Survivor’s Guilt

By J. Samia Mair

It was the first time my mother was attending a sisters’ Halaqah. Although she was not openly hostile to my reversion to Islam, she was not particularly thrilled either.

I don’t remember the topic of discussion on that day, but I will never forget my mother’s question at the end: “What does that mean for me as a Christian?” The Imam replied: “It means you are going to the Hellfire.”

I am not sure, if the world stopped for anyone else in the room, but I braced myself, waiting for my mother to react. Surprisingly, she responded with a pleasant ‘oh’. The Imam explained that it was his duty to tell her the truth about the Kuffar, and he elaborated on the unpleasant fate of all non-Muslims in the life-to-come.

I thought: “Are all my relatives going to the Hellfire?” I remembered my grandmother, who grew up in a small town, far removed from the teachings of Islam. She never complained about her life. She helped her neighbours and brought much joy to everybody. I thought about all her life and started feeling ‘survivor’s guilt’.

Survivor’s guilt has been defined as “a deep feeling of guilt experienced by those, who have survived some catastrophe that took the lives of others; derives in part from a feeling that they did not do enough to save the perished ones and in part from feelings of being unworthy.” That is basically how I felt. I could not understand, why I had been blessed with the light of Islam, but so many others had not.

I did not want to accept the Imam’s verdict on my mother’s fate and decided to find out other opinions about the topic. I found different responses from warnings of eternal suffering to promises of Paradise. An eleventh century scholar wrote that to be considered a Kafir, you need to be exposed to Islam and reject it. I felt like the Grim Reaper, bringing death to my family and friends by having exposed them to the Deen.

Eventually, I came across one of the clearest discussions by Shaikh Hamza Yusuf. Basing his discussion on some of the greatest Islamic scholars, he describes different types of disbelievers mentioned in the Quran, touching upon the difference between idolaters and disbelievers. Yusuf explains why only some disbelievers will remain in the Fire forever.

The operative phrase here is “those who have no excuse for their disbelief.” Imam Al-Ghazali indicates that those, who were truly unaware, may spend some time in the Hellfire, but they will eventually be showered in divine grace. The Quran refers to disbelief accompanied by certain characteristics that indicate the vile nature of those who knowingly and willfully reject the message. (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in “Who are the Disbelievers?” Seasons 2008 (Spring), Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 31-50)

I believe the Imam’s assessment of my mother’s destiny is not as certain as he had made us believe. I still worry about her and other non-Muslims. I cannot entirely shake off the feeling that if I were a better Muslim, they might revert as well.

Over the years, strong feelings of survivor’s guilt have subsided under the immense gratitude I feel for being brought to Islam. Instead of wondering why I am so blessed, I try to be a better Muslim and make Dua that those, whom I love, will also receive the same blessing.

May you and your loved ones all live in Islam and die in faith, and may you all meet Allah (swt) with a sound heart. Ameen.

Interview with Javeria Elahi – A Fashion Designer

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Interview with Javeria ElahiJaveria Elahi is a young, Muhajjbah student of fashion design at one of the private universities in Karachi. “Hiba” got in touch with her to know more about how she intends to pursue her chosen career.

It is very heart-warming to see that a young girl, observing the Islamic dress code, would be interested in the field of fashion. What was the initial response of the interviewers at your fashion school?

Surprisingly, there wasn’t any obvious response from the panel of interviewers to my getup during the time of my admission. However, I did get an apprehensive response from my fellow schoolmates-to-be present at the time of the interview.

I mean they had doubts about me getting the admission in a ‘fashion school’ with “Hijab-n-all.”

Have you had any difficulties with respect to your curriculum and stuff you are required to do to pass a particular course, for example, drawing illustrations, etc.?

No, not really, other than the fact that you feel a little guilty about doing something wrong, like drawing illustrations, which are a necessary part of my studies. They do help in bringing about a clear picture of my designs from a practical perspective. But, so far, it’s the only aspect of my BFD (Bachelors in Fashion Designing) program, which I feel is wrong and feel guilty about, and which I could easily shed with later on. Other than that, I am happy with everything so far. After all, how I use my education later on is what counts.

How have your classmates accepted you with your distinct ideology?

Well, I would say that they pretty much accept me as I was… I mean they act quite normally with me, as long as I don’t preach to them. However, there are a few others, who largely ignore me or act, as if I am not there.

