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The Muslim Struggle for Fortitude and Understanding


Posted by MM Associates on December 17th, 2008


by Rami Mahmoud Elsawah


Let me begin by saying that I cannot offer every solutions to the issues of identity, clique-ism, drugs, and confusion which we are facing. Our generation is the testing ground for an unprepared and unsupportive social structure which cared more about building masjids then building men, and the results is a confused and struggling Muslim American generation. But we all know this.  I hope insha Allah that we can pull together as a community with just the mere idea of hope and understanding.


Defining The Struggle


“Well, I wasn’t born with a kufi and beard!”


This is the reply I give to the few Muslims out there who were so perplexed at a ‘religious’ guy treating them so kindly, so normally.  Yet, I knew they were just struggling. Alright, so they have identity issues; they don’t know if they are truly punk rocker or ghetto fabulous; they find it so difficult to de-conform from society by covering their hair;  and they don’t know where to find that inner peace.


The reality is that most Muslims go through two phases in their Islam. Firstly when they are “raised a Muslim” and secondly when they start to worship with full understanding.  For some it was when they entered the MSA, attended Islamic institutes,  listening to lectures and tapes in the car that they began to truly grow in their Islam — you know what I’m talking about. It may have been high school, college, or when you got married when your heart and mind expanded; but you did — or are trying to — otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article would you?


Personally, I am inspired by some of my sunday school kids when they take an interest in some aspect of the deen. I know that the 40 minutes of time I spend with them will not be enough to teach them all they need to know, but I just hope that by inspiring them with a story or concept that they will be sparked to make a change. I ask my kids after few classes to write up an essay — for a chocolate bribe  of course– saying how any lesson they learned changed their lives and if it didn’t to tell me why.  By Allah, many of those essays are so dear to my heart and fill me with joy, while others may leave you crying with sadness.


All of us know people who are struggling in our religion.  We see the reality in our work, school, and college campuses (a reality that most of our parents’ generation choose to hide with in ignorance). Muslims –just like any other American — struggle with pressures of smoking, drinking, dating and self-identity. I want all those who are still struggling during these times to keep one thing in mind; as long as you have faith in Allah and keep pushing forward in your efforts, you will get their Insha Allah.  Read carefully the verses after ayat Al-Kursi from now on…


“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: Whoever rejects Tagut and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” (Qu’ran 2: 256)


Now, Doing What We Do Best


We must ask ourselves, how exactly do things get as bad as they do so often for Muslims here in America? We can blame ourselves; but for the time being I will do as humans do best, blame it on other things.  Just for now, really.


Most of us reading this –before there were full-time Islamic schools in America — had to endure the torment of the public school system. Remember what it was like spending the majority of your day in a place where Islam is almost nowhere to be found? I remember during Ramadan in the 9th grade I wore a kufi to school and people asked me if I was Jewish.


Many people at that age have friends that don’t understand a thing about Islam, so consequently Islam is never brought up as a topic of great importance in conversation. So their level of Eman begins to silently drift away and they become more and more “Americanized” as most of our parents — if they are foreign — would put it. They’re still Muslim, they still have that Qu’ran memorized, their knowledge of Islam is still there; but they just don’t see the need to use it so often anymore.  Their mind is occupied with other, more day-to-day things. They become a tree with deeply set roots and stunted growth. They have long branches with no leaves…and a kid is carving something juvenile into the bark. It’s a perpetual winter for this tree.


Yet the sun will come out…and things will begin to change.

From there the road gets tough…real tough.

After all, you have to grow new leaves.

And shake off all those old bugs and dirt.

But who the heck ever said it was going to be easy?!

Just remember that Allah is the one who guides and protects.


Other last minute blaming:

Can we really expect our children and ourselves to grow up being perfect Muslims? College students have to apply the “first look is free” rule just to pass a day of fasting while attending classes, we are bombarded with advertising which give us unrealistic expectations of beauty and happiness through consumerism, and working in a corporate atmosphere leaves us dealing with daily issues that fall into the gray areas.


