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Dealing Problems With Abusive Father

Answered by Shaykh 

Question: I’m a woman who lives with both parents and siblings home. My dad has sexually abused me for 13 long years without my mom knowing. Do I have any right to leave my parents’ home and never speak to my dad again?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

Dear sister, I pray Allah gives you a quick release from these difficulties you have endured. The difficulty of the situation and the burden of the secret must have been unbearable.

You have every right to leave your parents’ home; in fact, you must. You need to take all the steps to get yourself out of harm’s way, as living in such an environment is clearly very harmful to you.

Allah Hates Oppression

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, quoted Allah Almighty Himself to have said, “Truly, I have made it forbidden on myself to wrong anyone; and I have made it severely forbidden for you! So do not oppress each other!“ (Muslim)

Allah hates oppression, and it is necessary for you to end this cycle by moving away to your new school. This will prevent the continuation of this problem.

When you are ready, you need to discuss this matter with your mother. Do not break ties with her due to your father’s actions. She must know, as there are legal ramifications to this situation too. Also, if he has been secretly doing this to you all these years, it is very likely that there have been other victims.

If he’s managed to keep it a secret from your mother, it’s possible that you could have kept other similarly vile acts a secret. Even if there aren’t any other females he has access to, it needs to be brought up: some younger males could be in danger too.

Distance Yourself

At this point, you need to get out of harm’s way and focus on healing. I don’t advise you to go near your father again for the foreseeable future. The scars you have will take a long time to heal. You will need a lot of therapy and a supportive company to move beyond this.

This is a safeguarding issue, and it should be reported to the authorities. Usually, it is the silence of the victims that emboldens people like this to prey on others. This may even be in his own interests to prevent him from further harm to others.

Supplication

Keep supplicating to Allah for a way out, healing, and for you and your loved ones to stay safe. In the Qur’an, Allah commands us to be excellent to our parents (Qur’an, 17:23). The wording indicates that they deserve this just for being the means of entering this world.

Putting up with harm, and restraining yourself from a bad response are both forms of excellence. If things do get out don’t you yourself think that you are being bad, and don’t let anyone else convince you of that either. I’d say you’ve shown plenty of excellence through these all these years, to both of your parents.

Find Support

Find someone who can support you through this and take the necessary steps. Don’t think about cutting ties or anything right now. The priority is to get away and heal. Things may get worse before they get better.

You don’t have to go near him, nor do you have to speak to him at this point. In fact, it’s better you don’t.

As a closing thought, I’d say that such tests are not given to everyone. They are very hard, and the pain may seem unbearable, but the gifts Allah has in store for you will be infinite and unimaginable great. Have a daily dose of reminders on patience and fortitude, and this seminar may be useful on your journey to healing. Get professional help.

May Allah take very special care of you. Amin.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with erudite scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish, and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic with teachers such as Dr. Ashraf Muneeb, Dr. Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr. Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr. Mansur Abu Zina, and others. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabir and Shaykh Yahya Qandil. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.

Ramadan Rejuvenation for Kids | A Puppet Show on the Shifa – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

In this Ramadan daily series for young children, educator Ustadha Shireen Ahmed gives daily lessons from the Shifa of Qadi Iyad on the character and virtue of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The story is told from the perspective of a student of Qadi Iyad, who explains the text to his young son Mahmud. These episodes feature unique puppets which explain the lessons in story format to make them easier for young children to follow. This series streams daily this Ramadan at 9:30am ET at https://seekersguidance.org/live/.

Click here to download the colouring page.

Click here to view the full playlist.

Draw Near to Allah in Ramadan Through Service – Ustadha Umm Umar

Ustadha Umm Umar reminds us of incorporating the aspect of service in Ramadan as a means of drawing near to Allah Most High. She advises to not make Ramadan just revolve around one’s self, rather to also be concerned with others and their needs. Ustadha Umm Umar gives key advice and practical methods on how to engage in service through Ramadan.

I wanted to talk about another aspect of Ramadan that sometimes we forget. Often people think of Ramdana as my month. It‘s between me and Allah. Then they sort of annihilate the idea of doing goodness to others. It’s about me and my time with Allah. About how much time I can put in with the Qur’an. And then when we talk about service some people get a little bit bitter.

Especially the sisters. They’re like, well, why do I have to be the one to do this? why do I have to be the one to cook the iftar? I’d like to spend all day reading Qur’an. It’s sort of losing sight of what Ramadan is really about. And what the the scholars today talked and emphasized a lot is the love of Allah Most High. And rectifying the self. Turning to Allah and asking for His forgiveness.

But these two concepts do not contradict each other. Rather they run in parallel. Because it’s when we turn help each other, help fellow believers, and it’s all done out of love for Allah, that we manifest that love. That we love to have His creation turned to Him. And if there is anything we can do to help other people turn towards Allah we should run to that opportunity. Whether that be to people in our own family, whether it be our children, whether it be members of our community. We should be avid to do what we can to help other people.

