Friday, December 29, 2017

Islamic Education, Reclaiming Our West African Islamic Legacy

By Jamillah Karim

#SisterClaraMuhammadSchool #Qur'anSchool #BlackAndMuslim #Sufism

Shaykh Hassan (R) and Imam WD Mohammed (R), 2005, Chicago, Drake Hotel
Our Beloved Hajja Ayisha Jeffries arranged the meeting between them.

This post is the talk I presented at the 7th Annual Commemoration of Shaykh Hassan Cisse (R) in Atlanta, GA, on December 24, 2017.

1976. It is the year that Shaykh Hassan Cisse, may Allah be pleased with him, first visited the United States. Here, he would continue the legacy of his grandfather Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (R), twentieth century West Africa’s most influential scholar and spiritual guide. Before his death in 1975, Shaykh Ibrahim’s followers had reached the millions in more than fifteen sub-Saharan African countries, gaining him the distinction of the one who brought the fayda, or the divine flood, of the Tijaniyya spiritual brother and sisterhood. With Shaykh Hassan, the flood would now extend into the United States among African Americans.

To me, it is no coincidence that the Tijaniyya flood would take root in the United States just one year after another flood of sorts took place in America. In this case, the year is 1975. The leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, dies. His son, then called Supreme Minister Wallace Mohammed, assumes the leadership, and immediately introduces the Nation of Islam community to the Qur’an and our beloved Sayyidina Muhammad, Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, transforming the community almost overnight. That year, 1975, marks America’s one and only mass conversion to Islam. The converts honored with this distinction were none but you in this room, the descendants of enslaved Africans.

Arguably, the Nation of Islam played the most prominent role in popularizing Islam in Black America. At the same time, several other Black Muslim movements gave Black American Islam its unique expression. No doubt, the first generations of African American Muslims were divided, but what they shared was a common pursuit of an Islamic identity. The descendants of a noble people stripped of their religion and culture, they were all struggling to reclaim their true human identity. And all of them, in one form or another, found their humanity in Islam.  

1975, therefore, marks a significant moment in the history of Black American Islam for all of us, not just those with Nation of Islam heritage. 1975 symbolizes a turning point, when Allah gifted us with the clarity and knowledge to separate truth from falsehood. Although the Nation of Islam’s false beliefs were striking, we were not the only early Black Muslim group in need of the light and beauty of Sayyidina Muhammad (S).

And although we had discovered the light, the African American Muslims of the 1970s were vulnerable to another round of confusion. Eager to prove our true Islamic identity, too many of us surrendered our culture. We were told that to be Muslim meant you had to be Arab or Pakistani.

But there were a few select leaders who had the vision as early as 1976 to teach us that we can be authentically Muslim and African American too.  Imam Mohammed (R) was one of those teachers. Shaykh Hassan (R) was one of those teachers. Two foremost spiritual guides, two spiritual brothers. Their connection and contribution are undeniable.

Interestingly, it was through their death that many of us began to realize the depth of their connection. They both returned to Allah in the same year, 2008, first Shaykh Hassan in the month of Sha’ban, and then Imam Mohammed immediately following him in the month of Ramadan.

Their living legacies are connected by the coinciding time frames in which Allah sent them to do shared work, which, in light of their spiritual brotherhood, can be interpreted in this way:

1975, when Imam Mohammed guided America’s Black Muslims, represents the mass movement of darkness into the light, and 1976, when Shaykh Hassan first visited us, symbolizes the subsequent opening that happens after gazing upon the light. The actual descending of the light of Sayyidina Muhammad (S) upon us, in a form that we could relate to: Black and beautiful like us.

I was born in 1976 and grew up in the Warith Deen Mohammed community here in Atlanta. I never met Shaykh Hassan, though I was in the company of esteemed women in the Atlanta community who were very close to him, women like Dr. Askari, Sister Rabiyah, Auntie Ayisha, Sister Jeanette, and Sister Rakaia. When I look back at how I saw these women in the 1990s, when I was just a teenager, I remember them standing out, likely because they warmly radiated West African spirituality, but at the same time, I saw them as I saw my own mother, women who gracefully wove together their African American and Muslim identities.

What I sensed as a teenager about these women--that they were imbued with a striking love for Allah and love for themselves--was confirmed when I dug a little deeper. I discovered this about Shaykh Hassan: Our pioneer, Imam Sayed Abdus-Salaam (R) used to say, “Not only did Shaykh come to us here in America, but he interceded.”

