convince each person to put a portion of their allowance or salary in this box.

One of the older kids will keep track of how much is collected. Once a month, hold a family meeting to decide exactly where the money will go, whether it’s to the needy family who lives next door, the homeless shelter in the city or poor relatives abroad.

3. Have a “secret Sadaqa box”

Ideally, your left hand should not know what your right hand has given in charity. Keeping this in mind, to encourage secret charity, put a secret Sadaqa box in the home.

Make it clear why it’s there and tell the kids the rule is no one can give Sadaqa in this box when other people can see them. Decide as a family where the money should be given.

4. Be in regular social contact with community members

Do you think the only people who are really living in poverty are those who ask?

Wrong. Allah says in the Quran says: The ignorant man thinks, because of their modesty, that they are free from want. Thou shalt know them by their (unfailing) mark; they beg not importunately from all and sundry (part of verse 2: 273)

There are a number of people who, due to their sense of nobility and self-respect, cannot and will not ask from others, even if they are in need. The only way such individuals can be taken care of is if community members keep a watchful eye and note how they are really doing.

It may be evident in how they dress. Or in where and how they live. Either way, the only way to really know that such people are in need is to be close to them, knowing their condition after having seen it with your own eyes.

A note of caution though: once you know someone like this is in need, don’t advertise their difficult situation to others.

5. Use food wisely at parties

Where do you see so much good food wasted? Usually at dinner parties and social occasions.

Next time you have a dinner party, encourage guests in a discreet and polite manner not to waste food. Then, once the party’s over, if there is plenty of leftover food, drop it off at a shelter for the homeless, a soup kitchen, or a family you personally know who is in need.

If you’ve got a family wedding coming up, then serve the food buffet style so people take only as much as they want. Then donate the rest of the untouched food to a shelter for the needy.

6. Have a family garage sale and donate the proceeds to the poor

Are your kids getting bored as the summer wears on? Then try out this great idea they can have fun with while helping those living in poverty.

Get everyone to take out any unwanted toys, clothes, etc. from their closets. Then organize and tag all items and hold a garage sale in your back or front yard.

All of the money should go to a shelter or soup kitchen.

7. Visit a homeless shelter or soup kitchen as a family

We become so used to just opening up the fridge when we’re hungry, we forget there are countless millions who don’t have this luxury.

Call up the local soup kitchen and ask if you can make the food there for one meal. Nothing fancy. Just pasta for instance. Get the family and some friends to help too. This is a good exercise not just in food preparation, but in learning the proper etiquette of dealing with the poor: with kindness, care and compassion.

8. Make it a habit to meet with people of all socioeconomic backgrounds

Have you noticed that all of your friends and social contacts are from the same economic class?

If so, make a point to meet with those who don’t necessarily have as much as you and your family do. Friendship must never be based on the size of a house or bank account. Teach yourself and your kids this valuable lesson.

By socializing with the poor, you’ll not only develop a sensitivity to their needs, but you will learn to relate to them with respect, not in an arrogant manner.

9. Make one “poor” meal a month in the home

What do you usually eat for dinner as a family? If you’ve been eating rich, heavy food, give it a break for just one day out of the month. Make a very, very simple meal. This will give everyone a real live example of what it feels like to live with much less for a day. Remind everyone that for many people, such a meal is not an unpleasant reality that happens once a month. It’s a way of life.

10. Fast and make Dua for those living in poverty

One of the great things about fasting is that it makes you more aware of what it’s like to live with hunger.

Do a Nafl (optional) fast for a day. Get a friend to do it with you. When it’s time to break your fast, make Dua for those who are living in poverty worldwide and ask Allah what you can do to help alleviate their suffering.

Make A Difference!

Amina Cisse Muhammad 
 
Often, when we think of how we might somehow make a difference in someone  
else’s life, we think of only the “big ways.” Although it is great to strive towards the ideal, we are often stopped from trying by considerations such as a lack of time and/or money, or we are discouraged because we don’t believe we will get the results that we desire.
 

* * *

One Person’s Journey Towards Making a Difference
 http://www.makeadifferencemovie.com
 

Tips

#1 Appreciate Even the Smallest

A woman walked along the beach, throwing starfish that had been stranded by the outgoing tide back into the ocean. There were hundreds of them to return to the water and, obviously, she couldn’t begin to accomplish that task. A cynical man came along and asked in a most arrogant manner, “What possible difference do you think you can make for all those starfish?” The woman stooped down, picked up another and, as she tossed it into the water, she replied in a quiet, confident tone, “For this one, it makes all the difference in the world.” (Author unknown)

#2 Know If You’re Part of the Problem or the Solution

At a fundraising dinner for a recently formed Islamic organization, the keynote speaker, in discussing the need for more community support and participation, made reference to the “SOTDS syndrome.” Before I actually tell you what that is, I’d like to invite you to take a moment to reflect and self-assess.

Ask yourself the following question: “When I identify a problem within the Muslim community, do I typically respond in a passive (inactive), reactive (complaining, finding blame) or proactive (involved in looking for and attempting solutions) manner?”

If you answer “passive” or “reactive” to this question, consider that you are afflicted with the SOTDS – Somebody Ought To Do Something – syndrome.

The reality is that if we are not a part of efforts to develop and implement solutions for our community’s problems, we are a part of the problem. One of the biggest problems facing our Ummah today is apathy and a lack of action. Somewhere, somehow, many of us have become convinced that community building is someone else’s job… (Excerpt from “Fulfilling Our Responsibilities Towards Community Building: A Self-Assessment,” by Amina Cisse Muhammad, Muslim Community News, July 1999).

#3 Use Your Personal Gift

Please close your eyes for a moment and visualize the perfect Islamic community – masajid, families, schools, businesses, healthcare facilities, social service agencies, programs and activities for the youth… add to the list if you’d like.

Now, consider those things that are standing in the way of us achieving this ideal.

You might say, “Ideals are perfect, and only Allah is perfect.”

However, even though we may never attain the standards of an “ideal” community in this world, we are commanded to diligently strive to establish Allah’s Deen throughout the earth, and to build a community of Believers in accordance to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Blessed Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Now, close your eyes again for a moment and visualize the role that you could play, or the additional contribution that you could make, to move us closer as a community to that ideal.

What talent, what skill, what commitment and passion has Allah bestowed upon you that you are not currently utilizing to its full potential that, Insha’Allah, could make a difference in someone’s life?

Insha’Allah, by recognizing, appreciating, and using the unique and special gifts that Allah has given us, we rejuvenate and empower ourselves so that we might empower others.

“Each soul is like a drop of water without which the whole world would thirst.” (Ugo Betti)
#4 Be Sorry When It Is Due

It is easy, in the preoccupation with the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, to become involved in simple misunderstandings with others that, if not properly mended, can lead to broken relationships – quite often with people we care for deeply.

In many cases, a simple apology from one of the parties would easily fix things; however, as humans, we usually don’t find “I’m sorry” two words that are easy to say. Instead, we wait for the other person (whom we have branded as “wrong”) to take the first step towards reconciliation.