Balance Service and Self

That being said, it needs to be balanced of course, because you can’t just spend all of your Ramadan running around serving other people with neglect to oneself. One needs that personal time where you’re turning to Allah. Reading the Qur’an with reflection and understanding. Spending time reading other beneficial material or listening to beneficial lectures. Benefiting the self.

But there are a lot of things, there is a lot of extra time in the day, in which one can do things for other people. And as our teachers say, it’s almost as if there’s a sale during Ramadan, because now actions that you do are multiplied. Good actions that you do, even reading the Qur’an – all the good things that you can think of doing are multiplied. So it is best to take advantage of this time .

And doing what you can to help other people is also part of making the most of one’s time. It is not that one spends a little time in intensive worship and then closes the book and goes to relax, and just sort of vegetate for part of the day. Or one decides to go to sleep for another part of the day. One strives to make the most of every moment. As we should on every other day of the year.

We should make the most of all parts of our day on a daily basis. Even when we get up from this gathering we should be striving to make the most of our lives as believers. To make all of our moments count for us and not against us.

Primary Benefits of Service

There are three primary benefits of service. One is that it erases your past sins. When you do things for other people these things get erased. So there is nothing better you can ask for. We’ve all made mistakes in the past and would do anything to not face Allah with those on our record. And by His mercy He can forgive a lot of those things when you’re serving other people with that intention.

Another benefit of doing service at this time is that you get the dua of fasting people. When you’re doing things to benefit them you’re earning their dua. And Allah knows whose dua is accepted. When you’re doing it for a number of people, that includes even small children, know that when we do things for other people they make a dua for you.

The Hidden Secret of Service

And perhaps that single dua from one single person, child or adult, known or stranger, is the reason for your success. It might not be all of these customs that you’ve done in the past or all of these other things. It might be the dua of one elder in the community that you helped in a real time of need. Allah has this knowledge. It is with Allah Most High.

It’s a hidden secret in our service to other people that we don’t know where where our ultimate success will lie. And with what action and with what person. That leaves us continuously striving to do our best at every moment.

And finally the third aspect of service is that the deeds are multiplied during Ramadan. So one might be doing things for other people at other times of the year but in Ramadan these deeds are actually multiplied. They weigh heavier on your record. So strive in this regard and in sha Allah the reward for your service will be multiplied.

 

Draw Near to Allah in Ramadan Through Service

 

Parents Matter More Than Peers – Shaykh Hamza Karamali

* Courtesy of basiraheducation.org

Muslim Reflections on Leonard Sax’s The Collapse of Parenting

We want to transfer our religious values to our children. We want them to love Allah and His Messenger, to live moral lives, to be responsible and hardworking, to pray for us after we leave this world, and to bring joy to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the Day of Judgment.

But our surrounding culture works against us.

Leonard Sax argues that our surrounding culture works against us because (a) it teaches our children to value their same-age peers more than their parents and (b) it teaches us to treat our children like grown-ups.

Here’s an example from his book.

“Megan and Jim, both forty-something parents, had planned a four-day ski vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. Their 12-year-old daughter, Courtney, politely declined to join them. “You know I’m not crazy about skiing,” she said. “I’ll just stay at Arden’s house for those four days. Her parents said it’s OK. They have a spare guest room and everything.” So her parents went on the ski vacation by themselves, and Courtney spent four days at the home of her best friend. “I didn’t mind. In fact, I was pleased that Courtney could be so independent,” Megan told me.” (Leonard Sax, The Collapse of Parenting (Basic Books, New York: 2016 ), pp. 27-8)

Because of her surrounding culture, which teaches her to value her peers more than her parents, Courtney valued spending time with her friend more than with her parents. Because of the same culture, which teaches parents to treat their young children as grown-ups, her parents thought they were doing a good thing by letting her be independent. Because Courtney’s parents validated her belief that her friends matter more than her parents, she will be drawn to her friend’s values more than her parent’s. And because the surrounding culture has also cut her friend off from her parents, both Courtney and her best friend Arden will learn the “values” of the “culture of disrespect” that I described in my previous post.

The culture that surrounds us as Muslim parents is the same as the culture that surrounds Megan and Jim. The challenges that we face raising our children are the same as theirs. And the solutions, too, at a high-level, are the same.

The high-level solution is for us to develop a strong family culture in which both parents and children believe that parents (in a Muslim context, the mother even more than the father) are more important than the children’s same-age peers. If Courtney (you can replace her name with “Fatima”) had been part of that strong family culture, she would not have wanted to spend those four days with her friend; she would have wanted to spend them with her parents on their ski-vacation. And her parents would understand that if she wanted to spend those four days with her friend rather than with them, that was not a sign that she had grown up and become independent; it was a sign that they were failing in their goal to transfer their values to her.

That is why, when a man asked the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Who is most deserving of my good companionship?” He replied, “Your mother.” When he asked, “Then who?” he replied, “Your mother.” When he asked again, “Then who?” he replied again, “Your mother.” When he asked a fourth time, “Then who?” he replied, “Your father.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Leonard Sax argues that the key to developing this strong family culture is building parental authority. That, insha’Allah, will be the subject of my next message.