In the words of Imam Sayed’s son Hajji Ajib Abdus-Salaam,

“Shaykh Hassan saved us from a form of religious slavery, where religious authority is given to Arabs. Shaykh Hassan intervened by teaching us that it is not the color of your skin that determines your knowledge. He broke the chains of religious slavery so that we could practice freely. He let us be who we were.”

SubhanAllah, those last words, “to practice freely,” and “to be who we are” deeply resonated with me because that was the sentiment that I heard over and over again from women followers of Imam W D Mohammed when I researched how they felt when the imam transitioned them to Sunni Islam. But here’s the really brilliant moment of connection. Hajji Ajib noted, “And,” in addition to this freedom to be who we are, “Shaykh Hassan gave us something, he gave us an institution. He said this is for you.”

Hajji Ajib’s words solidify why we are here together, in Atlanta, GA, and perhaps why I was chosen to speak here tonight. We are honoring the legacy of Shaykh Hassan (R) in light of the legacy of institutions, one of the most celebrated aspects of my personal heritage. The Nation of Islam not only taught my parents to love their African features, but it provided them the institution, Sister Clara Muhammad School, to ensure that their children would be educated enough and loved enough to never question their beauty. But more importantly an institution, that at its best, would beautify our hearts with the Qur’an.

And this is what Shaykh Hassan gave us. He gave our parents a Qur’an school in his home of Senegal, but for us. And he made it clear that it was for us by calling it the African American Islamic Institute. Many of you in this room studied there, and were transformed there into these beautiful souls in our midst tonight.

And there are some among you who were blessed to have benefitted directly from these dual legacies. One is our dear Sayidah Kubra, the daughter of Dr. Khadijah Askari, and the wife of Shaykh Mahy, may Allah bless and preserve them all, who memorized the entire Qur’an in Medina Baye, Senegal. But her early years were spent right here in Atlanta, GA, where she was a student at Sister Clara Muhammad School.

I cannot mention Sayidah Kubra without mentioning her predecessor, Aminah Abdul-Kareem, may Allah bless her, the first American woman to memorize the Qur’an in Medina Baye in the 1980s, and as far as we know, the first American woman period to memorize the Qur’an.This indicates the magnitude of Shaykh Hassan’s gift to us. What African American children, and girls in particular, were memorizing  the Qur’an in the 1980s and 1990s? By the grace of Allah, ours were.

Like Shaykh Hassan, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed also imparted a message when he named an institution. In 1980 he changed the name of the University of Islam, as it was called in Nation days, to Sister Clara Muhammad School. It was to honor the legacy of his mother, without whom there would not have been a Nation of Islam.

In 1930 it was Clara Muhammad who first heard about Islam and immediately thought that the message, as given by the mysterious Fard Muhammad, might help her husband who was struggling with unemployment and hopelessness. She brought him to Fard Muhammad, and the rest is history. Tonight I want to highlight just one part of this story that frames my main message. It is the message of reclaiming our lost identity, reclaiming our legacy of West African Islamic scholarship and spirituality.

Clara Muhammad first learned of Fard Muhammad’s teachings from another woman. Sister Clara once recounted, “My girlfriend told me there’s a man who’s saying some things about our people. We once dressed in long flowing cloth and we were royal. We were not Christians. We were Muslims.”

This idea, passed on through women, that we were once a great Muslim people gave birth to the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam gave birth to Sister Clara Muhammad School. Sister Clara Muhammad School is where I spent all my school years, from 1980 to 1993. There, our hearts became attached to the legacy of African American people as much as to the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (S).

My English teacher, Sister Sandra El-Amin, who introduced me to the classics in African American literature, was also one of my first Qur’an teachers. She had me memorize the 99 Names of Allah and short surahs from the Qur’an in Arabic and English. At Sister Clara Muhammad School, our own people were our first Qur’an and Arabic teachers.

Add to that beautiful fact, my first Qur’an teacher who was not African American was still African, our very own Imam Bye Secka, may Allah bless him. He was the first to teach me Ayatul Kursi, which I recently taught my sons. And as Sister Sandra would expect of me, I also had them memorize it in English.

My classmates and I didn’t realize it, but by memorizing Qur’an under Imam Bye, we were taking from a great lineage of African Muslim scholars and awliyah, friends of Allah. In addition to this, we were now linked to a movement of African American children taking from this lineage, children from New York, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban centers, who were traveling to Senegal to memorize the Qur’an under the loving guidance and care of Shaykh Hassan.  

Like the case of Sister Clara Muhammad, an African American woman stood at the center of this historic moment. Sister Kareemah Abdul-Kareem, from New York City, managed the home where American students lived while attending the Qur’an school in the 1980s and ‘90s. Called the Yellow House, the residence provided American students a home away from home and a community mother who supported them.