Here I would like to add that I am not the only one wearing Abaya at my institute. There are a few others (very few), who also prefer this getup over trendy fashion – and the number is increasing, Masha’Allah.

Does it become lonely or do you feel isolated at any time or different from others in your class?

Yes, sometimes, although I generally try to be a part of what everyone is doing. However, at times my views differ from others on the basis of what’s right and what’s wrong.

For example, I don’t attend fashion shows (as a backstage helper), as others do to gain experience, because I don’t feel it is right, i.e., volunteering to help out the models and mixing with them. My parents don’t approve of it either. And, late nights are also one of the major reasons.

After graduating from your fashion school, do you see any limitations for yourself career-wise?

No, not really. Fashion is not only about short clothes and body exposure (as is generally perceived), it’s about creativity. It’s a very wide field – one can do a lot in this field within the Islamic perimeters.

Tell us about your future plans as a fashion designer, who intends to present novel ideas in the world of fashion.

As far as my future plans are concerned, I am interested in designing accessories and bed spreads, instead of clothes. We have a lot of designers coming into clothes line, but very few opt for designing accessories and stuff.

Any challenges you have or are facing presently?

No, not unlike what my other fellow students and friends are facing. For example, trying to meet deadlines for different assignments, working late nights, or many a times, working all night to complete them, and of course, there is a lot of clutter at home, for which you inevitably get scolded.

What message would you like to give out to the youth reading this article?

I would like to tell them that nothing is impossible. No field is good or bad; it’s about where you take it. Most importantly, Islamic teachings don’t stop or hinder you from progressing (as some people mistakenly think). One can do anything and everything successfully, within the perimeters set by Allah (swt).

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – 1

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Seven Habits

The Warm-up

Sean Covey did a great service writing his book titled “The 7 habits of highly effective teenagers!” I don’t care about the over two million copies sold. What engaged me was the truth and sincerity it held for a retired teenager such as me. If only I could have had this publication, while I was the impulsive, emotionally charged and blatantly smug teenager I was then. I wouldn’t have had so many regrets. Qadar’Allah! It’s never too late to learn a few good lessons in life for old disasters such as me. (Allah (swt) always pulls me out of despair.)

So, coming back to you! If you are anything like a regular teenager, you might be thinking any of the following:

  1. Here comes another lecture. I can surely skip this one.
  2. My set of trials is unique! How can anyone even come close to understanding them?
  3. Advice? I know better.
  4. I am what I am. Take it or leave it! Nobody is gonna change me.
  5. I’ll only give it a try if it works like a magic potion. No sweating involved!

Well, your suspicion and skepticism is respected. But you would agree that for anything to work for you, you need to give it a shot wholeheartedly. Otherwise, it’s just not fair to you or any strategy advised.

For teenagers, life is no more a play ground. In fact, it’s a jungle out there. You might be familiar with some of the struggles faced today globally by the youth. Believe me – you are not alone:

  • I feel as if I am tied to a clock. School, homework, friends, social commitments! It just goes on…
  • I am all the time reminded that if I were smarter, prettier, richer, I would be happier.
  • Nothing works for me. I just feel out of control.
  • My parents seem to nag about almost everything and just do not understand me.
  • I know I do stuff that I shouldn’t be doing, but I can’t say no to my friends.
  • I am overweight and have given up a million diet plans. I just don’t have the will power to change, though I want to!
  • I get moody and depressed every now and then.
  • I am afraid I can’t get the grades I need to get me into a decent university or college.

This is not a movie that ends after a bucket of popcorn. We are talking about real life here. And to handle real life challenges, we need a set of strong tools to help us deal with them effectively. Well, this is what Sean Covey offers. It has been briefly laid down here and is open to discussion in our upcoming issues in greater detail:

  1. Be proactive: It’s your life. Take responsibility for it. You owe it to yourself!
  2. Begin with the end in mind: Ask yourself: what is the mission and goal of my life?
  3. Put first things first: Be wise and prioritize. Begin with the most important things.
  4. Think win-win: Strive for universal success. It’s far more delightful to share triumph, rather than just bask in glory, in solitude.
  5. First, seek to understand; then, to be understood: Use your ears more often than your tongue. Listen to people sincerely.
  6. Synergize: Be a team player. Work together for greater achievements.
  7. Sharpen the saw: Renew and improvise on a regular basis. Constant learning is the greatest way of life!