Although we can complain forever, we must offer solutions. I believe that those who were born and raised here and have been through the system can act  as surrogates to the void of counselors and role models.  Try being a big brother or big sisters to someone’s child by just taking them to hang out with someone older like yourself , volunteer your time as a youth coordinator in your masjid, be a sunday school teacher, give copies of “Mars and Venus Collide” to your married friends who are having issues, organize monthly dinners with Muslims at your company. As individuals we can do a lot more for our communites .  It is our responsibility to guide them back! It is our responsibility to reach out and pull some one out!


The reality is that we also need a permanent and individual solution. My individual solution is to lead everyone to Salat. Yes, Salat. This connection to Allah, this food for the soul and protection for the heart is what will protect you and guide you throughout your life. It is my personal belief that as parentshave the first obligation to make this act the most important aspect of the child’s life. Co-workers must encourage those they know are struggling to come and pray together, that maybe with some support the fear of the employer’s eye will not become an issue. In our personal lives, if we are not crying and reciting in the night then we do not and will never know love, protection from sin, a soft heart, cool sight, and a peaceful soul.


A Case Study: Non Hijabi? or Struggling Sister?


A natural continuation of SaqibSaab’s article….


A Muslim’s bond to his brother is sacred. He is forbidden from harming his brother, he is required to give him or her hospitality, to share his bed, his house and his food for at least three days. He is required to visit him when he is sick, bury him when he dies, and wish him peace and blessing when they meet. He covers his brother’s shortcomings and protects him from harm. His bond is such as can’t be found anywhere else in human life. It is love for the sake of Allah; it is the source of his humanity.


Many Muslims in America today don’t feel this sense of brotherhood or sisterhood.. Their fellow Muslims are turning them away from Islam. I will state that again: Muslims feel turned away by their fellow Muslims, and it is turning them away from Islam!


I know what you may be thinking, it’s arrogance. This is true, arrogance between Muslims does happen and sometimes it happens too much, but that’s not the main issue. We as Muslims, in an effort to do the right thing sometimes do the worst thing.  That is to say, we make other Muslims feel unwelcome, we turn them away. I will give you a small but strong example –  and if any women would like to correct me on this — feel free to write your comments please.


Hijabis vs. Non-Hijabis

On one side you have the Hijabis; lanterns of the religion, the ever persecuted and misunderstood. On the other side you have the rest of the world; the ones who don’t cover, or have yet to cover. The two have a very hard time getting past a certain depth of mutual cooperation and understanding with each other. In other words, they don’t get along. Let me explain why insha Allah.


The Hijab is a very, very hard thing to wear. It is a declaration of yourself, your faith, and your religion. In other words, it’s a hard thing to wear. But of course, women were not born with Hijabs; they had to put them on, and usually at that point of life when it’s the hardest. This is the time when your voices start to change, hair grows in places you’ve never dreamed, and in America and Europe dating becomes a factor of life. But you don’t date, in fact you don’t even talk to boys…in FACT you are so damn modest and considerate that you don’t want to activate that raging Y chromosome in the surrounding males by displaying all your flesh and hair, which seem to be so abundantly given to you. So you are shunned by your friends, you live your life as an outcast, and the only ones who you can turn to for support, who won’t laugh at your modesty, or persecute you for your faith, are the other Hijabis. So you’ll be damned if your going to let them go.

Now…the other perspective. You dress the way you want to dress, and it’s really not even that bad. You don’t show cleavage, you don’t wear shorts and your clothes are pretty loose. But every time you try and talk to that Hijabi she seems to just snuff you off; she has an air of untouchability, an unpleasant welcome that you used to get from other people back in high school when they were too cool for you. You try and hang, but she only hangs with her clique…she doesn’t like you…because you’re not covered.