But perhaps my connection to the Qur’an school that most illuminates my message tonight comes through my longtime classmate, Furqan Muhammad. Our mothers, who joined the Nation in the early ‘70s, were close from the time we were babies. In our early school years, our fathers carpooled us and our siblings to Sister Clara Muhammad School. May Allah bless them all. Since then, our paths have been different, but nonetheless parallel, leading us to a common destination.

Towards the end of our ninth grade year, Furqan’s parents sent him, and later his brother Haneef, to Senegal to protect them from society’s negative influences. Alhamdulillah, Allah blessed them with protection and more. Furqan memorized one third of the Qur’an, earned a scholarly license to teach Qur’an, and was trained under Shaykh Hassan in the Islamic science of purifying the heart, also known as tassawuf, or Sufism.  

Meanwhile, I continued on at Mohammed Schools in Atlanta, graduated, and then matriculated at Duke University. Majoring in Electrical Engineering, I had no idea that in reality Allah had placed me on a path to discover the vast richness of Islam. Duke was one of the top schools for pursuing a PhD in Islamic Studies, and the study of Sufism in particular. Alongside my math and engineering courses, I took courses in Islamic law, civilization, and philosophy.

I learned that Sufism has been the soul of Islamic culture and practice since its beginnings. I found the study of Islam in academia deeply fulfilling because when I read about Islam’s history in any region of the world, my readings were infused with the beauty of Islamic spirituality, stirring my inner yearning to know and love Allah more. Take this passage from Dr. Zachary Wright’s book Living Knowledge in West African Islam. Although his book is relatively new, it mirrors the type of reading I was assigned at Duke.

As Islam spread from North Africa to south of the Sahara, the “teaching-master [was] the principle source of knowledge: ‘For the Moors, the shaykh was their library.’ Early West African scholars...were revered for their learning and piety, the power of their supplications (for rain for example), and spiritual blessing (baraka).….It was such scholars, whose beings were inscribed with the ethical and legal norms of their religion, that deserve credit for the spread of Islam in West Africa, rather than the traders often credited with spreading Islam in the region."

Dr. Wright’s phrase, “Beings inscribed with the ethical and legal norms of their religion,” can be restated this way: Scholars whose hearts radiate the beauty and light of Sayyidina Muhammad (S).

While I was reading about the beautiful heritage of my ancestors, my classmate Furqan actually tasted it, as he drank from the fountain of knowledge of Shaykh Hassan (R). But either way, through the pursuit of Islamic knowledge, instilled in us early on as students of Sister Clara Muhammad, we both fulfilled her earliest vision of African American Muslims, a once broken people reclaiming our royal roots in Islam. We tapped into the rich, living legacy of West African Islam.     

In April of this year, almost 30 years after Furqan made his journey to sub-Sahara Africa, I made mine for the first time. Many fortuitous and favorable things happened on that trip, indicating that Allah was watching over and orchestrating things for me. One of those things was that Furqan was also visiting at that time, another sign that we are brother and sister. As our roots were one, our destination is one. From Allah, to Allah.

I will end tonight by sharing what I wrote about my travel to Senegal:

Allah set my trip up most beautifully in that immediately after arriving in Dakar, we were escorted directly to a village that is a spiritual center, Medina Baye, and the first thing we did upon our arrival was greet a great scholar and servant of Allah, Shaykh Mahy, may Allah ta'ala preserve him and his family. How exquisite a return! To witness whom we would be, who we are! The brutality of slavery separated us in proximity, but Allah preserved our hearts and healed them so that neither distance nor difficulty separates the hearts of believing servants. It is as though we have always been on this path. It was not just a homecoming but a coming home to the best of our legacy.

April 2017, Grand Mosque of Medina Baye, Senegal

Within us is the light of the legacy of Sister Clara Muhammad, of Elijah Muhammad, of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, of Shaykh Hassan Cisse, of Sister Kareemah Abdul-Kareem. May Allah bless them all. The light of their legacy illuminates in proportion to the light of our hearts. Shaykh Hassan once said, “If you ask where the house of Allah on earth is, I will show you the mosque: these are the houses of Allah. If you want to know where the place of Allah in the body is, that is the heart. Because Allah said in a ḥadīth qudsī, ‘I cannot be contained in the heavens nor in earth, but only in the heart of a believing servant.’ That is the place of Allah. You should always make sure that you are cleaning it.”