I encourage all of you to buy the book, read it, follow along as I explain, and please ask your questions here. Every week, I will select one of your questions to answer in this message.


Basira Education

Our mission is to develop intelligent and conservative Muslims whose grounding in the Muslim scholarly and spiritual traditions enables them to critically integrate modern science and culture into their religious worldview.


 

Announcing the SeekersGuidance Youth Certificate

Children and Sinful Parents

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I’ve been told that children may become ill and undergo tribulations because of the wrongdoings of the parents. I’d like to know if there’s any truth to this in Islam? My mother in law blames my husband for the sickness of my children.

Answer: Wa alaykum al-Salam

Shukran for writing to us.

The general rule within our sacred law is that no soul will suffer the sin of another. Allah says in the Glorious Quran, “And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another” [35:18]. Accordingly, it is incorrect of your mother in law to blame her son for the illness of her grandchildren.

That being said, the actions and lifestyle of parents inevitably have an impact on the children. Most of their learning is observation, and more than often, children adopt the way of their parents. Also, it is possible that through the good deeds of parents that Allah may keep harm away from children, however, the knowledge of this lies with Allah, and no human being can directly attribute the harm afflicted upon a child, to the lack of good deeds of the parent.

May Allah grant your children complete cure, may He remove their pain, grant them piety and make them the coolness of your eyes, Amin.

And Allah knows best
Wassalam
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan

Shaykh Abdurragmaan
received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.

Playing Kids, Praying Adults: A Taraweeh Lesson – Saad Razi Shaikh

Ramadan is a good time to teach children. And to learn from them.

 

Those who spend (of that which Allah hath given them) in ease and in adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good. (3:134)

Sometime in early Ramadan, our blessed mosque was hit with an expected Taraweeh problem. This was a menace many foresaw, but few had the stomach to tackle it. The problem was of children. Yes, children running around Taraweeh, screaming their lungs out, creating a racket not unlike birds on an early morning. Elders were distraught, they were bound by the obligation to be kind to children, while at the same time they desired a hassle-free Taraweeh. It took two spirited warnings from the Imam to cut the din out and restore some normality. Save for the odd kid, still merrily gliding from the stair rails, the prayers went about with little disturbance.

My own thoughts on the matter were torn between two urges. The first was to show patience and mercy to the kids. The next, more pressing desire, was to send them back home. Surely, there had to be some decorum in the mosque? Kids need to be taught by their parents as much, I reasoned. Otherwise, how on earth were the worshipers supposed to pray? The mosque would not be reduced to a child’s playground.

But this line of argument couldn’t hold for long. If the children were not praying, rather playing during the prayers, it was because they did not know any better. Their nature was not attuned to silence and attention, and they fell easy prey to distraction. One mischievous glance would bounce off from one child to the other, an elbow jab, a back slap, all before it would spread into a full-blown pandemonium. The children were just acting upon their distractions.

Acting upon their distractions. These words stuck to my mind, for they made me uncomfortable. As an adult, I knew the importance of the prayers. I knew the importance of attention. I had been taught the manners regarding the prayer. Yet my prayers were far from perfect. At the spiritual level, particularly retaining to attention and reflection, I knew my prayers fell well short of the desired levels. Was it not true that my mind wavered often? On particularly tiring days, did my attention not slacken? The more I reflected on my own shortcomings, the more the noise of the children receded away from my mind. For while both the children and I were distracted, falling woefully short in our prayers, the distraction of the children was visible. Mine wasn’t. That was the lone difference between us.

Imam Ghazali, in his characteristic brilliance, mentioned in ‘The Beginning of Guidance’ that one shouldn’t see oneself as being superior to anyone else, even children. He writes:

‘If you see a child, you should say [to yourself], “This child has not transgressed against Allah, and I have, so certainly he is better than me.”

‘If you see an ignorant person, say, “This person has transgressed against Allah most high in ignorance, while I have done so knowingly, so Allah’s evidence against me is greater. And what do I know about what my final state [at death] will be and what his state will be?’

This short piece is not intended as a manual on how to go about dealing with children in mosques. Rather, it is about how the pulls and the triggers of everyday can serve as a means to check ourselves, who we are and where we are in our standing with our Lord. We often fall prey to the slightest provocations, the slightest turn away from the expected norm. Things often ‘rub us the wrong way’. Ire is predictable as the first line of reaction. But if we restrain for a moment, and prevent the worst of our impulses from bursting out, we could look into the clues the situation is providing us.

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, I was sent to perfect good character.Ramadan is the perfect month to better ourselves, to begin anew, to hold our tongues, to watch what we do, to reflect on what can be the better course of action. If the kids are creating a racket, perhaps it’s a test to see which one of us will show mercy to them, which one of us will rise to the Prophetic ethos and show the best of character. It’s easy to lose our patience, if not our minds. But as the Prophet ﷺ reminded us, ‘Circumspection brings nothing but the good.’ We need to remember this, in thought and action. We need to be those who remember the rank of forbearance, as ‘forbearance (hilm) is the best of character’. And that’s a struggle. But without the inner struggle, how will we improve?  

