Five Tips On On How To Forgive Someone | By Nabi Raza Abidi

Five Tips On On How To Forgive Someone | By Nabi Raza Abidi

Resentment in the remembrance of wrongs is destructive to our souls. Here are fight tips on how to forgive those who have wronged you.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

There is nothing more destructive to your soul, iman (faith) and your spirituality than the constant remembrance of wrongs that were done to you by someone. And by this, I mean the inability to forgive someone and the build up resentment. As I said in a previous article, forgiveness is not forgetting what a person did to you (that is almost impossible), forgiveness is not having resentment towards them.

The remembrance of wrongs is the poisonous fruit of unhealed anger. The remembrance of wrongs results in lingering resentment and often enough, it opens the doors to other sins. I have often observed that when people remember wrongs, they are prone to slander, gossip, listening to haram music, and commit other sins, small or great.

The constant remembering of the wrongs that others did to you contradicts what we seek from God for ourselves. As the Prophet (s) taught us to say in the following dua: اغْفِرْ لَنَا حُوبَنَا وَخَطَايَانَا أَنْتَ رَبُّ الطَّيِّبِينَ ” Forgive us our sins and trespasses, You are the Lord of the good folk.” If we want God to forgive us our sins, we must forgive the sins of others. As the Prophet (s) said: من لا يَرحم لا يُرحم “the one who does not show mercy shall not be shown mercy [by God”.

Unfortunately, the remembrance of wrongs is just as common among religious people as it is with irreligious people.

Here are some tips to fight the remembrance of wrongs done to you:

1) Remember your own sins and how you wish God to forgive you.

2) Remember how other people have forgiven you for the wrongs you have done to them. I’m sure you can think of a few! Then think of your own hypocrisy in remembering the wrongs of another.

3) Ask the person who has wronged you for forgiveness, and be the first to say sorry even if you are not guilty. Also, try to teach others about forgiving others when they have been wronged. In this way, you may feel like a hypocrite and your “self” may try to reshape itself so that it can forgive.

4) Every time you remember the wrongs a person has done to you, ask God to forgive you for your sins.

5) Finally and most importantly, tell God about your weakness and inability to forgive. Ask Him to help you and grant you the transformative grace needed to heal the spiritual sickness within you and allow you to truly forgive the person who has wronged you.

True forgiveness does not happen all of a sudden. It is a long and difficult process and happens one step at a time. So do not despair if you still having some resentment left in you. Here is an interesting point: the true sign of whether or not you have forgiven a person is when a calamity befalls that person and you feel pity for him or her.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California

Developing A Real Relationship With God Takes Time

Developing A Real Relationship With God Takes Time

Real faith is not believing in God’s existence, it is building a relationship with Him.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

I’ve been at the SABA Islamic center for around two decades now. As I grow older, I find myself becoming more sympathetic to the challenges young people face, more so than I did two decades ago.

It is not rare that I receive grieving parents in my office who are upset that their teenage or young adult children have become atheists. Not only do they feel a sense of betrayal, but they also worry about the dangers of damnation in the Hereafter.

Now obviously doubting the existence of God is not a good thing and carries with it many spiritual dangers, however, I cannot deny that these doubts are part of the process of building a relationship with God. If we simply feign belief in God, or just go about carrying out the outward motions prescribed by our religion but forgo the importance of seeking a real relationship with Him, we might as well be atheists. Think about it, the Devil firmly believes in God’s existence but he has no relationship with Him. In this sense, how valuable is his belief in Him? In fact, we may say that an atheist can be better than him.

Most young people struggle with religious questions. I tell parents that this is part of relationship building. It is important to be honest than to pretend that all is ok with our īman (faith) when it really is not. It is important to sit with scholars, join the community and not give up on discovering who God really is as taught to us by the Ahl al-Bayt (as). Many atheists whom I have met reject a false image of God whom I also reject for it is not the God of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as), it is one concocted by an unsophisticated theology.