We have been singled out. We have been gifted with a unique legacy. Not everyone has what we have. And that’s why people are attracted to Atlanta, and are attracted to Medina Baye, and are attracted to us. But with every gift, there is a test. Our institutions are struggling. We are needy before Allah. And yes, we need more money. But also, let us not forget this. When we come begging to Allah ta’ala, what does He look at? Does He look at our wealth, or our capacity to build wealth? No, the Beloved of Allah (S) told us that Allah ta’ala looks at our hearts.

When we clean and beautify our hearts for Allah, He fills them up with Him, with everything we need to build institutions. He fills them with patience, with faith, with excellence, with truthfulness, with compassion and generosity, with the will to serve and sacrifice, with unity, with love and beauty. May Allah ta’ala make us the people of hearts. May people know us by our hearts. And with clean hearts, we will, by Allah, build and sustain the institutions that uphold the legacy of our Beloved (s) and the legacy of our beloved ancestors, may Allah grant them the highest level of paradise, their hearts’ content.

7th Annual Commemoration of Shaykh Hassan Cisse (R)


The Divine Flood by Rudiger Seesemann

Living Knowledge in West African Islam by Zachary Wright

"The Yellow House in Medina Baye, Senegal" by Samiha Rahman

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In the Footsteps of Hajar, Part 2: Moving Hearts Toward the Beloved Community, ISNA 2017

ISNA 2017 with the luminous Yasmin Mogahed
Photo by Rabia Khan (
In Part 1 of this post, I ended with how I was touched when the host of ImanWire, Mohammed Saleem, read a quote of mine about God having put the love of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X in the hearts of non-Black Muslims as a gift  to facilitate their connection with and care for African Americans in general.

Even before that sentimental moment, I was impressed by the way Saleem sought to explore in the interview various aspects of my book with sincere enthusiasm and interest. Perhaps this is his job, nonetheless he carried it out with beauty and care. Alhamdulillah, I am reminded of the great honor Allah, the Most Great, has bestowed upon me to tell the history of my community. On top of that honor, I am moved that others value Allah’s entrusting me with the narratives of African American Muslim women especially. That Saleem is a man, of South Asian background, and feels this connection, amplified my feeling of gratitude for Allah’s beautiful gift and plan.

The quote on the love of Ali and Malcolm in the hearts of non-Black Muslims also worked well for Saleem because he wanted to end on a spiritual note. He wanted to move the hearts. And so I responded with comments from my last ISNA talk, where I also aimed for the hearts.

And this is truly the beauty of our mother Hagar as a perfect symbolic fit for the kind of scholarly activism to which I aspire. I am inspired to write passionately about race and gender, but my ultimate passion is being touched by and touching the hearts of people who desire God and His Beloved Prophet (S), above all else.

It is the expression of sisterhood like that between me and Yasmin--crossing race, built on love of God--that inspires my spiritual, scholarly activism.

Mother Hagar embodies the race, class, and gender struggles that I bring to light in my scholarly work, but more than that, she represents the exemplary human being that finds satisfaction with God in the ultimate moment of distress, and as a result, changes the world forever!

With Hagar I ended my ISNA 2016 talk, remembering her as the one who took the primordial footsteps that forged the way for the Blessed Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, to later inspire hearts to become the Beloved Ummah. With Hagar, I opened my 2017 talk, aspiring again to inspire us to become the Beloved Community.

And so I answered my gracious host--after he read my comments on hearts loving Ali and Malcolm-- with my latest reflections on becoming the beloved community as shared at ISNA 2017. Below I share an excerpt of my talk, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

What community is better positioned to be the beloved community? Who are the people of brotherhood and sisterhood? Who are the people that have as its leader, its teacher, guide and model, a human being who embodies the utmost beauty? This human being is none other than the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him.

But have we made the Beloved Ummah a priority? Do we ask for it in our dua?

Ask any Muslim, “What is the American Muslim struggle?” All of us would say the fight against anti-Muslim hate and bigotry. We’ve made that fight our priority. But what is the most effective way to fight anti-Muslim racism in this country?

The scholar and saint Abul-Qasim ibn Muhammad al-Junayd said, “One cannot struggle against his enemy outwardly except he who struggles against his enemies inwardly (and the inward enemies are the desires of the ego). Then whoever is given victory over them will be victorious over his (outward) enemy, and whoever is defeated by them, his enemy defeats him.”

If we do not prioritize the internal struggle--the fight for beautiful hearts--then how can we fight the external enemy of anti-Muslim propaganda and bigotry.
The Qur’an guides us in this regard through the example of the early Muslims, the Emigrants who left Mecca because of religious persecution and the Helpers, the people of Medina, who gave them refuge in their new city.