The thing is that while we are waiting for them to take the initiative, we are losing out on valuable time that cannot be replaced. SINCE TOMORROW IS NOT PROMISED ANY OF US, AND SO MANY PEOPLE GO TO THEIR GRAVES UNFORGIVING AND UNFORGIVEN, LEARN TO SAY I’M SORRY (AND MEAN IT) BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

Insha’Allah, don’t be one of those unfortunate souls who are contemplating, as they lie in their deathbed, the many things they wish they had done differently, or the many people they wish they had treated differently.

As Muslims, we know that we should seek Allah’s forgiveness often. In Sura’tul Al-I-Imran (3:133), Allah says, “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord.”

And granting forgiveness to others is important as well; we are instructed to forgive others so that Allah may forgive us (Sura’tul Nur, Ayat 22): … let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.”

We are also instructed to do our best to facilitate reconciliation between estranged or differing parties (Sura’tul Hujurat, Ayat 9): “If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them.” It follows that offering an apology to someone with whom we are estranged, or with whom we are having differences, and asking them to forgive us is, Insha’Allah, commendable.
So think of someone that you are not getting along with so well right now… a family member, a long-lost friend, a co-worker and go say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Even if you really believe that they are at fault.

Go ahead, before you get cold feet.

The words “I’m sorry,” simple though they may be, have prevented many a fight, salvaged many a relationship… even helped to avoid many a lawsuit. They have a kind of magic in them that is “not bad for two simple words.” (52 Ways To Make A Difference, Giftworks from Chronicle Books).

In conclusion, “It is a great heart that can confess mistakes” (Al Hajj Maulana Fazlul Karim, English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-ul-Masabih, p. 547).
#5 Maintain Relationships

As Muslims, we know how important it is to maintain relationships with our relatives and other members of the community. Several Hadith enumerate the blessings of doing so and/or the sin of breaking off those relations:
Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Whoever desires that provisions might be extended to him and that his time of life be prolonged, let him keep affinity with his kindred.”

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “… the Almighty said, ‘Whoso keeps connection with you (blood ties), with him will I keep connection; and whoso cuts you asunder, him will I cut asunder.'”

Abu Bakrah reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “There is no other sin for the doer of which Allah hastens punishment in the world along with what is in store for him in the next world than rebellion and severance of blood connections.”
Regular communication with family members, neighbors, and others in the community is one of the best ways by which we can maintain these relationships. These days, for most, time is such a precious commodity that many of us have become accustomed to communicating via telephone, mail, and now e-mail. Visiting in person has almost become a forgotten tradition. However, Insha’Allah, we can earn immense blessings when we take the time out to visit family members, our neighbors, and the sick:
Ali (RA) reported, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘There is no Muslim who visits a Muslim in illness at morn except that 70,000 angels pray for him till evening, and if he visits him in evening, except that 70,000 angels pray for him till morning. He will have a garden of fruits in Paradise.'”

Abu Hurairah (RA) relates that the Holy Prophet (SAW) said, “A man set out to visit a brother in the neighboring town. Allah deputed an angel (for his protection) on his way. When the man met the angel en route, the latter asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He answered, ‘I want to visit my brother who lives in this town.’ The angel asked, ‘Are you going to take some valuable thing to him?’ The man answered, ‘No. I have no desire except to visit him, because I love him for the sake of Allah only.’ The angel said to him, ‘I am a messenger from Allah sent to tell you that Allah loves you as you love your brother for His sake.'”
And so, this week, make a difference in someone’s life:
“Surprise a client, a friend, an associate, or your partner [or a family member whom you haven’t seen for some time] by using the old-fashioned method of communication: show up in person and hand-deliver a message. Yes, of course your time is extremely valuable, but every once in a while, show your face; give your e-mail, voice mail, fax machine, cellular phone, and your express mail carrier a rest” (Lynn Gordon, 52 Ways to Make a Difference, 1996, San Francisco: Chronicle Books).
#6 Be Good to Yourself

With the fast pace that many of us keep these days – juggling worship, family responsibilities, work and perhaps school as well – we often neglect ourselves. While we may not experience overnight the consequences of failing to get sufficient rest, to eat properly and to exercise, over time, our spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health is bound to suffer.

We take time out to make sure we’ve recharged our cordless and cellular phones, laptop computers, and other portable appliances. Perhaps it is time that we, on a regular basis, step back from the madness and recharge our own batteries!

An article in the July 11, 1999 edition of Parade Magazine in the Washington Post newspaper, “Let Go of Stress,” discussed the body’s reaction to stress and offered ten ways to overcome it:
Bursts of stress release hormones and activate the nervous system, sharpening our senses and raising alertness. But simultaneously our pulse rises, our muscles tense and our immune system shuts down.

“This is a very functional response for emergencies,” says James Campbell Quick, an author or editor of six books on stress management. “You cannot escape stress,” he adds. Instead, the key is learning to manage stress. “You have to be able to let the stress go. People who internalize stress can end up with a variety of medical, psychological and behavioral problems.”

… People who can’t relieve daily stress may experience fatigue, upset stomach, or frequent headaches. Long-term stress, however, is even more dangerous. It can contribute to family breakdowns, chronic health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure, memory loss and depression, on-the-job accidents and injuries.
Elsewhere, the article mentioned the workplace as one of the chief sources of stress, stating, “Americans in all professions are experiencing exceptionally high levels of workplace stress.” The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s has listed job stress as a top health threat.

As for dealing with job stress (some of these strategies can also be employed to manage stress outside the workplace), the author recommends the following:

1) Plan ahead. Ask questions about responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations.
2) Avoid office gossip and constantly negative people.
3) Seek out someone who can provide encouragement or a pep talk.
4) Set priorities. Postpone low-priority tasks until others are completed.
5) Refocus by looking at your reasons for working, your goals, and how much or little you contribute to your personal and your family’s well being by staying at your job.
6) Be clear that your job is not your life. Remember your family, your community, and your other interests.
7) Reward accomplishment – your own and that of other workers that you may supervise.
8) Get enough sleep. Trading a half-hour of TV (or other activities) for extra sleep can help change your attitude about working.
9) Set aside time to relax, particularly with those you are close to.
10) Change your scenery periodically – whether it be a vacation, weekend getaway, or a stroll at lunch time.

Lynn Gordon, author of the card set, 52 Ways to Make a Difference, suggests taking short naps as a great way to recharge our batteries.

However we choose to recharge, it is important that we learn to keep all matters in their proper perspective, and regularly break the vicious cycles in our lives so that we can take care of ourselves.

It is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “Fast and break your fast; and stand up for prayer and sleep, because there is surely a duty on you for your body, a duty on you for your eyes, a duty on you for your wife, and a duty on you for your neighbor.”
 

#7 Be More Patient

Have patience. Just two words, but, as Muslims, how many times do we hear them repeated?

Sure, it seems simple enough. Except when you are rushing out in the morning and your six-year old takes ten minutes to do every one-minute thing you ask her to do.

Or your spouse says something truly annoying or insensitive, or makes an “unreasonable” demand.

Or your parent berates you for your failure to do something the way he/she wanted you to do it.