These are reflections, meant as a reminder, a ‘pull-up-your-socks’ moment first and foremost for my own self. Would I be more comfortable with silence during prayers? Certainly. Would I have improved as a person if the calmness of my own mind overcomes the noises outside it? Most certainly. This is the aim, Inshallah. And Ramadan is a great time to intend it sincerely, in thought and practice. May Allah make us those who are patient, who are kind, who are attuned to the Prophetic ethos, particularly in showing mercy, to ourselves and to others.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


 

10 Ways of Benefit for Menstruating Women in Ramadan

Dread your period during the blessed month of Ramadan? Feel like you’re missing out on all the worship you could otherwise do? As Nour Merza writes, there is much to look forward to.

Every Ramadan, most women will have about a week in which they are unable to join in the major religious practices of the holy month: fasting and praying. Many women, when their menstrual period begins, find that their level of engagement with the high spiritual atmosphere of the month drops. The same goes for those whose postnatal bleeding coincides with Ramadan. For many of these women, frustration and a sense of lacking spirituality sets in.

This, however, shouldn’t be the case.

Menstruation, postnatal bleeding, and other uniquely feminine concerns are all part of Allah’s creation, which He created in perfect wisdom. They are not a punishment for women wanting to draw near their Lord. They are just part of the special package of blessings, opportunities and challenges that God has given uniquely to women. To refrain from ritual prayer (the salaat) and ritual fasting (the sawm) during this time is actually considered a form of worship, and, if done with the intention of obeying God, it earns women good deeds.

In order to take full advantage of the blessed month of Ramadan, however, menstruating women and those with postnatal bleeding can do more than refraining from ritual prayer and ritual fasting to draw near God. Below are ten ways that women unable to fast can boost their spirituality during this special month.

menstruating women in Ramadan

1. Increase dhikr

In the Hanafi school, it is recommended for menstruating women to make wudu, wear their prayer clothes, and sit on their prayer mat while doing dhikr during the time they would normally be praying. This would be especially good to do in Ramadan, a time of special focus on worship. In addition to the adhkar that are well-known sunnas – such subhanAllah, alhamdullillah and Allahu akbar – if you have a litany from a shaykh and are allowed to repeat it more than once a day, try to do it twice or three times for increased blessings. Dhikr has a special way of touching the heart, and by invoking God’s names whenever you can during this unique month you create the space, inshaAllah, for beautiful spiritual openings. See: The Effects of Various Dhikr – Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad

2. Increase du’aa

Du’aa is something we do very little of these days, but speaking directly to your Lord is one of the most intimate ways to connect with Him. The beauty of du’aa is that you can make it in any place or time. Take this opportunity to ask your Lord for all that you need in your life, and to draw near Him through either repeating the beautiful du’aas of the Prophet or reaching out to God with your own unique words. See: Ten Powerful Du’as That Will Change Your Life

3. Feed others

Whether it be your family, neighbors, community members or the poor, use the time you are not fasting to make meals that fill the stomachs and souls of those around you. Recite the salawat on the Prophet (pbuh) while making the food, as this imbues the food with spiritual benefit as well. Consider sponsoring iftar at your local mosque one evening with some other women who are in your situation, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen.  See also: “Manifesting Mercy: Feeding Your Way to God” – Nader Khan at Brampton Islamic Centre.

4. Gain Islamic knowledge

Use the extra time and energy you have from not fasting and praying to increase your knowledge of the faith. Listen to scholars discussing timely issues on our SeekersHub podcasts, form a small circle of non-fasting women who can commit to reading a book on Islam and discuss it together, or take some time to read articles on the religion from trusted online sources, such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s blog or Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s article collection at masud.co.uk. See also: Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge.

5. Increase your charity

We are surrounded by countless blessings, so make sure to spread those blessings in the month of Ramadan. Give money to a good cause, such as supporting Syrian refugees, helping a local poor family with school fees, or supporting students of Islamic knowledge through programs like SeekersHub’s #SpreadLight campaign. In a very busy world, we may have little opportunity to give our time to help others in charity – giving money takes minimal time, but brings great benefit. See: Eligible Zakat Recipients, Giving Locally vs. Abroad, Charity to a Mosque, and Proper Handling of Donations.

6. Make your responsibilities a form of worship

Sometimes, women are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the home and young children, and cannot make time to do things like study or sponsor an iftar. In these circumstances, renew your intention regarding your role as a mother and a wife. See these demanding and time-consuming roles for what they are: responsibilities that you are fulfilling to please God, which makes them a type of worship. Ask God to accept all your work as worship, and approach all that you do in this way. This will make even the most mundane of tasks, such as changing another diaper, cleaning up  another spilled cup of apple juice, or making yet another dinner a way for you to gain the pleasure of your Lord. See: Balancing Worship and Caring for a New Child.