“...The poor emigrants who were removed from their homes and their possessions. They seek Allah’s grace and pleasure and assist Allah and His Messenger. These are the ones who are true. Those who were already firmly established in their homes [in Medina], and firmly rooted in faith, show love for those who migrated to them for refuge, and harbor no desire in their hearts for what has been given to them. They [the Helpers] give [the Emigrants] preference over themselves, even if they too are poor. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls—they are the successful ones.”(59:8-9)

How refined were the hearts of the Emigrants and the Helpers! And herein lies the lesson to take home. The early Muslims, their hearts were made beautiful first--love was established in their hearts first--and then they fought and won battles together.

We want to be a beloved community in the eyes of American society, and that is an important and legitimate struggle, but our first priority, and sole concern really, is to be beloved in God’s eyes. “God does not look at your external forms but gazes upon your hearts,” said the Beloved of God, prayers and peace be upon him.

Let us get to the work of making our hearts beautiful, and that is the work of becoming the Beloved Ummah. Our survival and our position in this country depend upon it. We need each other to reach the heights of faith and beauty, the heights of iman and ihsan. For verily, our faith is not a complete faith until we love for our brother and sister what we love for ourselves.

Until we love Malcolm and Ali, and we love the people they loved, Muslim and non-Muslim, Black and non-Black.

Wow! The women outnumber the men on a main Saturday evening session having nothing to do with women's issues. Tayyibah Taylor, may Allah have mercy on her, would be so proud! Mashallah!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

In the Footsteps of Hajar, Part 1: Black Muslim Women Pioneers

By Jamillah Karim

Photo by Joi Faison, Eid al-Fitr 2017
Connecting to our foremothers with fabric from the Motherland
My dress: Fabric from Nigeria, made in Dakar, Senegal
Ayisha's dress: Fabric from Dakar, made in Atlanta by designer and beloved Audra Karim
In the legacy of our community mothers, celebrated in my post
 "Our Black Muslim Mamas Been Rocking Hijab Since Before We Were Babies"

O Allah, honor us by making us 
the beloved community, and there is no honor except by You. And finally, in these special days, when the selected among our community prepare to walk in the footsteps of our mother Hajar, or Hagar, make us faithful and content with You, as was she when she faced the adversity of being left alone in a new land that You, O Allah, made her home and the home of Your beloved Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him. And like her, O Allah, may we struggle for Your pleasure so that our children can be at home in this new land, thriving in this new land where the people of Muhammad (S) will shine with your light and love. Ameen.

I made this dua before an audience last year at ISNA 2016. Dhul Hijjah, the month of the hajj, was about to commence.

It’s that special time of year again, and though I hadn’t planned it, Allah so beautifully planned it, that I would have another opportunity to remember Mother Hagar, peace be upon her, on a public platform.

Mohammed Saleem interviewed me for the latest ImanWire podcast, which was released just days before the commencement of Dhul Hijjah 2017. Please listen to "In the Footsteps of Hajar: Black Muslim Women Pioneers" here. Here’s a summary of what we discuss:

“Despite facing the challenges of being marginalized at the crossroads of their race, gender and faith, Black women have been pioneers in the Muslim community in America. In this episode, Dr. Jamillah Karim, author of "Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam", details the rich history of Black Muslim women in their journey from the Nation of Islam to the Warith Deen Mohammed community. In focusing on their narratives, Dr. Karim discusses the importance of amplifying their voices and their relevance in helping guide the community at a time when racial and gender equity still remain elusive.”

Saleem opened with a lovely tribute to Mother Hagar, and then connected me and the women of my community to her legacy. What an honor! We discussed my book Women of the Nation for most of the episode, and then he almost had me in tears when he closed with a reading of his favorite quote of mine, from a post here on “Hagar Lives.”

“And don’t think that because you love Muhammad Ali and read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, it means that you are down with my people. Rather, it means that Allah has chosen White and immigrant Muslims to be leaders in recognizing what has been done to Black people in this country, that it is your moral duty to truly be brother and sister with Black people, and that God has given you an advantage in the fight for and with Black people by putting love for Ali and Malcolm in your hearts.”