Sometimes, we lack patience with one another; sometimes with ourselves:

All right, so other people are rarely as smart, quick, and perfect as you always are, but you have to share the planet with them anyway. Don’t you just hate that? So learn to be patient. You’ll live longer. And if you find you are being too critical of the too-slow sales help, check in with your inner critic – maybe you are this hard on yourself as well. Perhaps you need to show a little more compassion for others and for yourself (Gordon, Lynn. “52 Ways to Make A Difference,”1996).

And sometimes with life itself. But we must remember:

Allah has created three worlds: one of complete bliss and comfort without any shadow of grief or pain (Paradise); the second of pain and grief without any shadow of bliss or comfort (Hell); and then there is the third world where bliss and grief and pain and comfort coexist, and this one is our present world. Consequently, there has never been, nor can ever be, a man who has not at some time in his life tasted sorrow. Man, however rich or pious or powerful he may be, [will] experience pleasure as well as pain; even Allah’s chosen messengers have suffered in this world.

Hence, one who wants to be wholly and permanently free of sorrow and pain does not know the nature of this world, and this desire of his can never be fulfilled. Of course, the measures of pleasure and pain may vary, but complete and permanent freedom from pain is impossible.

… Patience has the advantage that it brings solace and banishes dismay… Patience is to hold firm to one’s faith in Allah even when his whole world is crumbling into ruins and [his] heart is heavy with grief and eyes are brimming with tears. It is this patience for which has been promised boundless reward (Usmani, Muhammad Taqi. Easy Good Deeds, 1993, pp. 31-33).

That exercising patience is often a struggle is evident in the following Qur’anic verses:

“Man has been created of hasty temperament” (Sura’tul Al Anbiya, 21:37).

“And seek assistance through patience and prayer and most surely, it is a hard thing except for the humble ones” (Sura’tul Baqarah, 2:45).

The rewards of having patience are enumerated in many, many verses of the Qur’an, including the following:

“O ye who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere” (Sura’tul Baqarah, 2:153).

“And be steadfast in patience; for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish” (Sura’tul Hud, 11:115).

“Peace unto you (the Believers) for that ye persevered in patience! Now, how excellent is the final Home” (Ra’d, 13:24).

“What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will endure, and We will certainly bestow on those who patiently persevere their reward according to the best of their actions” (Sura’tul Nahl, 16:96).

“I (Allah) have rewarded them this day (Day of Judgment) for their patience and constancy; they are indeed the ones that have achieved bliss” (Sura’tul Mu’minun, 23:111).

“(O Muhammad) Say, “O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord: good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is Allah’s earth! Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!” (Sura’tul Zumar, 39:10).

“By the token of time through the ages; verily man is in loss, except such as have faith and do righteous deed, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth and of patience and constancy” (Sura’tul Asr, 103:1-3).

And in the following Hadith, among many:

Abu Sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “There is no patient man but possesses power, and no wise man but possesses experience” (narrated by Ahmad and Tirmizi).

Ibn Abbas reported that the Holy Prophet said to the wounded men of Abdul Qais tribe, “Surely, there are in you two attributes which Allah likes – patience and delay” (Sahih Muslim).

Ibn Masud reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Patience is half of faith” (narrated by Abu Nayeem).

Just imagine what the world would be like if we all exercised a little more patience. It really would make a difference!
#8 Show Appreciation

Don’t you just hate it when someone takes you for granted? Well, believe me, the people around you hate it when you take them for granted too.

In a Parade Magazine article that we reviewed two weeks ago, “Let Go of Stress,” ten ways to overcome job stress were listed. One was to reward accomplishment if you are a boss as it is amazing what a little praise will do.

The same applies to mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, siblings, co-workers, employers, friends. You name it, no matter what the relationship, we all respond favorably to someone giving us a periodic pat on the back.

So why don’t we do it more often ourselves?

Well, besides the ordinary reasons we have for not doing more of what we should or could do – such as we are busy or we forgot – chances are it’s because, as children, we didn’t receive much acknowledgement or praise ourselves. Ever heard the saying, “When we do something good, no one remembers but when we make a mistake, no one forgets.”

Chances are a lot of us grew up feeling that way a lot of the time.

And that is a shame because it is proven that acknowledgment, praise, and appreciation work wonders in fostering cooperation, unity, and successful endeavors: in family life, in the classroom, in the professional arena, in the community at-large.

It’s not that our parents, teachers and the others around us were bad people, but it just takes extra effort and intention to make showing appreciation for others a regular part of our lives. Allah says in the Qur’an (Sura’tul Baqarah, 2:243), “And most people are not grateful.”

Although this ayat is basically speaking of gratefulness to Allah, it was reported by Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Whoever is not grateful to man is not grateful to Allah (narrated by Ahmad and Tirmizi).” Therefore, when we show our appreciation for the others around us, we are showing gratefulness to Allah.

In The Muslim Marriage Guide, Chapter 12, “A Few Rules For A Happy Marriage,” author Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood recommends that couples say something kind or complimentary to their spouses at least once a day, and that they thank one another for gifts or for effort on their behalf.

And in her book Living With Teenagers: A Guide For Muslim Parents, she addresses the ungratefulness that parents often experience with teens and states, “Praise and appreciation are the keys. You have to praise and appreciate every little thing they do right, and try not to concentrate on criticizing and blaming them for the things they do wrong. Remember the appreciation you would like to have for yourself, and give this to the teenager whenever possible – so that everybody’s good side is accentuated and the bad side played down (p. 65).”

Director of Human Resources Eugene Fetteroll lists, “listening and acknowledging ideas” and, “praising people as they learn” as the first two among 16 ways that teachers, instructors, and trainers can increase their effectiveness with students (16 Tips to Increase Your Effectiveness, 1985).

Insha’Allah, keeping the following poem on hand to read occasionally might help you to remember the importance of showing appreciation for others (as well as that of possessing and exercising any positive character traits):

Children Live What They Learn

When children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
When children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
When children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
When children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
When children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
When children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
When children live with security, they learn to have faith.
When children live with fairness, they learn justice.
When children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
When children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

(Author unknown)

So this week, Insha’Allah, make a difference in the world by:

Show[ing] appreciation to someone who has helped you personally or professionally. From a verbal acknowledgment to sending a card or even flowers, the ability to acknowledge someone else’s generosity or kindness is a real gift and will, hopefully, encourage others to continue to be generous in spirit as well (Gordon, Lynn. 52 Ways To Make A Difference, 1996).
#9 Overcome Self-Defeating Thoughts

What do you do that is self-defeating? Is it a smoking habit? A nail-biting or gum-chewing oral fixation? Perhaps it’s just that you mumble instead of speaking up, and then say “nothing” when asked to repeat what you said. Maybe you blow up at your friends over little things. Whatever it is, you know what it is.

What can you realistically change? Do you really want to change? Is there anything you can do that would allow you to feel happier and more empowered? Find support among your friends or from community resources to help you maintain your commitment to stop a self-defeating habit (Gordon).

If you visit the self-improvement/self-help section of a public library or bookstore, you will find countless books dealing with the importance of having a positive attitude about life.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company… a church [masjid, community]… a home. The remarkable thing is you have a choice everyday regarding the attitude you will embrace for that day. You cannot change your past… you cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. You cannot change the inevitable. The only thing you can do is play on the one string you have, and that is your attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it (Author unknown).