Another Angle

Sean Covey’s diagram of a tree will aptly help you understand the power ofthe seven habits of highly effective teens

  • These habits build on one another. The first three habits that form the roots of the tree are related to victory on a personal basis. They deal with self mastery. Our plan of action must begin with private victory on a personal level.
  • The next three habits bring success in the public arena, forming the trunk of the tree. They are all about relationship building and team work.
  • The last habit, which represents the fruit and greenery of the tree, is the habit of renewal. This habit feeds all the other six habits.

The above mentioned habits are sequential in nature, and for optimum benefit must follow the sequence suggested by the author. Also, they might just seem ordinary, but in order to assess their real power, we can look at them from another angle. This will tell us, what these habits are not. So the following are the opposites – the reverse of an effective teenager!

Seven habits of highly defective teenagers:

Habit 1: React

This is like playing the blame game. When something goes wrong in life, blame the parents, teachers, relatives, neighbours, system, government, even strangers. Think like a victim, who has no control over anything, hence, take no responsibility. Act like an animal, who eats when hungry. Do wrong, in spite of knowing it is wrong.

Habit 2: Begin with no end in mind

Do not believe in a plan. Avoid goals at all costs. Live for the moment. Eat, drink, party, be merry, get wasted. Today is all that you have, and who has seen tomorrow? For tomorrow may never come. You just may die today. So make the most of it. Live for instant gratifications.

Habit 3: Put first things last

Whatever matters most, delay it as much as possible. Do stuff that can be done later, or better off not being done at all, such as chatting on the phone endlessly, watching TV like a couch potato, lounging around, etc. Always put off your homework until tomorrow, cram in studying for your exams right the night before.

Habit 4: Think win-lose

Always look at life as a vicious competition. Anyone, who even comes close to overtaking you in the rat race, is your staunch enemy. They are all out there to get you. Try to beat them, and if you can’t, try to drag them down with you. No one else should win at any cost.

Habit 5: Seek first to talk, and then pretend to listen

Consider taking your birth right. Always ensure that you dominate the conversation with anyone. Begin it and end it with you having the final say. Only after others have heard your views loud and clear, pretend to listen to them. While they talk, look distracted, nod occasionally not taking their views seriously.

Habit 6: Don’t cooperate

Be your own island. Worship your own ideas and think of others as weird, because they are different. Since they are different, what is the point of getting along with them? Do not believe in team work. That’s for the weak people, who wish to survive on other people’s creativity.

Habit 7: Wear yourself out

Be so occupied with your life, that you never find time to improve yourself. Do not believe in changing for the better. Don’t learn anything new. Avoid anything that may sound healthy for the body or inspiring for the soul. Stay away from exercise, good books, nature, etc.

As Abba Left to Meet his Rabb (swt)

Vol 6 - Issue 3 As abba leftMy father left this temporary world in his final journey on Friday, the 24th of Shaban, 1428 AH (September 7, 2007), by the will of Allah (swt).

Alhumdulillah that Allah (swt) gave us such a wonderful and amazing person as my father – generous, kind, wise, always forgiving and ready to accept his own faults – a man, who dearly loved Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa). Every time he went somewhere, he would bring something for me – Islamic books, copies of the Quran and Tafseer. Those are the gifts I cherish most of all. It is difficult to pick the best times – I owe something to him for every moment and all good things. He loved Fridays, and every Friday he would recite verses from Surah Al-Jumuah and explain (as he knew Arabic very well), how we must leave our worldly matters and rush towards Dhikr, when the call for Salah-ul-Jumuah is made. Alhamdulillah, he died on a Friday.

He was suffering from a painful and prolonged heart disease for about two years, yet Allah (swt) let him be mobile, mentally alert and independent till the end, for what He (swt) gave him was an unusual will power and a positive attitude.

Alhumdulillah, one of my sisters and I were with him, when he was leaving this world to meet Allah (swt). It is said in the Quran: “And it will be said: ‘Who can cure him and save him from death?’” (Al-Qiyamah 75:27) Shortly before he passed away, he asked: “Is there any medicine that can help me breathe comfortably?”