If we are to have a real personal relationship with Allah (swt), we must be sincere, open and honest. We must not be afraid of doubts or to question. God wants a real relationship, not a feigned one. Just like a successful marriage is based on overcoming struggles and grounding trust over time through trials, struggles and doubts, our relationship with God is also something that builds over time and requires struggle. Like all good and lasting relationships, it brings about peace of heart.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California

Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Have A Relationship?

Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Have A Relationship?

Winning an argument does not solve your problems in marriage, it often creates resentment.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

Do you want to be right or do you want to have a relationship? Being “right” in a marriage is different than solving your problems. Often enough, winning an argument in a marriage comes at the cost of instilling resentment in the one who lost the argument thereby deteriorating the relationship further. It also doesn’t stop the argument because the fundamental problem between the spouses is reiterated through time, meaning that once one argument is done, another one starts where a never ending supply of tensions throughout the years are brought forth again and again.

You will notice that once you solve a major problem in your relationship, a whole host or set of arguments will stop and you will no longer need to be right anymore. The way you solve a problem is not through comparison or moral judgments, but through negotiation and compromise both of which require empathetic listening. Cultivating empathy and seeing things from your spouse’s perspective is VERY difficult, but one method I’ve seen work is trying to listen and frame your spouses needs or wants in your own words. You would be surprised at how it has its way of making you understand the other perspective. You may not get there fully, but it is highly likely that you will come out understanding and sympathizing with your spouse a little bit better than you did before. This is the first step of in showing mercy to your spouse and repairing years of damage that both sides have wrought.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California

The Dangers Of Taking Gender Mixing (Ikhtilāṭ) Lightly

The Dangers Of Taking Gender Mixing (Ikhtilāṭ) Lightly

Risky gender mixing (ikhtilāṭ) is the doorway to most sexual sins, prevention is  better than the cure.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

The Qu’ran says that the purpose of our existence is to worship Him. Worship, or ʿibādah is just another word for submitting our hearts to Him. Reaching union with God is a destination we much reach, but like any destination, we require a map or a set of guidelines. The guidelines Allah (swt) has given us are both individual and societal. How we interact socially directly bears a consequence on the state of our souls. This is especially true when it comes to relationships with the opposite gender. If these relationships are in line with the guidelines set forth by God, then we are on the right path to salvation. However, if they do not follow these guidelines, then we may be setting our souls for trouble.

Remember that humans are social beings. The spiritual heart is not nurtured in isolation, but in a social context. A quintessential part of spiritual success is being in a spiritually healthy society and this cannot happen without healthy gender relations. For families and communities to be spiritually successful, proper gender guidelines as set forth by Allah (swt) must be observed.

Despite all its faults, the Muslim community in America is good role model for non-Muslim Americans. Some surveyshave shown that Muslims are some of the least likely faith groups to be unfaithful to their spouses. Studies have also shown that non-Muslims who live with Muslim neighbors in the United States end up becoming more conservative. As such, we have much to be proud of.

Just because the community can be a positive role model when it comes to sexual morality, it does not mean that it is devoid of challenges. A particular thorny issue that is regularly comes up in discussion circles the problem of ikhtilāṭ. The fact that the issue does get raised is a very positive sign as it shows that Muslims still hold fast to Islamic values even in the most difficult of ages.

So let us begin with the challenge of ikhtilāṭ. It is inevitable that ikhtilāṭ or gender mixing between non-mahrams(people whom one is generally allowed to marry) at one point will happen. Whether this happens in a school, work or family setting, its occurrence is almost impossible to avoid. Even Muslim scholars of the most conservative type agree that such mixing is inevitable at some point if a person is to live a social life. Just because it is inevitable it does not mean that the rules and boundaries (ḥudūd) of the Sharīʿa are to be dismissed or ignored.

We know that it is problematic in the Sharīʿa to stare at the opposite sex, touch, flirt, sit in a seat that still has the other’s warmth in it etc.