If we take a look at why people in our society are so interested in “improving themselves” (hence, the hundreds of titles of self-improvement books and audio and video recordings), chances are we’ll find that many people feel a general sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness because they do not have, or are not adhering to, Divine guidance in their lives. As Muslims, our belief in a Supreme Being and our recognition that our purpose for living is to worship, obey, and seek to please this Supreme Being grants us a sense of meaning and certainty about life that many do not have. Our faith in Allah’s Wisdom and Omnipotence allows us to overcome the feelings of hopelessness and anxiety that can lead to self-defeating habits. It affords us a contentment with His Decree that allows us to fight off disempowering feelings and attitudes that might tempt us toward undesirable behavior.

Realizing that Allah knows whatever befalls us, that He is indeed closer to us than our own jugular veins, confers upon us a sense of relief that is not available to non-Believers:

Nay, who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him and who relieves its suffering and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth… ? (Qur’an, Sura’tul Al Naml, 27, ayat 62).

Whenever we find ourselves plagued with negative feelings, we might want to consider that our faith is lacking, and that we should increase our worship and our good deeds:

Those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve (Qur’an, Sura’tul Al Baqarah, 2, ayat 277).

It has been noted by many authors of self-help books that increasing positive activity is “… the single most effective antidote to depression, anxiety, stress, fear, worry, guilt, and of course, immobility. It is virtually impossible to be depressed [the source of much negative behavior] and active at the same time” (Dyer 212).

So if you find yourself being self-defeating, get busy being mindful of Allah and, Insha’Allah, you will automatically be more positive and proactive!
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#10 Explore Your Prejudice
If we could shrink the Earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people – with all existing human ratios remaining the same – it would look like this:

There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere (North and
South), and 8 Africans.
51 would be female; 49 would be male.
70 would be nonwhite; 30 white.
70 would be non-Christian; 30 Christian [according to population estimates; about 20 would be Muslim].
50% of the entire world’s wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people and all 6 would be citizens of the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing.
70 would be unable to read.
50 would suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death, 1 would be near birth.
Only 1 would have a college education.
No one would own a computer [meaning less than 1% of the world’s population owns a computer].

When one considers our world from such an incredibly compressed perspective, the need for both tolerance and understanding becomes glaringly apparent (www.farsinet.com/falsafeh/our_world.html).

As Muslims, we are well aware of the fact that Allah abhors division amongst humanity along racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and even religious lines. A recent article entitled “Dhul Hijjah Reminders,” printed on March 7th in our Society section, talks in detail about the need for increased tolerance, cooperation, harmony, and unity in our community.

Briefly, however, I will mention the following verse from Sura Al-Hujurat (49:13):

“O mankind, indeed we have created you from a male and a female, and divided you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. Indeed, the best of you in the sight of Allah is the one with the most taqwa.”

And the following sayings from Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) last khutbah:

“All of mankind comes from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black nor does a black have any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action.

“Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim, and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim that belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves. Remember, one day, you will meet Almighty Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware and do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

And so with these words, I beseech each of us to consider:

Is there a category of people that you don’t like? Body builders? Smokers? Jewish American Princesses [people belonging to any ethnic group based purely on their membership in that group]? Prejudiced people?

What’s behind the prejudice? When did it first start? What threatens or scares you about that group? Have you or a friend had a bad experience [with someone belonging to that group]?

And now, for the hard part: When the opportunity casually presents itself (or you consciously create it), talk to someone against whom you hold a prejudice and learn about them as a person. Are they [like] what you expected [them to be like]? (Gordon, 1996)

Of course, Allah has commanded us to love what He loves and to dislike what He dislikes, so we are not speaking here of accepting injustice or sinfulness in the name of tolerance. However, it is Allah’s commandment as well that we should do our best to live in peace, tolerance and with appreciation of those who are different from us – to the extent, even, of granting forgiveness to those who wrong us (Qur’an 2:178; 3:134; 5:13, 45; 16:126; 42:40) unless they are afflicting perpetual and severe injustice upon us, and it is clear that if we were to continue trying to live in peace with them that we would be showing cowardliness in the face of oppression (Qur’an 22:39; 60:9).

May Allah ta’Ala guide us all, and forever shower His Mercies upon us!
#11 Get to Know Your Neighbor

In the hustle and bustle of today’s life, we don’t have much time to spend with our families and close associates – let alone, our neighbors in the community. Our hectic lifestyles add up to our often being disconnected from those who live in close proximity to us.

In Week 5, readers were encouraged to reach out to someone, preferably in person, that they hadn’t spoken with in a long time. We talked about the importance, and reward, of maintaining relationships with family members and associates.

This week, we’d like to encourage you to reach out to someone that you don’t know well.

Do you know the people who live near you? Isn’t it strange that you can live some place for a while and not have met your neighbors? The need to borrow a cup of sugar has somehow decreased over the years, so next time you see someone who lives near you, make a point of saying hi and introducing yourself. Not only does this help create a community, but it sets a precedent, and you never know what circumstances might cause you to need each other (Gordon).

Kindness towards neighbors is actually a duty in Islam. The Qur’an says, in Sura’tul Nisa, Ayat 36, “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near [relatives], neighbors who are strangers [non-relatives], the companion by your side, the wayfarer and what your right hands possess. For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious.”

In his English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-ul-Masabih (Book One, pages 247-254), Al Hajj Maulana Fazlul Karim says that we can have three types of neighbors: 1) a neighbor who is a Muslim as well as a relative; 2) a neighbor who is a Muslim; 3) a neighbor who is a non-Muslim (Actually, many of us living in America can add a fourth category – a neighbor who is a relative but who is a non-Muslim).

The first type has three rights over us (as a relative, Muslim and neighbor), the second has two (as a neighbor and a Muslim), and the third type has only one. Our duties towards our neighbors have been placed next to that towards our parents and other relatives. “The extreme importance given to this duty towards neighbors by the Prophet of Islam was not witnessed before in any other system of law and religion” (Maulana Karim, p. 247).

These duties are summarized in the following Hadith:

Amr-b-Shuaib reported from his father who [reported] from his grandfather that the Messenger of Allah said, Do you know what the duties of a neighbor are? Help him if he seeks your help; give him succor if he seeks your succor; give him [a] loan if he seeks your loan, give him relief if he is needy; nurse him if he falls ill; follow his bier if he dies; cheer him if he meets any good; sympathize with him if any calamity befalls him; raise not your building higher so as to obstruct his air without his permission; harass him not; give [to] him when you purchase fruit; if you do not, take it secretly; and let not your children take it out to excite thereby the anger of his children (Maulana Karim, pp. 253-4).

Other Hadith related to the importance of having good relations with ones neighbor include:

Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “One whose neighbor is not safe from his troubles shall not enter Paradise (Maulana Karim, p. 249).

Ibn Mas’ud reported that a man asked the Holy Prophet, “Oh, Messenger of Allah! How can I know when I do good and when I do bad?” The Holy Prophet said, “When you hear your neighbors say you have done good, you have done good. And when you hear them say you have done bad, you have done bad” (Maulana Karim, pp. 249-250).

Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “When you cook broth, increase its water and give it to your neighbors” (Maulana Karim, p. 251).