7. Listen to the Quran

menstruating women in Ramadan

Although the Hanafi schools holds that women cannot cannot touch the mushaf or recite Quran while experiencing menses or postpartum bleeding, they are able to listen to the recitation of the Quran. Doing so offers much benefit in a month that has such heavy emphasis on reciting the book. You can take special time out of your day to listen to it, such as while children are napping, or you can listen to it while in the midst of cooking or cleaning the house. See also: Listening to Qur’an While Occupied With Other Tasks

8. Increase Repentance

Ramadan is an excellent time to increase repentance to God. Use moments when others are praying or breaking their fast to ask God to forgive you and your loved ones and to keep you from returning to sin. All we have is a gift from Allah, so even forgetting that for a moment is a deed worth asking forgiveness from. Know that God is the Forgiving, and trust that, as our scholars have said, the moment you ask for forgiveness you are truly forgiven. See also: Damaged Inner State? Imam Ghazali on Repentance

9. Babysit to help mothers worship

Mothers with young children often find it difficult to go to the mosque because they worry that their kids will disturb others who are praying. Since you don’t need to be at the mosque, volunteer a night or two (or more!) to babysit the children of a young mother who would love to go pray taraweeh. If you have young children of your own, you can tell the mother to bring her kids to your house before the prayer. By helping this woman worship, you will gain the same good deeds she gets from going to that prayer. See: I Love Being A Woman!

10. Spread love and light

Use the extra time and energy you have to share the joys of Ramadan and Eid with your non-Muslim friends, peers and neighbors. Invite a work colleague for an iftar, make a special Ramadan dish and give it to a neighbor, or take time to make special cookies or gift bags for peers at the office or in school to hand out during Eid. By sharing these happy moments with friends and colleagues in the non-Muslim community, you counter the negative narratives about Islam in the media. More than that, however, you become someone who creates bonds in an increasingly isolated world, reflecting the beauty of the Prophetic light to all those around you. See: How Can Muslims Become More Effective Community Members?

Cover photo by Edward Musiak. Tasbih photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly. Quran photo by Mohmed Althani.

Resources for Seekers

The Ghazali Project for Children – Interview with Virginia Gray

Lola Elniaj sits down with an interview with Virginia Gray Henry, founder of Fons Vitae publishing house and Ghazali Project for Children.

 

Lola: It is obvious your work is infused with a spiritual sense of purpose but how did it come about?

Virginia: I majored in World Religions in university in New York. This was in the early 60’s.  And Islam was not even included back then. And we all had the idea it was 1001 Nights, camels and harems and Baghdad! We all had read 1001 Nights. But it wasn’t taught among the world’s religions. And I majored in Hinduism. And when I got out of university I was looking for a way, because every faith tradition is both a doctrine and a methodology.

In that, you finally come to realize that the aim of all faith traditions, every single one of them, is…(and we have the prophets and messengers and each one of them exemplifies humility and service and emptiness of ego. You empty of all that comes along with your nafs in order to be fully present when you meet God at the end of your life. And so you realize that you can’t really do that from just reading books)…that you actually need a spiritual direction; you need to see that alive.

So at the time, I was married to a Venezuelan film director and we became Muslim through reading Al-Ghazali and other books but at that time either they were crummy books, you know, like horrible paper, awful print, you know really embarrassingly crummy books or really academic books done by scholars at Cambridge and Oxford.  But those were done by what we call the Mustashriqeen or Orientalists translating some of the great books like the Mutanabee but the problem was that back in their minds, at least in our estimate, they were really serving the British and the people who needed to feel comfortable about colonizing all these Muslim countries. So there was always the element of sneering at Islam, the Prophet’s wives, whatever you have it. And I really felt this was really unfortunate.

So in the summer of ’68 we sailed over to Morocco on a freighter with 8 people and bought a Citroen car in Paris, and drove to Cairo which took about year because we saw all of Morocco. And then I got pregnant and we had a baby born in Libya, Hajar, and we lived in Baydha. And then we came into Egypt in the spring of ’69 and we met some of the most beautiful and saintly beings you can imagine! They were there, living in Cairo. There were three of them, in fact.

So we began meeting with people our own age from Japan, and from France, and from England,and many countries, who were also looking for spiritual direction and guidance. And so we spent ten years studying in Al-Azhar in special studies in Arabic, Fiqh, Tajweed. And our son Mustafa was born there.  And after ten years of that we thought ghasb ‘anna– it’s our responsibility to give back. We now see what it really is. By that time we had worked with the Saudis and made a film about Muslims making the Hajj, (featuring)Muslims from as far as Taipei, Kyoto, Kuala Lampur, Indonesia.

So we have come to understand the beautiful nature and quality of the Muslim people, which is really magnificent-never mind in the desert how a mechanic would take us in when our car broke in the Algerian desert and make sleep in their only bed. You know that’s really touching you know.

Then, after all those years of study, we move to England in ‘79 and opened Jam’iyat Alnusoos Alislamiya (Islamic Text Society). The idea would be to start getting really amazing scholars from japan to California and translate all the great Islamic classics. Beautifully translated but also produce it beautiful and highest form of publishing and typesetting because we saw a need and started to fill the gap.