Allah’s (swt) Deen is the biggest Rahmah. One often realizes it when facing a trial. The Hadeeth which tells us that ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are from Shaitan is such a blessing; otherwise, we would keep going over what we could have done to save him. The Quran tells us that every trial and every joy is from Allah (swt). No one can benefit or harm us, unless He (swt) wills.

When a single thorn pierces a Mumin, only Allah’s (swt) mercy helps us wash away sins. Rasoolullah (sa) also suffered the pain of Naza, and we will also have to go through it.

We can hope to meet our father in Jannah, Insha’Allah, if Allah (swt) forgives us in His (swt) infinite mercy. We can help him with our Duas, Sadaqah and other good deeds that we perform as his children.

Although we have settled down and have a wonderful mother, we still experience sadness and emptiness like never before. Besides, Rasoolullah (sa) wept, when he lost his dear ones. This pain is only natural, and Sabr has its reward.

However, I am still thinking what I should have done. I am thinking about instances, when I failed in my duty as a daughter. It’s never enough, no matter what you do for your parents. When you lose someone, you suddenly grow up. You start realizing what you’ve lost – their quiet backing, support, selfless love and Duas – and you know nothing can ever replace that.

May Allah (swt) shower His Rahmah on our parents and forgive the Muslimeen, Ameen. Do remember Abba in your Duas.

Dear Haadia

Haadia

I have studied in co-education schools since the very beginning and have had friends among boys. I have started adoring one of my friends (among boys). He has expressed his wish to marry me. We are both eighteen. Is it Haram to wish to marry someone? Should I express my wish to my parents? I feel that it will be unacceptable to them and also to the society in general, as teen marriages are very rare. Please, help me.

Answer: My dear sister in Islam, from your questions I can sense, how distressed and pressurized you are feeling. Let’s try to rationalize the situation and see what marriage, which is a Sunnah of our Prophet (sa), encompasses.

As a young couple, you both should understand that marrying young comes with responsibilities and commitments. Are you both ready for that?

It is true that society does not readily accept early teen marriages. However, the question is: are there any valid reasons, which we tend to overlook, as marriage is a decision of great magnitude? The importance of learning Islam is paramount. Sometimes, without the balance of reason, our hearts can blind us, because when we see only through the heart, our emotions colour our vision of what is real and what is unreal, as well as what is suitable for our needs.

Remember that fornication is a serious issue. In Islam, it does not begin at the point of sexual intercourse. It starts much earlier – with the look, the spoken words, the touch and then the rest of the body. The Quran says: “And come not near to the unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is a Fahishah [i.e. anything that transgresses its limits (a great sin)], and an evil way (that leads one to Hell unless Allah forgives him).” (Al-Isra 17:32)

So there really is no excuse for relationships outside the domain of marriage. Now, let’s come to your questions.

Firstly, wishing to marry someone or marrying someone you wish to marry is not Haram, but how we do it is of great importance. In the name of adoring someone, Haram activities have to be avoided.

The consent of parents is also extremely important, and it is an Islamic requirement as well. This is because parents invariably know what is best for their children. In the context of male-female relationships, do remember that love should not be a means of satisfying carnal desires or material whims. Love should have a healthy atmosphere, where it can properly grow and be normally expressed – and for that, it should be covered by the protection of marriage, Islamic law and the consent of the family. The involvement of the family will help a lot in strengthening the marriage, because the choice of a partner is not based just on romantic notions; rather, the compatibility of the couple has been objectively analyzed. You will be spending the rest of your life with this man, raising a family, securing its future, facing joys and sorrows and aging together.

After marriage, you will have every right to enjoy each other’s affections, sheltered by the merciful umbrella of Nikah – a divine gift that Allah (swt) has established for loving souls. I recommend that your relationship should be in this light and with the blessings of both your families.

Sometimes, a trusted third party can help you to communicate with your parents; however, you yourself are the best judge of how to approach them. Remain calm through the difficult moments and do not forget to pray to Allah (swt) to make matters easy for you. Then, this man can propose to marry you, so that you can get betrothed to him.

And always, always remember to read the Quran every day and never neglect your obligatory prayers. Ask Allah (swt) for His help and ask Him to forgive you when you fail. With the help of Allah (swt) and your strong Iman (faith), you will overcome this difficulty, Insha’Allah.

Should you have any other questions, please, do not hesitate to write to me. May Allah (swt) always protect you and your family, Ameen.