Abu Hurairah reported that a man asked, “Oh, Messenger of Allah! Such and such a woman is reputed for much prayer and fasting and alms-giving, but she offends her neighbors with her tongue.” He said, “She will go to Hell.” He inquired, “Oh, Messenger of Allah! Such and such a woman is reputed less for her fasting, alms-giving, and prayer but she gives alms of the remainders of curds and she does not offend her neighbors by her tongue.” He said, “She will go to Paradise” (Maulana Karim, p. 251-2).

Oqbah-b-A’mer reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “The first two disputants on the Resurrection Day will be two neighbors” (Maulana Karim, p. 252).

So get out and touch a neighbor’s life – say hello, help an elderly neighbor carry their groceries in, meet someone that you didn’t know before, and help the world be a better place to live in. Insha’Allah.
Notes: This list is being developed partially from the card set, 52 Ways to Make A Difference, authored by Lynn Gordon and published by Chronicle Books of San Francisco in 1996, and available at Borders Book Store in the mini-book section.

In Week 9’s discussion (Take a look at any self-defeating thoughts or habits you may have, and adopt a positive attitude in that area), a statement on attitude was quoted. At that time, the author was unknown. However, it has come to my attention that the author is Charles Swindoll of the Online Ministry of Insight for Living.

#12 Ask Yourself How You Can Help

Take the time to help. Whether it’s a stranger who needs directions, a child who needs extra attention learning to read, or your persistently pesky aging neighbor who can’t carry his own groceries to the third floor anymore. Unless you are in the middle of delivering a baby, find the time to lend a hand, an ear, a moment (Gordon).

As Muslims, we know the blessings we can reap from serving others. Allah speaks of the rewards of believing and practicing good deeds (including acts of service such as all of the above examples of helping) throughout the Qur’an (3:57; 4:57; 18:30, 46, 88, 107; 20:75, 82, 112; 29:7, 9, 58; 34:37; 61:14 to cite a few). For example:

But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to gardens with rivers flowing beneath – their eternal home; therein shall they have companions pure and holy. We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening (Sura’tul Al Nisa, 4:57).

They are enumerated throughout Hadith as well:

Abdullah bin Omar said that the Prophet said, “One who helps someone in his need, Allah helps him in his work, and one who removes any worry or trouble of any Muslim, Allah, in return, removes anyone of his worries on the Day of Judgment” (Usmani, p. 45, 46).

And, “The best people are those who are useful to others” (Usmani, p. 46).

And helping others fulfills an innate need that we have as humans to feel connected to others and appreciated:

At times, helping happens simply in the way of things. It’s not something we really think about; merely the instinctive response of an open heart. Caring is a reflex. Someone slips, your arm goes out. A car is in a ditch, you join the others and push. A colleague at work has the blues, you let her know you care. It all seems natural and appropriate. You live, you help.

When we join together in this spirit, action comes more effortlessly, and everybody ends up nourished. Girding against the flood, setting up a community meeting, preparing a funeral – people seem to know their part. We sense what’s called for, or if we don’t and feel momentarily awkward, someone comes quickly with an idea, and it’s just right, and we’re grateful…. Needs are anticipated, and glances of appreciation among us are enough to confirm that it’s all going well.

We take pleasure not only in what we did but in the way we did it. On the one hand, the effort was so natural it might seem pointless or self-conscious to make something of it. It was what it was. Yet, if we stop to consider why it all felt so good, we sense that some deeper process was at work. Expressing our innate generosity, we experienced our “kin”-ship, our “kind”-ness. It was “Us.” In service, we taste unity (Dass and Gorman, pp. 5,6).

Allah knows, the community desperately needs our service. And there are plenty of programs, within our own community and without, that channel the efforts of volunteers to meet these needs – tutorial and mentoring programs, senior citizen programs, food bank and housing programs. So there is definitely not a shortage of opportunities to provide service.

Then why aren’t so many of us more involved in helping those who are in need?

I bet that if most of us were to ask ourselves (or others) that question, the answer would be that we don’t have enough time.

Time, time.

We have empowered what is actually an abstract and intangible concept. We have allowed “Time” to become our master… even, perhaps (Astaghirullah), our Lord.

An Imam once offered Tafsir on the ayat in Qur’an (Sura’tul Baqarah, Ayat 268) that reads, “The Evil One threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly.” He suggested that this threatened poverty implies not only a loss of material resources but that of time and energy as well.

Many of us are too busy or preoccupied with our personal affairs to be of much service to anyone else, or to the community. However, we might wish to take note that BUSY can stand for: Being Under Satan’s Yoke (unknown author).

Insha’Allah, our need to “dis-empower” time will be the subject of another article, but let me suffice it to conclude by saying that since most of us can afford to earn a blessing or two, we might want to get BUSY – Being Under Service’s Yoke – instead.

We can start off by asking ourselves, today and every day, “How can I help?”
 

# 13 Reach Out to the Young Generation

To safeguard our children – and our nation’s [world’s] future – every one of us must act on their behalf. … there are countless ways to take part in efforts to improve the lives of children. Regardless of our individual resources, we all can do something. Helping does not require wealth or great power. It takes caring, hard work, and persistence (Hatkoff and Klopp, 1992, foreword by Marion Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, DC, US).
The world’s children are in need… in many ways. The following statistics, compiled by the Children’s Defense Fund, reflect the needs of American children (who have a relative advantage over children living in most parts of the world):
· In 1999, 12.1 million U.S. children (one in six) were poor.
· More than three out of four poor children (78 percent) live with a family member who worked at least part of the year, and one out of three poor children (3.8 million) lives in a household where someone is employed full-time year round.
· More than two out of five children in families headed by single women (42 percent) were poor in 1999. Only eight percent of children in married families were poor.
· An estimated 2.8 million children were reported as suspected child abuse or neglect cases in 1998 and over 900,000 of them were confirmed as victims of child abuse and neglect.
· Nationally, only about half of the child abuse and neglect reports are even investigated and on average only about one-third of these investigations find child abuse and/or neglect. Of the abused and neglected children, only about half receive post-investigation services.
· Firearms killed 3,761 children and teens age 19 and under in 1998 – that’s 10 children every day. Of these, 2,184 were murdered, 1,241 committed suicide, and 262 were victims of accidental shootings.

Again, these statistics describe the plight of American children only. When we stop to think about the millions of children who are suffering throughout the world, the situation appears bleak.

“What can one person do?” we might ask ourselves. In response, I would like to reprint a short story from the first column of 52 Ways To Make A Difference:

A woman walked along the beach, throwing starfish that had been stranded by the outgoing tide back into the ocean. There were hundreds of them to return to the water and, obviously, she couldn’t begin to accomplish that task. A cynical man came along and asked in a most arrogant manner, “What possible difference do you think you can make for all those starfish?” The woman stooped down, picked up another and, as she tossed it into the water, she replied in a quiet, confident tone, “For this one, it makes all the difference in the world” (Author unknown).

It doesn’t matter how insignificant our gifts and talents may appear to be – we don’t know how significant they are in Allah’s eyes, or what possible outcomes they may bring about. “Man proposes, Allah disposes.”