So it began at Cambridge.The children grew up there, and I did a Master’s in Education started a doctorate. We had a beautiful building on Green Street.  We had some wonderful Saudi friends who made it possible for us to have a whole building with a book store. And we started with Abdul-Hakim Murad (Tim Winters). He was just coming out of Pembroke. He was in his early twenties and he was already brilliant in Arabic. And so he translated the first of our Ghazali series which is book 40, which is on death and what comes after, from the ‘Ihaya’ Uloom Ideen. And we knew him and we’ve been close to him all the way through. I mean I just went with him to Bosnia this past August and I actually worked in the war with him in the ‘90’s and he is the one who actually has named my publishing company, the new one – Fons Vitae. So anyway we started this publishing in England and began doing Al-Ghazali and we were trying to do things in the “ahsani taqweem” (in the best form) and it worked. I am very happy to say I can’t tell you how many Islamic publishers copy us. And I am so glad they are because the amount of beautiful books are being produced by Muslims is really wonderful

 

Lola: What would you say is your role as Muslim publisher?

Virginia: Well, you see there are two kinds of things going on.  If you look at the publishing lists of Oxford and Cambridge universities (press or slash?) Yale. Most of the books by modern day scholars and academics are really about the changing scene, ISIS or politics, or history. And I am not interested in any of that. Because life is extremely quick. I mean this last 25 years since I’ve been back in America has gone in a flash. Like Omar Alkhayam said: Life is like the snow on the desert’s ((breast)). It’s that fast. The reason I was interested in religion to start with even as a child, is that friends of mine, even at 15 and 16 years, died and I wanted to know where are they, what happened, what is death. And everyone wonders about that and that’s why I focused on religion, but I’ve always thought that I’m about to die. And I’m right. I am. In a way, you and I, we think we’ve got all this time but time is very fast and in a certain sense we both are already dead and we’ve got just a few minutes left in our mind. If you think about the past 10 years in your mind, it’s just a few ideas. And it’s going faster all the time.

So we focused on the inner life and how to prepare and cleanse the soul in order to meet God. So that’s been our thrust. I have zero interest in the refined little things that people do their doctoral thesis on. That’s well…they’re all talking to each other. But they aren’t giving anything that will address the real question at hand that we are going to die very quickly and you know we really never had any time. If you devoted your whole life to your inner life, you would barely have time, much less to go off in a thousand different directions.

So anyway, the one thing that I did think (of how others view our role as publishers) was just a couple of years ago, might be 3 or 4, in Marrakesh.There was a huge festival done in honor of Fons Vitae and it was very touching. It was organized under the auspices of the king.Scholars came from all over Europe and everywhere to talk about our books, and I presented the Ghazali (for Children project) as well. And they said the reason they were doing it because (and this is very touching) because Fons Vitae has devoted itself for keeping the magnificence of the Islamic spiritual heritage in print for the West. Because you see it’s in Arabic and French, and many languages but at least Fons vitae is the foremost Sufi publisher in the world.

Islam is a beautiful religion. It has everything, it is wonderful, it has inner dimensions.  There’s something for everybody, every moment of their lives. And I had met people who can’t stand Ghazali, who can’t stand Sufism, who’ve led lives of perfect service, perfect humility,who honestly were sanctified at death. So it’s not Sufism or literalism, but it’s really doing the thing which is at the core of the whole thing which is finally being humble and putting everything else aside to serve

 

Lola: How did the Ghazali for children project come about and what was the process of turning this magnum opus into a children’s series like?

Virginia: What got me off on to this whole path was when I was about 22 and read in the New York public library Ghazali’s “almunqith Min aldhalal”, (Deliverance from Error). His spiritual autobiography which he wrote towards the end of his life, after he wrote the “Ihya’. In it, he describes his crisis where he was teaching in Baghdad and he was the equivalent of the president of Oxford and Harvard today and everyone looked up to him, and he knew everything and he won every argument and then he really looked, he realized, “I know the truth but I am not able to do it”. And that’s a crisis I feel I am going through in my life. And I am trying to go inward now at the lasts second but the Ghazali children’s project has been a God sent. But anyway, then when Ghazali had written in his autobiography: “My soul is on a crumbling bank. Up, up, and away. If not now, when?!”

And you know when I read that and I was only 22 and I mean by the time you are 22 you already know it all. You know what the deal is. You (don’t) have to read about it over and over and over again. It’s clear in all faith traditions and the essence of human life. I was so scared by that that I fell in love and wanted to know more about Alghazali. With his quotations from the Qur’an and Hadith and quotations from the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din.’”, I was in a state like very high but I was like clinging to the pages with my fingernails. I could read it. I could go high with it. But when I shut the book I was still me and I didn’t know how you could incorporate those great teachings into your own daily outlook.

About 8 years ago Hamza Yusuf called up and he was very sad because he said his children were going to an Islamic school and it wasn’t working out. Probably because it was so dry and rote and not fun. So we hatched the idea for the Ghazali children’s project.  Everyone said, how can you do Ghazali for children? But what it was that it was my own salvation in a certain sense, the beginning of my own spiritual life, because I sat with the Book of Knowledge, the first book of the forty of the Ihya. And that particular book is said to be a summation, the essence of the entire ‘Ihya’ Uloom Ideen, in this book 1. And everyone said don’t start with it. It’s really hard. But how could you not start with book 1?