So where does the problem originate? Is it arrogance?  That does indeed happen, but it may also be that these two people have a misunderstanding. You see, the Hijabi seeks security from the torment of the world and so consorts only with those who are Hijabis, who she knows will give her security and comfort. The non-hijabis feel like they are being turned away because they don’t feel like they can seek their comfort within the Hijabis. So the Hijabis feel outcast by the world and the world feels outcast by the Hijabis. This is quite a big problem.


Now Let’s go back to Qu’ran and Sunnah:


Surat Abasa:


“(The Prophet) frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man (interrupting).” (Qu’ran 80:1-2)


This Sura is well known. It’s an admonition from Allah to his Messenger, peace and blessing be upon him. A blind man interrupted the Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, as he was giving Da’wa to a pagan Quraishi leader. A man –whom if converted — would result in a great many of his tribesman becoming Muslim too.

Now imagine you’re on the phone with a potential employer. You’re telling him about all your amazing qualities and how utterly disastrous it would be for the company to be without you. Then you’re little brother comes in the room yelling: “Rami! Rami! Have you seen my notebook from school?!” You’d probably strangle him. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, just frowned and turned away.


“But what could tell thee but that perchance he might grow in purity? Or that he might receive admonition, and the reminder might profit him?” (Qu’ran 80:3-4)


The Prophet, peace and blessing be on him, was then instructed that the ones who are seeking knowledge might be of better use of that knowledge than the one to whom takes it with great effort. Like the one who is eager to attend class to learn and the one who goes just to get marked for attendance. Truly this was the case in this event. The blind man would become one of the most pious Muslims, a caller to prayer, a standard bearer in battle, and governor of Madinah.

Then Allah says (read this one carefully):


“As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient, to him dost thou attend; Though it is no blame to thee if he grow not in purity. But as to him who came to thee striving earnestly, and with fear (In his heart), of him wast thou unmindful. By no means (Should it be so)! For it is indeed a message of remembrance.” (Qu’ran 80:5-11)


There is a lesson in this for us. First, if you are spending your time giving Da’wa to people who don’t give two poops about Islam and disregard the brother passing by just looking for a salaam, then you’ve goofed up big time.


Second, if the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing be on him can make that mistake, I guarantee you that we have done the same. But unfortunately for us we don’t have the privilege of revelation; so if you are doing it then you probably don’t even know you are.


It happens everyday. You don’t believe me? Look at how many people attend lectures at our MSA’s. Now look at the number of Muslims attending the college. They don’t match do they? So what happens to all those disenfranchised Muslims? Why is it always the same old faces that show up?

N’uman Ibn Bashir (R.A.A) relates that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W) said: The Muslims in their mutual love, kindness and compassion, are like the human body. Where when one of its parts is in agony the entire body fells the pain, both in sleeplessness and fever.


Those who study well know that the deeds with the heaviest weight on the Day of Judgement is good manners. Manners deal with our interaction with society; it attracts people, opens their hearts, and causes further good to happen from small deeds. When we smile at a Muslim or say a kind word or a polite reminder will definitely go a longer way to helping him than simpy ignoring and shunning. An inspiring khutbah will have more of an impact on the listener than a critical one on the same subject. A good deed done to someone who someone who despises you can even make them into your best friend.


I would like to encourage all those who have read through this long essay to first forgive me for any shortcomings I may have in writing this. We can all act as beacons of guidance in some way to those we love and care about, those whom we see at work, school, or in the masjid . No matter what your faults, incorporate as part of your own growth strategy the growth of others. Believe me, nothing can be a source of inspiration,  motivation and learning than to try and help others.


May Allah grant us Humility and Humanity.


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Comments (8)

abu abdAllah, the Houstonian said:

bismillah. jazak Allah khayr for what will inshaAllah have been a very beneficial discussion.


all of us, no matter how much or how little we have progressed in our submission to Allah, should recognize that struggle is a good thing. the person who lives in a country where sin bombards him from every avenue outside his door (and inside his home, too, if he has a television) — if that person does not face any struggle to submit to Allah against shaytan and against his own nafs, then he has either (1) grown complacent or (2) died (spiritually or physically).


so recognizing that we all face an ongoing struggle and thanking Allah for whatever progress/ease He has permitted us should combine to increase compassion in us to other Muslims. each of us should seek refuge in remembrance of Allah: the next time you experience a desire to scold a Muslim, or frown at him, or belittle him, remember your own humanity and the Mercy of Allah towards you.