There are numerous organizations and programs that have been established – locally, nationally and internationally – to help the world’s children. There are programs that address hunger and homelessness, abuse and violence prevention, illiteracy and inadequate schooling…

Take an inventory of the gifts that Allah has bestowed upon you that you can apply to help someone less fortunate, and then find a program in your area that can match your talent with the need for it. As mentioned in the last 52 Ways article, there are immense rewards to be earned in serving others.

And remember that, consciously or unconsciously, we all are helping to shape the world we live in. Wouldn’t it be so much more effective if each of us actively jumped in to do our share?

Whether you know it or not, you are teaching every day. What would a young onlooker learn from your example? Does your behavior reflect the values you would want to instill in kids today? Through your actions, by volunteering, talking to kids, or reaching out in some other way, communicate the values and beliefs you would want the next generation to possess (Gordon).

Begin with your own children. Love them. Spend time with them. Guide them and be prepared to discipline them. Spark their imaginations. As a family, with your children, reach out to other children. Make helping neighbors a way of life (Sam Beard, President and Founder, The American Institute for Public Service).

People think that unless they can devote themselves like Mother Teresa, they will not make a difference, and this is not true. One person reaching out to one person can make an incredible difference, both in the life of the one being touched, and those that he touches” (Alfonso Watt, Vice President, Fund for the City of New York).

“Each one, teach one” (Author unknown).
“If we share what we know, we all will grow” (Author unknown).

“The best thing we can spend on our children is time” (Author unknown).

“Y[our] children need y[our] presence more than y[our] presents” (Rev. Jesse Jackson).

#14 Love Allah’s Earth

Reduce the amount of packaging you purchase and throw away by buying as many items as you can without packaging in the first place. Are there packageless alternatives to some of the packaged foods you consume? Can you buy some of your staples in bulk? Some shampoos and soaps are available in refillable bottles. If you can’t avoid cardboard or plastic packaging, see if some of it can’t be saved and reused for something else, such as children’s art supplies (Gordon).

It never ceases to amaze me how, even though Allah calls Muslims the “best of peoples, evolved for mankind” (Holy Qur’an, Sura Ali Imran, 3:110) and has appointed humans as his “agents, inheritors of the earth” (Sura Al An’am, 6:165), we are often very negligent when it comes to caring for this Earth that is our home and that of our children and their children as well.

It was difficult to find Islamic materials directly related to caring for our environment. Allah does command us to be mindful of the resources that He has placed at our disposal – He forbade the unnecessary cutting down of trees, and He emphasizes the need for cleanliness (which would extend to our environment and, thus, make polluting the earth abominable). Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also reminded us of the importance of cleanliness when he said, “Cleanliness is half of faith.” We are ordered to make ablution before prayer, and also to make sure that our places of prayer are free of contamination and filth. Since the entire world (except restrooms, graveyards and other forbidden areas) is a potential place of prayer for us as Muslims, it follows that we should be mindful of preserving it in a state of cleanliness.

As Allah’s vicegerents, surely, we should be foremost in efforts to protect our environment – in any manner that we might possibly do so. Below is a list of additional suggestions that we can follow:

1. Cut down on air pollution by periodically giving your car a rest. You’ll be loving your body too.
2. Properly dispose of all waste items.
3. Wisely plan meals to cut down on food waste.
4. Recycle newspapers, and aluminum, glass and plastic products whenever possible.
5. Use reusable containers rather than disposable bags and wraps.
6. Make an effort to cut down on energy use to conserve our natural resources and help reduce air pollution.
7. Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible.
8. Find ways to cut down on the use of water.
9. Be respectful of others by minding and cleaning up after your pets.
10. Contact a local or national organization to find out how you can become active in efforts to protect the environment.

Related Websites

www.foe.org (to Friends of the Earth, a national environmental organization dedicated to preserving the health and diversity of the planet for future generations)

www.sprint.com/epatrol/ (a web site hosted by Sprint that offers helpful tips for preserving
our environment)

#15 Don’t Walk Away in Anger

Learn how to fight fairly. Fight to resolve differences, not to win. In fact, maybe after a short respite and a few deep breaths, you could shift what started out as an argument into a constructive discussion. Taking a mutually agreed upon break is one thing, but giving up or walking away angry is another. This only prolongs and escalates an angry mood indefinitely. If you find your fights quickly get out of control, consider reading a book on fair fighting or seeking out a third party to referee (Gordon, 1996).

The importance of resolving conflicts and maintaining peace with others is well established in Islam. In fact, the salutation (As-Salaamu Alaikum – May Allah’s Peace be with you) by which Muslims greet one another (as well as so many of the duties towards others that Allah has prescribed for us; refer to Book One of the English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-ul-Masabih) is symbolic of that importance. Allah has said:

If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye all against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah. But if it complies, them make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).

The Believers are but a single Brotherhood. So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy (Sura Al Hujurat, 49:9-10).

Al Hajj Maulana Fazlul Karim calls peace the basis and soul of the common fraternity, and says that firm guidelines have been laid down in Islam to ensure it (p. 289). And these guidelines extend beyond the relations of Muslims to one another. Allah has even said:

Let not the Unbelievers think that they can get the better (of the godly): They will never frustrate them.

Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know….

But if the enemy incline[s] towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is the One that heareth and knoweth (all things) (Sura Al Anfal, 8:59-61).

In these days of rampant crime and violence and record-breaking divorce rates in most western societies, on an almost daily basis, we hear of minor disputes escalating to the point of tragic outcomes. Disgruntled former employees, road “raged” motorists, troubled students, estranged spouses often allow their anger to control them – rather than remain in control of their anger.

Al Hajj Maulana Fazlul Karim comments that anger is an inherent weapon that Allah has given us to ward off evil and to protect ourselves – physically and spiritually. As it is a part of our nature, it cannot be uprooted. Without it, we are cowards. However, as in all cases, the middle course is the best – Allah has endowed us with wisdom as well in order to control our anger. A capacity for moderate anger, which we acquire through courage, is desirable as it acts as the servant of wisdom.

Maulana Karim goes on to discuss the physiological changes that occur when a person becomes angry – as anger is a spark of fire lodged in the human heart, it rises to the upper parts of the body causing the eyes to become red and expanded, the face pumped up, the ears raised, and the hands and other body parts and organs to be in motion. The blood boils and is circulated throughout the body to the brain, and its wisdom dissipates (p. 475-6).

This is probably why the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) instructed us, when becoming excessively angry, to first seek refuge in Allah from Shaytan; to sit down if standing; to lie down if sitting, and, finally, if all else fails, to wash ourselves with water or make complete ablution. These actions lower the body and tend to reverse the rising nature of anger (Karim, p. 477).

Maulana Karim offers the following “medicine” for anger, which consists of utilizing knowledge in addition to the actions listed above: 1) to think of the rewards promised by Allah and His Prophet for suppressing anger; 2) to fear Allah’s punishment for arrogance; 3) to be careful that enmity does not arise from our anger; 4) to think of the ugliness of our appearance when we are angry, and 5) to become humbled by thinking of the reaction of others to our anger (p. 477).

The toll of uncontrolled anger in American society is tremendous, and has received much attention by the media, health care professions, and our law enforcement and justice systems. Anger management has developed into an entire area of counseling, addiction treatment, and rehabilitation, and is the subject of extensive literature. Some of the more prevalent ideas about anger management are summarized below:
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) web site states:

We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage.