To be continued here, “In the Footsteps of Hajar, Part 2

For Mother Hagar’s full story and why my beloved sister Ayisha and I remember her through our words, revisit this post.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Keepin' It Real with Muslim Men: What We Muslim Women Want and Need

By Ayisha Karim

This photo was taken within the first three days of Ramadan. My summer vacation as a high school teacher was in full effect, and I’d come to terms with the fact that my two young children, Aasiya and Hasan, would be spending most of it with their father. So, I think subconsciously, I was coping with the reality that I’d be at home alone most of our holy month of Ramadan--a month which had previously been spent deepening family bonds and cherishing early morning and evening meals with family, which served as a buffer between ourselves and the physically trying fast from food and drink during the daylight hours. I must’ve told myself that I could manage by having another living organism in the house with me, even if it was in the form of a plant, as seen in the photo, ironically in my almost five year old son’s carseat.
For single Muslim women, Ramadan is a critical time: 1) We become acutely aware of our singleness (and remember, I’ve only been single for 3 years), and 2) considering that “the gates of Hell are closed,” miracles are likely to occur, and prayers are easily answered, we spend great periods of time praying for an ideal mate. Well, let’s just say I wrote the core message of this post, which follows below, in the last ten days of the month. Perhaps it was my last plea to the Universe to expedite delivering my ideal mate to me. Just kidding.

Lastly, I’ll say that the peculiar dynamic existing in the African American Muslim community is the backdrop to the message below. Considering that many of the African American, single Muslim women that I associate with, and myself first and foremost, are already financially ‘ok’ as professional, salary-earning women, we are not hard pressed or inclined to desire and look for a mate who will solely be a financial provider. We’re looking for other traits in treatment and maintenance from our men. I argue that we’re often primarily looking for a mate who will protect and maintain the purity of our hearts, or at least assist in that process, as we seek entry into Jannah. Please, enjoy the following, and stay tuned for co-writer of HagarLives blog, Jamillah Karim, who has more to say about singlehood of Muslim women in particular.
June 20, 2017 (Ramadan 25, 1438)
**Important Message for Muslim MEN, married and single (and their wives, and the women who love, support and seek them out)

I'm sharing now what's been on my heart recently and which recent events have made more pressing and relevant: the ROLE of Muslim men & what we, women, need (crave, desire, and hope to receive) from you.

1. God, in our Holy Book, has already instructed you to be the “providers/maintainers and protectors of women.” Many of you (and your wives) focus on the “providing” part of that: material provision. Yes, that's important. BUT realize that God created you with that already in your very essence and nature. Thus, you WILL do that in your own way, using your allotted material means to provide for the woman/women in your care. Plus, society reinforces this definition of male “provider.” BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. What are the women looking for in the MAN?

2. I believe that times are calling for us to return to this ayah and God's assignment for MUSLIM MEN. Particularly, I want to focus on the PROTECTING and maintaining part: both the physical and, maybe more so, the spiritual/emotional/psychological part. If we don't focus on ALL aspects of this CRITICAL role of Men, as ordained by God, then there will continue to be a harmful imbalance in our communities.

*SO, to MY STRONG, WONDERFUL, STRIVING Muslim Men: We, women, need you to PROTECT both our physical bodies, and right along with that, our emotional, spiritual bodies and lives. Furthermore, we need you to protect our HEARTS! After all, if so much of our faith revolves around the constant PURIFICATION OF THE HEART, what better way is there for a man to *provide & protect* for his women than by familiarizing himself with the matters of the heart and the nature of women, and doing all in his power, in his God-given male makeup, to serve, provide, protect, and cultivate that essence? Ameen.

Should I be more explicit? Well, for starters, in more worldly terms, stop with the games!! There is a time and place for strategy. Let God's Word guide and dictate your actions more than your EGO! Don't be greedy! And if you're considering polygyny, come correct!! Do so in a way that includes, honors, and protects your wife, children, family, and community. **We, women and children, are watching. We’re wiser and more in tune with our spirituality than you think. We SEE the inconsistencies in your thinking and method and the weaknesses in your heart.

3. “HOW does the male go about doing this?” you might ask. "How does he best equip himself to fulfill such an honorable role?" First, by constantly striving to purify his OWN heart by SIMPLY, sincerely submitting his will to God, i.e., acting like a “Muslim”:
Say: I am Muslim, I believe, and thereafter be UPRIGHT! Study God's word, Qur'an. Next, study the Sunnah, character and way, of our beloved Prophet (saws)!! Alongside that, read up on and explore his relationships with the women around him, particularly, his wives, the Mothers of the Believers.There are some beautiful stories, books, out there. Be taken by, and fall in love with, the ways in which he honored and protected and invested in the woman around him...and NOT just his wives, but ALL of the women in his community. Hmmm... <3

4. And WOMEN/Ladies!! Let the men carry out their God-ordained roles in PEACE!! With all due respect, sometimes we either restrict or try to control how our men navigate their role as provider and protector (married women in particular). OR we gradually weaken their inclination to do so by NOT demanding that they act honorably with us women, in general, and single, seeking women, especially.