Although many Muslims are of upright moral character, premarital and extramarital affairs – and outright zinā (illicit intercourse) – are still happening in Muslim communities unfortunately. There are Muslim husbands and wives that are being unfaithful to one another. But this isn’t happening in one shot, it is a gradual process that develops into outright sinful behavior and the destruction of one’s marriage over a longer period of time. In other words, it is a path to spiritual and social destruction that one takes in a gradual, step by step manner.

The Qur’an says:

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا

And do not commit zinā for, behold, it is an abomination and an evil path (Qur’an, 17:32)

Notice that the verse does not say “beware” of zinā, it says do not “approach” zinā because it is a “path”. This means that it is something which we can gradually slip into whilst being unaware that the process is unfolding step-by-step. The verse also suggests that some sins are easier to fall into than others, and it is clearly the case that zinā is one of them.

Allāmah Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī writes the commentary on the above verse:

أنه سبيل سي‏ء يؤدي إلى فساد المجتمع في جميع شئونه حتى ينحل عقده و يختل نظامه و فيه هلاك الإنسانية

It is an evil path that leads to social decay in all manners until it disrupts its order and in this is the destruction of humankind.

See Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, 20 vols. (Qum: Daftar-i Intishārāt-i Islāmī-i Jāmiʿah-yi Mudarrisīn-i Ḥawzah-yi ʿIlmīyah-yi Qum, 1417/1996-1997]), XIII, 85.

The act of zinā is not just an individual problem, but a social disease that spreads and pulls others unto its slippery path, the culmination of which is the downfall of humanity. As Allāmah’s statement makes it clear, this is not just a hyperbole or an exaggeration, but a literal truth as to the outcome of sexual immorality. The question here is that if zinā is a path, where does this path start from?

The path first begins in our minds, and then gradually manifests itself in the form of ikhtilāṭ, that is, mixing of non-mahrams. It begins with a look, then a casual conversation, and then flirting, and then accidental touching, and then purposeful touching, and eventually zinā. Then it leads to the breakdown of marriage, and then the family, and then it leads to the breakdown of children, and then breakdown of the community and finally it leads to the breakdown of human society. If gender segregation is promoted in Islamic centers, that is because there is a potential risk that is trying to be averted and I am proud that most Muslim communities still value and adhere to these Islamic principles.

Now it may come to the reader that the above slippery slope is an exaggeration, but let’s look at it more deeply. How many social interactions involve overt friendliness, how much of it ends up in flirtation from time to time? Does this interaction lead to inappropriate and sometimes haram behavior?

Think of the widespread practice of zinā in the West which we live in. In 2015, 40.3% of births are to unwed single mothers in the U.S, meaning that there were 1,601,527 births in 2015 to single unwed mothers (if you include cohabitation without marriage, the figure is about 58%). Compare this to around 26% in 1970. See below for the National Vital Statistics Report taken from the CDC:

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The Encyclopedia of Psychology states that about 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce. More disturbing is that roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals in the United States will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage (see Buss, D. M., & Shackelford T. K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity in the first year of marriage. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193-221.) Many of these divorces can be attributed to infidelity. According to the National Opinion Research’s General Social Survey, American wives were nearly 40% more likely to cheat on their spouses in 2010 than in 1990 meaning that now women are cheating 70% as often as men do. This last statistic is very relevant as the increase is directly proportional to the increase in ikhtilāṭ in the expanding economy and its workforce.

Furthermore, about 2-3% of all children in the U.S are the product of infidelity (see Anderson, K. G. (2006). How well does paternity confidence match actual paternity? Evidence from worldwide nonpaternity rates. Current Anthropology 48, in press.)

We know that children born to single mother households are more likely to enter crime, do poorly in school, use drugs and develop some form of mental illness. Most Muslim Americans are aware that there is a social crisis going on in the world, particularly in their home country. They are also aware that there are many factors that contribute to this crisis and not just a single one. However, it is safe to say that the primary contributor to this crisis is problematic gender mixing or ikhtilāṭ without which none of the above could happen. Ikhtilāṭ is thus the entry door for this social crisis.