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems – problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

The site goes on to discuss healthy and unhealthy, acceptable and unacceptable, expressions of anger and offers several strategies for managing it:

· Relaxation techniques
· Cognitive restructuring
· Problem solving
· Communicating more effectively
· Using humor
· Changing your environment, or the timing for certain activities
· Avoiding unpleasant situations whenever possible
· Finding alternatives
· Counseling for excessive anger

Another helpful web site for those wishing to learn effective techniques for dealing with anger and building better human relationships is angermgmt.com. Its “Anger Toolkit” provides the following four proven steps:

· First, identify the mistaken attitudes and convictions that predispose us to being excessively in the first place.
· Second, identify those factors from our childhood (such as fear, denial, and ignorance) that prevent us from expressing our anger as appropriately as we otherwise might.
· Third, learn appropriate modes of expressing our “legitimate” anger at others so that we can begin to cope more effectively with anger provoking situations as they arise in our personal relationships.
· The fourth and final step is to bind up the wounds that may have been left by the potentially devastating emotional impact of anger. One of the best ways of doing this is to forgive others.

As Muslims, as human beings, we can all strive to do our part to make the world a better place by taking a look at how we deal with anger (do we express it appropriately and assertively, or aggressively and inappropriately; do we suppress it until it consumes us; or do we practice calming techniques?), and then commit to learning healthier and more acceptable ways of doing so.
 

Sources:

Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. Translation of the Holy Qur’an. Brentwood, MD: Amana Corporation, 1992.

American Psychological Association. “Controlling Anger – Before It Controls You.” PsycNET 2001. July 11, 2001.

Ingram, Leonard. “Anger Toolkit.” July 11, 2001.

Karim, Al Hajj Maulana Fazlul. English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-ul-Masabih, Book One. Dacca, East Pakistan: F.K. Islam Mission Trust, 1969.
In addition to the sources cited above, the following list of web sites and books are recommended:

Abuse and Healing
Anger Management Techniques for Married Couples
Anger Management Techniques for Teens
Children Are From Heaven by John Gray, published by HarperCollins
Conflict Resolution Network
Fair Fighting Rules of Conduct
Fighting Fair in Marriage
Family Development and Resource Management
For Heaven’s Sake by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, published by Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd.
Mediation Techniques
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray, published by HarperCollins
One Question That Can Save Your Marriage by Harry P. Dunne, Jr., published by The Putnam Publishing Group
The Muslim Marriage Guide by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, published by Amana Publications
 

#16 Spread a Little Confidence

Encourage: 1) to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope; hearten. 2) to spur on; stimulate. 3) to give help or patronage to; foster (Merriam-Webster online Collegiate Dictionary).

Do you ever feel that nothing good you do gets noticed? Remember the expression, “When you are right, no one remembers; when you are wrong, no one forgets”? Well, believe me, many of us do much of the time.

So what’s the solution? That we more often notice and acknowledge the good that others do (praise), and encourage them as they continue their efforts.

Both encouragement and praise work wonders – particularly with growing children. Whenever I praise and/or encourage my six-year old, her face lights up with happiness and positive self-feelings.

There is a significant distinction between encouragement and praise though. And although the occasions that we do either are typically few and far in between, we generally find it easier to praise someone’s accomplishments than we do to encourage them along the way. In fact, we usually feel that we are encouraging someone when we praise them.

Don Dinkmeyer, Sr., Gary McKay, Joyce McKay and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr. note in their book, Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens, that encouragement and praise serve two different purposes.

Praise is a type of reward and is earned. When children are praised, they learn to please others. Although there is nothing wrong with wanting to please others, it is not healthy to feel that we are only worthwhile when we are pleasing others.

As well, when a child gets used to being praised, they may feel something is wrong when they don’t receive it.

On the contrary, encouragement is a gift that does not have to be earned and can be given even when a person isn’t doing well. It involves noticing a person’s special qualities and pointing them out, and giving less importance to a person’s mistakes and more to their strengths. This helps children feel valued and accepted for who they are, and raises their self-esteem (Dinkmeyer et al., 1998, pp. 54-60).

Fostering high self-esteem in their children is one of the most important things parents can do:

Children with high self-esteem are capable of making good decisions, are proud of their accomplishments, and are willing to take responsibility and ready to cope with frustration. Also, they are more socially competent, they perform better in school, and are more likely to avoid future serious problems such as school dropout and drug use (Hamdan, 1998, p. 41).

Encouragement and praise utilize two different sets of language. Praise often involves words that judge like, “You’re such a good kid. I am proud of you!” whereas encouragement uses words that notice such as, “Thanks. That was a big help,” and “I trust your judgment,” or “I can see you really worked hard on that,” and “You can do it” (Dinkmeyer et al., 1998, pp. 60-61).

Examples of the language of encouragement can be found at Encouraging Words, a website created by a schoolteacher in order to help other educators create an effective learning environment for students. This site provides several links to other useful sites.

One possible way that we can encourage others is to find an appropriate way to share our own successes:

It seems common to share all of life’s disappointments – large and small – ’cause life’s like that, yet it seems less socially acceptable to share our successes. There must be a way to share and celebrate tiny (no cavities!) and large (Nobel prize?) successes with friends and family, without having it be an egomaniacal event. Use your successes as opportunities to give credit and share the glory with your whole support team, from your dog to your best friend, along with all your sometimes annoying but supportive family members in-between (Gordon, 1996).

After all, we all do get tired of hearing people complain and talk about what’s not going right in their lives. It would do us all a world of good to cultivate more gratitude towards Allah by focusing on (and sharing) what is going right.

Note: This list is being developed partially from the card set, 52 Ways to Make A Difference, authored by Lynn Gordon and published by Chronicle Books of San Francisco in 1996, and available at Borders Book Store in the mini-book section.
Sources

Dinkmeyer, Sr., D., Gary McKay, Joyce McKay and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr. Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens.

Hamdan, Aisha, Ph.D. “Building Self-Esteem in Your Child.” Al Jumuah. 10 (1998):41-2.
Recommended Website

The Natural Child Project

#17 de stress yourself

Sometimes the best way to take care of the world is to be sure you are taking care of yourself. You are an environmental hazard walking around as a stressed-out time bomb. Learn to recognize your own signs of being overly stressed, and do something about it before it seeps out while driving, at work, or at home. Although it’s great to be oriented toward caring for others, it is essential that you know when to make yourself a priority (Gordon, 1996).

As a mother of four (three of whom I raised almost single-handedly as a widow), only recently have I truly begun to understand the wisdom of these words. It seems that mothers particularly have a hard time striking the balance between taking care of others and taking care of themselves. I am always hearing 40-plus (and younger) mothers speak of physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout.

However, burnout doesn’t just afflict mothers. Many fathers work long, tedious and stressful hours to provide for their families. The hectic lifestyles that most of us lead in America and other western societies do not leave much time for rest and recuperation, spiritual rejuvenation, exercise, recreation – all things that are vital to sustaining health.