-December 17th, 2008 at 9:00 am

MM Associates (Author) said:

innalhamdolillah. bismillah. [link by abu abdAllah]


mashaAllah, Nouman has given some great lectures on this subject. here’s one currently on halaltube discussing ayat 16 of Surah Hadeed. i’ve got a video of another lecture discussing a different ayat, super-audio and video, mashaAllah, and i’ll post it if i get permission.


-December 17th, 2008 at 9:19 am

Amad (Author) said:

“Well, I wasn’t born with a kufi and beard!”


And to prove it, we have Rami’s photo from childhood (click on MM Associates author)!


Mashallah, this was a very deep and thoughtful article. One suggestion is to consider adding like a little summary at the top where people can see all the sub-topics in the post.


May Allah help us all.


-December 17th, 2008 at 10:17 am

Susan said:

Assalamu ‘Alaykum Brother Rami,


Ma sha Allaah. These words are pearls of wisdom. Please come to Andalusia School to talk to our High School students. They need to hear this from someone young and cool (not just us old folks). You have an open invitation and, in sha Allaah, we will see you soon.


Jazak Allaahu khairan.


-December 17th, 2008 at 12:34 pm

AnonyMouse said:

That was fantastic, jazakAllahu khairan.


-December 17th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

B said:

Good stuff mashallah  may Allah reward u


-December 17th, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Amy said:

This post is an excellent reminder, Jazakallah khair. I had one thought while I was reading, though–that the Qur’an truly is profound, yet the translation (Yusuf Ali, right?) seems to obfuscate the meaning with antiquated language (thee, thou, dost, perchance.) I would hate to think people would miss the depth and beauty of the ayah because they don’t understand the language… and Allah knows better.


-December 17th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Ibnkhalil said:

MashAllah a beautiful article.


I teach in an Islamic school and just recently I asked my students what is the number one challenge they face while in school. 75% of them said they face racism. I asked one of them to explain and she said ” They make fun of my scarf”. Another boy said, ” they make fun of me when I go pray”.


I was not ready to deal with this. When I heard this I was shocked. Now a child who is raised in such an environment will end up being apologetic about Islam and thus try to go far away from it. On the opposite he may actually take the time to learn it.


I have a few sugesstions for parents.

1. Build a solid foundation for the child from the get go. This means you must be practicing Islam in your daily life in order for them to know what importance islam holds. Praying in the masjid, taking them to the masjid, teaching them Quran, telling them a story from the seerah and expounding on it as a family etc. are just the many things you can do. Sadly, most parents bring them only to Sunday school to leave them ever more confused. I know a few muslims who are now agnostic or atheist. When I inquired further about their lifestyle growing up it became clear that their parents were not involved and used to just “throw” them in the Islamic schools. This is very important. This is our generation. This is the right of our children to teach them the deen.

2. Take them to Umrah or Hajj after 2-3 years so they can see what being a Muslim is really like. They will enjoy it and love it and ask you tons of questions which will further their knowledgebase and love for the religion.

3. Get them involved in the muslim community. Take them to lectures etc.

4. Celebrate Eid with them. Make it a point that you take the day off from work and have fun with them so they know Eid is about having fun.

5. Have them homeschooled if you can. This requires alot of effort from the mother and the father but this is your investment for the akhira so make sure you strive for it.

6. Try to reason with them and don’t shrug them off as is very common in some muslim cultures. They are living in the USA and they are trained to think and reason everything.


There are just some suggestions. May Allah make our children better then us and Guide us all!


-December 17th, 2008 at 3:22 pm

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