I sat right here behind on this couch. So I sat there for 4 yrs.

Four years read it very slowly. First I printed it all out. We had all of these books translated. Hamza Yusuf picked the latest critical edition of Alghazli, the Arabic edition by the Darul Manhaj press in Jeddah. We would print out, let’s say, book 1 and send it to a scholar. So in the case of book 1 it would be Ken Honerkamp (Abdulhadi) You have to be very careful when you choose a translator, because it is their (level of viewing the world) that will flavor the entire book, and if the person themselves is not seeking the inner life they are not going to be able to translate it right. And a lot of them were done by Abdurrahman Fitzgerald who lives in Marrakesh who is a saintly being. And they are wonderful.

And then after they put them into English, they go to editors; Muhammad Huzein who has Gazali.org the greatest Ghazali website, most complete in the world and his wife who is a top editor for every publisher in the world. They then very carefully put these translations into English that could be read by parents and teachers as well as scholars. It’s totally scholarly but it just doesn’t use words that are just too high all the way through. And then I take a print out of this and would go through this and circle every key idea because you can’t leave anything out because Ghazali builds. You can outline what he says. And each thing is based on what comes before. It is utterly brilliant.

And Hamza Yusuf I think said to me once “the Ihya is the Qur’an in a usable order and if you did everything that Ghazali said, you would have arrived as it were at true being.”

So I was sitting with the book of knowledge and imaging how I would say it to my granddaughter who was 5 or 6 at the time, and so I sort of whispered it.  How I would really get it across to her?

So the Book of Knowledge is forty stories which deal with all those essential points about the nature of the heart.

 

Lola: What were your deepest aims and purposes of this project? How did you go about turning a private prayer into a public work?

Virgina: A man is putting the whole project into Swedish. It is now going into 12 languages the Urdu one is already being used in Pakistan, and Al-Azhar University did the Book of Creed children’s book in Arabic for their school system.

But the Swedish translator had said honestly until he had this system he had no way to talk to his children about such profound concepts .

Think about it, how do you start to tell your children about the deeper realities? Well why figure it out when Ghazali already did it?

We have a huge pilot school program with over 180 schools all over the world

Some people don’t have the money to buy the books and if they sign up for our pilot school, we can send them the pdf’s and they can use them in their classes. But the pity is that the books are so beautiful; big and hard-back and exquisite illustrations. Such a shame that Muslims parents who don’t buy books, wouldn’t buy this because when the children see the beauty of the books they realize the importance of the subject. The subject is the only subject (purification) the Prophet of God, Allah bless him and give him peace, said “I only came to teach good character”.

What it is that we are doing here, is the inner Sunnah. It’s easy to be told do ten of these, three of these, use siwak, etc. the outer Sunnahs. But what about the inner state of mind? The literal inner state the inner Sunnah? And this is what’s been left out (from mainstream teachings of Islam to children)

In the stories we have a motif. There are some children walking home from school in an anonymous Muslim town somewhere in the world. and they are discussing how their parents are upset with them about being late to prayers but we don’t know the meaning behind why we have to do it.

So they find a forgotten garden (quite a symbol) and they go and find a beautiful clearing with flowering trees and rabbits and they agree we’ll meet here and talk about our concerns. And then they think but who will answer our questions? And then they recall sitting in the park everyday this beautiful old man with birds all over him feeding squirrels etc. named hajj Abdullah. Hajj meaning he has made THE pilgrimage to his heart, right?! And Abd Allah servant of God. And so they go to him and he says yes I will come and answer your questions but not from myself. it will be through the great writing of imam Alghazali.

So that’s how it’s done. Right from the start even the book on wudu and prayer.
Allahu akbar” is it just moving your lips? Or shouldn’t we also be in mode of being that is for that.

And he (Alghazali) said when you open your prayer and do the takbeer you should gather yourself into your heart, and be totally attentive and present with God. When you say Subhan Allah you should be in a state of awe. When you say: “ihdina alsirata” should inspire a state of lowliness and seeking guidance.

With each aya there is a different way to be. And this state of being when you do it in prayer, the prayers become full of light. It’s even fun doing it in this way.

Being awake to the inner dimensions of it and learning over time to be present and awake and not just mouthing words and doing postures without understanding.

Hamza Yusuf says Islamic education has ta’leem, the learning of everything, which we need to do.  And tarbiya which is the character change.

In terms of our methodology, each book comes with a work book, and a teacher’s manual and a full curriculum, chapter by chapter. And each chapter in the curricula has a Qur’anic or a Hadeeth passage to which the whole core teaching relates and then of course the workbook has fun things to do and then the curricula has play acting as its major thing.

I have to say it saved my life. I can work on myself because I have the tools to do it. Now I have the meanings. I didn’t see the meanings. I didn’t see what was really going on. I was just taught the five pillars and “do this” and “don’t do that”.