In my own quest to take better care of me, I am turning more and more to alternative (actually, ancient) health practices such as homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and yoga. And today, I visited a reflexologist for the first time. I’d like to share that visit with you in this column.

Sister Dayeenah is a walking example of the benefits of “living according to the laws of nature.” At 73, she is vibrant, radiant, wrinkle-free, and full of health. She has been practicing the art of reflexology for almost thirty years now, and she exudes the immense joy she feels at having been blessed by Allah to help others reduce their stress and illness.

I have practiced reflexology here and there over the years – typically, just to treat a headache or other minor discomfort or two. Most notably, however, during the birth of my last three children, I used a hand reflexology technique that greatly facilitates the speed and ease of delivery (in fact, it is so effective that expectant mothers are warned not to use it before they get to the hospital). But it was not until another sister shared the news of this “jewel” in our local community with me that I committed to adding reflexology to my growing list of health maintenance activities.

Sister Dayeenah was trained by the International Institute of Reflexology based in Petersburg, Florida, which teaches the Ingham method of reflexology. Eunice Ingham, who lived from 1889 to 1974, is credited as being a pioneer and the greatest developer of the science of reflexology.

The premise behind reflexology (as well as that of acupuncture, chiropractic, and many other healing sciences) is that our life energy often becomes blocked because of negative lifestyle practices such as eating unhealthily, not getting proper rest and exercise, and lacking an overall balance between our spiritual, physical, mental and emotional selves.

There is evidence that its practice dates back to ancient Egypt – inscriptions were discovered in Saqqara in what is known as “the physician’s tomb”.
Source: History of Reflexology
The Zone Theory, the precursor of reflexology, was founded upon the discovery that the application of pressure on certain zones in the body not only relieved pain, but in a majority of cases, the underlying cause as well. After treating hundreds of patients utilizing the Zone Theory, Eunice Ingham determined that the reflexes on the feet are an exact mirror image of the organs in the body. Expanding on the Zone Theory, she documented her cases and carefully mapped out these reflexes in her first book, Stories The Feet Can Tell.

When I asked Sister Dayeenah for her advice on relieving stress, she emphasized the importance of a holistic approach to health, and recommended several books on natural eating and natural healing practices (refer to list below). She said that once her clients have gotten a “good foot working”, she recommends they have a maintenance treatment every three months or so.

“If you’re feeling out of kilter – don’t know why or what about – Let your feet reveal the answer; find the sore spot, work it out” (Eunice D. Ingham).

Note: This list is being developed partially from the card set, 52 Ways to Make A Difference, authored by Lynn Gordon and published by Chronicle Books of San Francisco in 1996, available at Borders Book Store in the mini-book section.

Visit IslamOnline’s Health & Science archives for numerous articles on natural healing. Section Editor, Sister Karima Burns, MH, ND, has a Doctorate in Naturopathy and a Masters in Herbal Healing. She has studied natural healing for 12 years, published a natural healing newsletter for 4 years, and writes extensively on natural healing and herbs.

Other Recommended Books and Websites:

Complete Illustrated Guide to Reflexology (Therapeutic Foot Massage for Health & Well-Being) by Inge Dougans, published by Element Books

Eat Right 4 Your Type by Dr. Peter D’Adamo, published by Century Publishing Co.

History of Reflexology

Home of Reflexology

One Touch Healing by Mildred Carter and Tammy Weber, published by Prentice Hall

The Original Works of Eunice Ingham by Eunice Ingham, published by Ingham Publishing (Stories The Feet Can Tell, Stories The Feet Have Told)

Pacific Institute of Reflexology

Reflexology Today: A Family Affair (A Self-Help Guide For Family Wellness) by Njideka N. Olatunde, published by Focus on Healing, Inc.
 
 

Social Activism in Islam

In the past few years, Muslims’ protest has been voiced loudly worldwide on a number of contentious issues. Muslims believe that instances of injustices must be countered by public demonstrations, letter writing campaigns, corporate boycotts, and political action.

This is true enough, but Muslims’ duty to act against injustice is not limited to issues that directly affect them as individuals or even to issues that touch the Muslim community at large. Rather, the Islamic concept of social activism is much wider and encompasses all aspects of society, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

The role of Muslims in effecting social change can be understood through looking at what the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah say about faith and action.
The Islamic concept of social activism i encompasses all aspects of society, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
Certainly, Islam was not meant to be experienced passively. That is, Muslims’ belief in the unity of God and the final prophethood of Muhammad ought to propel them into action. This inseparable relationship between faith and action is evident in a number of Qur’anic verses.

[I swear by the declining day, that humans are in loss, except those who have faith and do righteous deeds and counsel one another to follow the truth and counsel one another to be steadfast.] (Al-`Asr 103:1-3)

This is but one illustration of the interconnection between faith and action. In short, Muslims are urged not only to believe, but also to do good deeds.

More specifically, a significant part of the Islamic way of life involves acting as agents for positive social change. In several Qur’anic verses, Muslims are reminded to encourage what is just and resist what is not.

[Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is just and forbidding what is wrong; They are the ones to attain felicity.] (Aal `Imran 3:104)

It is worthy pointing out that this obligation is not borne by men alone, but incumbent upon men and women alike.

[The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: They enjoin what is just, forbid what is evil, observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them, will Allah pour His Mercy: For Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.] (At-Tawbah 9:71)

This duty towards affecting necessary social change is made more explicit in the saying of Prophet Muhammad:

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

Enjoining what is just and forbidding what is wrong encompass a number of obligations within both the Muslim and non-Muslim community. This includes working on community projects that support the less fortunate, lobbying the government for fair minimum wages, supporting laws that help the disabled integrate into society, and the list goes on.

More importantly, the list will differ depending on whether one lives in France, Lebanon, Canada, or China, because just as struggles for justice change from one decade to the next, they also are very much location dependant.

Not only do faith and action go hand in hand, they also are very much interdependent. Muslims manifest their faith in the One God through their daily actions and work, and if this work is done with the proper intention, may strengthen the faith.

Underlying this relationship is the understanding that worship in Islam is not limited to prayers and fasting, but extends to seeking knowledge and sharing it, caring for the environment, stocking the shelves of the local food bank, and other ostensible “worldly” activities.

Prophet Muhammad highlighted the importance of touching the lives of others by indicating that one of the most excellent actions is, to gladden the heart of a Muslim.

Concerning the environment, Prophet Muhammad taught that “A Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field, from which people, birds, and animals can eat, is committing an act of charity” (Muslim).

This is not to say that Muslims must be ardent environmentalists and volunteer 25 hours per week at an orphanage. Instead, they must honestly assess their own talents and skills and then use them for the betterment of society.

This may mean working quietly behind scenes on charitable community projects or, conversely, it may mean running for public office. All individuals have been granted particular strengths by God, and it is up to them to discover them and then use them to the best of their ability in enjoining what is good and forbidding what is wrong.

It is undeniable that a significant element of any faith, Islam included, is experienced in a deeply personal, private, and spiritual sense. It is part of Muslims’ duty to take hold of their personal convictions and put them into action in order to benefit others.

And, clearly, it is impossible to do so from the sidelines or periphery of society. The natural result of what Islam advocates then, is for Muslims to be full participants in whatever society they choose to call home.

Mihad Fahmy

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