LET ME SAY THIS and clarify with examples: Married women, your husband does NOT belong to you! He belongs to God. Let his relationship with God, his striving to reach and please Him, COME BEFORE his relationship with YOU! (Feel me?) And don't worship, believe in, and seek to please your man MORE THAN you strive to please God.

TRUST your husbands when they go beyond the marriage bond and seek to honorably engage with other God-fearing women in the community. Don't let jealousy and Satan's whispers drive you to insanity, paranoia, and the weakening of the sacred bond that you have with your husband. Although it may be difficult, try to get away from this "MY MAN" mentality. (Note to self too.) Trust me, I sometimes struggled with this very thing when I was married. And funny, even now, when I find myself attracted to a man, I feel that POSSESSIVE spirit kicking in, I seek refuge, and remind myself that these men don't and never will BELONG to us! Yes, we have rights over them, and they over us, but the moment we start thinking we own them as our husbands, we begin to lose that FREEDOM and salvation from the Hell Fire (on earth) that God has intended for us. (And by the way, since this message originally began to the men, your wives do not belong to you either.)

Single women (myself now included): DEMAND respect. Yes, and trust me, I know this is not always as simple or cut and dry as others make it seem. But we must encourage men to be men, honorable men. If we allow men to disrespect us, they are likely to disrespect themselves, the wombs that bore them, and other women later on. WE ARE BUILDING COMMUNITY; WE ARE KHALIFAH. We gotta keep it tight; our survival and success as a community depends on it.

Don’t let us be the ones who contribute to our men losing their rightful place in Heaven (on earth). Instead, let's encourage one another to hear & obey. **I know, I know, it's hard. It's not easy or fun living the single life, but let us be patient and know that God's promise is true. And lastly, let us step aside and give our men space to choose and get to know their future mates. May we want for our sisters what we want for ourselves. Let us be dignified and honorable. I'll stop there. <3

Oh, Allah, give us Allah in all that we do, in all that we seek and strive for, and in our relationships and marriages. Ameen.

Oh, Allah, God, please, let not my writing this prolong my search to find my mate :-). Instead, bless me and my sisters with mates that are a comfort to our eyes and hearts. Bless us with mates, in whose very makeup and essence we see You, O God. Let them possess many of your divine qualities on a human scale. And, let us recognize and welcome them when they arrive.

You are the Most Merciful of those who show Mercy, Ar-Raheem; you are the One who provides, Ar-Razzaaq; you are the One who protects, Al-Muhaymin; you are the One who Loves and places love & mercy between our hearts, Al-Wadud; you are the most Wise and Know what is Best for our lives, Al-Hakeem, Al-Aalim; and you are the One who will carry us on this path with gentleness and ease and with a patient spirit, Al-Lateef, As-Sabur.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Free Yourself: 5 Ways to Start Practicing Forgiveness Now

By Ayisha Karim


So, if you’ve been reading my contributions to this blog for any amount of time, you’re probably aware that I’ve recently gone through a divorce—at times a very contentious, soul-stirring, paradigm-shifting, drawn-out transition from the very beautiful, stable marriage I once knew. Well, recently, I shared with many when I reached the three-year anniversary of our official separation, and though there was a range of reactions from friends and family, the one that stood out to me most was the one in which I was informed that I was still “processing” it all. I took it as, poor Ayisha, you haven’t gotten over this yet, you haven’t forgiven yet. But in reality, I had forgiven, even forgotten some, and moved on. One of my favorite authors on the instinctual nature of women, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, has the following to say about forgiveness:
“There are many ways and portions to forgiving a person, a community, a nation for an offense. It is important to remember that a ‘final’ forgiveness is not a surrender. It is a conscious decision to cease to harbor resentment, which includes forgiving a debt and giving up one’s resolve to retaliate. You are the one who decides when to forgive and what ritual to use to mark the event.”
For me, however, forgiveness has been a surrender—not a surrender to the one to be forgiven or to the situation that created the need for forgiveness, but a surrender to God’s perfect Will. I will proudly say that I have ceased to harbor resentment, knowing it only taints my soul and heart (while the one who hurt me is likely going through life in a carefree manner). As far as retaliation is concerned, I don’t have a spiteful, revengeful bone in my body, Ms. Non-Confrontational. But again, I’m of the opinion that the Universe has a way of establishing justice and that karma is real; furthermore, as our holy book the Qur’an, says: “Truth stands out clear from error” (2:256) and “God does not ignore the reward of those who do good” (9:120).
In agreement that there are many ways, reasons, and portions to forgiving a person, I wish to proclaim a few of them here. As you read, I invite you to offer forgiveness to those you have not, or think about how you’d add onto, expand, or adjust the following to fit your own experiences. Let us heal together.
1. Forgive Yourself:

Forgive yourself for not being stronger, for not standing up for yourself that one time when it could’ve made all the difference.