 

Lola: Can you tell me about your Interfaith work?

Virginia: I have always been an interfaith person because of the passage in the first book I read on Islam in 1966 was called “Focus on Islam” and on the opening page it said: “We have sent at all times prophets to people in their own language”. And I thought that’s wonderful because I majored in world religions, and of course God is merciful and He doesn’t leave somebody out. He doesn’t. So I’ve always been interested in, not just faiths tolerating one another, but learning to admire one another because each faith has some very special beautiful things that we can learn from each other. So I’ve done a lot of interfaith work and publishing. We did a book with Prince Ghazi of Jordan called “The Common Ground Between Buddhism and Islam”

Because Buddhism is focused on emptiness and mindfulness. Being empty of all but God and being mindful. And if you think of the essence of Islam is faqr (holy poverty) and humility and the remembrance of la ilaha illa Allah so they are not very different.

I’ve worked on something international that is based here (Kentucky) called the Festival of Faiths board for 25 years.

(As for) the local network of interfaith work, the Muslims here in Louisville Kentucky (Let’s just say the Pakistani doctors) are doing amazing things and they are loved by our community and our mayor. For example, there’s a Christian group that has created something that’s called a Water Step which is a device that can be taken by/into interior land and it’s like a car batteryIt is taken by land and it can purify like fifty gallons of water in a minute. And when Haiti had those terrible devastating floods, these Muslim doctors paid for that to be put in Haiti and then when there were floods in Pakistan they gave the Christian group $200,000 and went with them and trained their Pakistani brothers and worked on the water. And it’s that kind of thing that should be going on between all faiths.

Somebody had gone just this past week (Feb 2019) here in Louisville into a Hindu temple and desecrated it and the Muslims were there first. Everyone was there standing with the mayor and there to help clean it off. And that’s the way we should be. We are a human family. There’s no point in disliking another group because of a religion they’ve been raised. Ghazali said: I noticed the Jews raise their children as Jews and Christian children of course taught Christianity by their parents etc etc and Ghazali says: “I wonder who we were before our parents said, ‘here’s the package’”.

These are our human brothers and we should just have nothing but mercy and love and compassion and respect for everyone. I can’t imagine being taught anything less than that.

All religions have a form, and because Islam has a form that is copying the Sunnah it is beautiful that no matter where you go in the world because people are practicing the Sunnah you can find yourself at home no matter where you go. It’s all beautiful.

Cultivating Patience Through Your Small Children – Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil explores how having small children can build patience and help you get closer to Allah.patience

When you are a mother to small children, one crucial virtue is developed over the slow and inexorable passage of time – patience.

With little ones, everything is slowed down. They need so much support, from the minute they are born, to many years after that.

Gratitude

Having little children also gives me so many things to feel grateful for. Basic acts that I once took for granted are suddenly so precious. Sleeping for long stretches at night, eating a meal or drinking hot tea without interruption – these are the small blessings that I didn’t even realise were blessings, until I had one baby, and then another.

I became a mother upon the arrival of my first daughter, in June 2015. I have been either pregnant, breastfeeding, or both, ever since. Because of this, I have been living in a very different, almost altered, state of reality. The potent combination of oxytocin, broken sleep, cuddles and tantrums have been the ultimate crucible for the straitening of my nafs.

I will surface out of this, some day, and I pray that the version of myself will be kinder, more patient, more resilient, and more grateful. Most of all, I hope I will sleep better.

Losing Control

Before I had children, I was impatient. I liked to feel in control. I liked life to go ‘to plan’. I was a meticulous planner, and I realised now how much I relied on external calm to help me attain some measure of internal calm. It would never last, of course. Allah Most High always sent me something to knock the wind out of me – again.

Now I’ve come to realise that with raising little ones, there is no control. There is only surrender, and embracing the chaos.

Babies Without Schedules

While I was a fresh-faced undergrad, I knew a mother who smiled at my carefully curated study timetables. She smiled, chuckled, then said, “Babies have their own schedule.” I had no idea what she meant. Ten years later, and I finally do.

Resistance to Reality Causes Stress

Stress is resistance to reality. And I can make a tough afternoon with my girls even harder by wishing I were somewhere else. What actually helps is taking a deep breath, exhaling, and accepting that this is hard, and asking myself – what do I need to nourish myself, right now? Often, everything feels worse when I’ve forgotten to eat, in the rush of feeding my kids. Filling my own self-care cup is the best way for me to meet the needs of my small children.

Accept the Untouched Planner

I don’t have a planner anymore. Actually, I do, but I rarely get the chance to use it. My eldest daughter draws cats on the mostly untouched pages, and she was so excited to see how I had circled her birth date in June, and wrote “My baby turns 4!”. She insisted that I write it again, so I did.

Something so unremarkable to me – writing words on paper – utterly enthrals her. And that’s one of the many gifts of having such little children. There are so many firsts, and everything is a marvel. They slow us down, and bring us the gift of the present moment. Babies and small children are masters of mindfulness. It’s up to us to choose to be open to what they have to teach us, every day.


Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.