Forgive yourself for making such a fool of yourself, i.e., exposing your heart, sharing your deepest secret, your dreams, revealing your true self to others, and yet not receiving the positive feedback that you hoped for and craved.

Forgive yourself for wrongfully covering the actions of someone you loved—a spouse, a child, or a friend—who abused or took undue advantage of another innocent person. You did it because you were in a state of panic, heartbreak, and you thought you were acting out of love, and perhaps felt that you were acting for the greater good. If you haven’t, address and rectify the injustice to the wronged person to the extent that you are able, but still forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself for not believing in yourself enough to follow your heart’s desire and live your life to the fullest.
2. Forgive Your Friend:

Forgive the friend who didn’t show up for you in a manner you deemed appropriate or sufficient. Don’t read too much into why you were not invited to the big party, wedding, or baby shower.  

Forgive the friend who didn’t offer the kind of support that you desired when you were going through that crisis or transition in your life, e.g., job loss, depression, divorce, marriage, childbirth, illness, or death.

A personal plea: Forgive the friend who comes to your hometown and didn’t notify you ahead of time or contact you to connect once there.

Forgive the friend who betrayed your trust and compelled you to end the relationship to maintain a sense of integrity for all parties involved.

Forgive your friend for turning into someone you no longer recognized.

Forgive the friend who chose someone, some cause, some story, some opportunity over you, yours, or the friendship you shared. Remember that he or she is striving to manage their event and emotion-filled lives in a purposeful, meaningful way, as you are.
3. Forgive your parents:

Dear Lord, forgive your parents, even if takes all the strength your fragile heart possesses. Forgive them for not showing up when you needed them most, which could’ve been everyday (depending on how old you were).

Forgive them for not making that school performance, the sports event, or the anticipated family gathering. Forgive your parents for not being perfect. Forgive them for not showing you how to do everything that you’re suddenly forced to do or become in adulthood.

Forgive them for not being a good example. Chances are, they did the best with what they’d been given. Forgive them for not adequately loving or caring for those that you did, to a similar degree, i.e., your child, your spouse of choice, your lifestyle, etc.  

Forgive your parent for choosing to live his or her life without your other parent by their side.  Forgive them for those awkward, painful times when you called them on their lack of care and negligence in these areas, only to be dismissed as overly sensitive, irrational, selfish, petty, or disrespectful even.

And always remember how God hath placed our parents in high regard: “And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, ‘My Lord! Bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood’” (17:24).

4. Forgive Your Spouse:
(Breathe in. Exhale.)

Forgive your spouse for ever promising to be a certain kind of man or woman, because the minute they broke their promise in any manner, your heart was broken as well. If only they’d never uttered or written those words. If they had made no such promises, forgive your spouse for not measuring up to the man or woman that you had envisioned or senselessly fantasized about.

Forgive your spouse for not guarding your heart in a way that you deemed only right or allowing others into your sacred circle to wreak havoc upon it.  Forgive your spouse for never actualizing into the kind of father or mother that you felt your children needed or deserved or for not modeling their best self to your children.

Forgive your spouse for putting others before your trusts, your interests, your dreams, your health, or your heart. Forgive your spouse for criticizing you and reminding you of your shortcomings, or requesting that you grow in certain areas. Most likely, they acted from good intentions yet failed to advise with compassion and tenderness.

Forgive your spouse, though it may take everything in you, for turning to the arms and heart of another man or woman, seeking validation, affection, healing, connection, friendship, or time, when they should have sought and fought for that in you.

Forgive your spouse for being human and reaching those low spaces where they lose their faith in God. Your spouse is destined to return to good, for it is God’s Will to be known.
Note: Forgiveness does not mean sticking your head in the snakes’ basket, “but instead responding from a stance of mercy, security, and preparedness” (Estes). Similarly, a dear friend of the heart reminded me to watch out for “the poison of revenge and anger, which truly poisons the love that pours out of you.” This friend reminded me that, “by generating anger towards him [or her], he still has a power over you that he does not deserve.”


**And for those needing to forgive an ex-spouse, Dr. Estes reminds us: “You are free to go. It may not have turned out to be a happily ever after, but most certainly there is now a fresh Once upon a time waiting for you from this day forward.”
5. Forgive anyone you have ever loved or anyone who has ever hurt you (or someone you love):
Forgive because forgiving is a divine act. God is Oft-Forgiving, as our faith tradition reminds us constantly.
“Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him)