Now, there are some who may argue that we must fear God and be responsible for ourselves if we are to prevent such sins in our lives. It is said that people need to learn to control themselves and that the community in general cannot be punished because a few individuals cannot control themselves. I think that these are legitimate points and are to be respected, but it is also important to consider the following three points:

1. The sharīʿa is clear that sinful gender mixing, or opportunities that clearly lead to sinful gender mixing is ḥarām. Whether a person controls himself or herself is irrelevant from a Sharʿī perspective. Such mixing is forbidden and to defy the rule is an act of disobedience.

2. Even if a person does not act out the ḥarāmikhtilāṭ can nevertheless pollute the human heart and soul through the arousal of desires (shahwah) and the imagination (khiyāl).

3. Other than the special elect of God (such as prophets, the fourteen Maʿsūmīn) no one is immune to sin or mistakes. Even the strongest and most confident of believers have fallen into sin. Taqwā is not just avoiding sin, but it is an awareness that one can never be too careful. It is a form of humility (khushūʿ) acknowledging one’s own weakness. Unfortunately, this is the nature of sin and gender mixing may have a strong pull in bogging a person down into sin.

As such, casual intermixing and socializing with the other gender is problematic. Yes, there are many situations in which there aren’t clear cut haram or halal answers when socializing is involved, but one cannot assume that this means that ikhtilāṭ is ok according to the Sharīʿa.

In conclusion, avoiding ikhtilāṭ is a marker of īmān and taqwā. It is not only to be practiced in clear cases of harām, but also in situations that may reasonably lead to inward pollution or outward sin. As Muslims, our task is not simply to correct sins that have already been committed, but to nip potential sins at the bud and do our outmost to prevent a sin rather than cure it. Al hamdulilah, I am proud that the Muslim community has taken steps to retain its values, and by the will of Allah (swt) they will get better as the generations progress.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California

When Intimacy After Kids Goes Downhill And What To Do About It

When Intimacy After Kids Goes Downhill And What To Do About It

Kids are draining and if we don’t handle the situation the right way the first thing to suffer will be the intimacy in your marriage.

By Maulana Nabi Raza Abidi

After children, I see many couples drifting apart where distance, coldness and lack of intimacy becomes a normal part of life. In our community, the husband will work much of the time and the wife will spend her free time taking care of needy and demanding children, often in addition to her own job. The process, especially after a few years (yes, it takes time for kids to grow up!) ends up draining both. By spending less quality alone time with each other (watching TV together is not quality time!) they eventually drift apart into their own bubbles thereby killing any inclination towards intimacy.

Sometimes one of the spouses will try to remedy the problem through complaining. Although the concerns are legitimate and couples should know their marital responsibilities in Islam, this type of approach can sometimes be counter-productive as it may come across as nagging/complaining thereby widening the relationship gap, or making any forced closeness or fulfillment of duties bitter and chore-like.

Relationships and intimacy grow through one key ingredient: spending quality time together. Quality time means communicating with each other and not silently looking at the screen. It means sharing your thoughts, emotions, interests, advice and trying to enjoy each other’s company.

The challenge of the modern times is that our main competitor when it comes to getting our spouse’s attention is the screen (smartphone, tablet, TV, laptop etc.). If you fight and try to take your spouse away from the screen you will only bring about resentment. You need to be tactical and smart. Find what your spouse finds interesting and use that as a means to spending time with him/her. Let the spark start and your spouse is likely to want more. Once you begin having regular and meaningful hangouts with your spouse, the stress of life will become less and your bond will slowly but most likely begin to rekindle again thereby reestablishing intimacy once more.

As I said in my previous article, we all need to be patient. We are not dealing with machines but with complex emotional human beings that are full of contradictions. One day things will go well, other days things will go bad no matter what you do. The key here is patience and persistence and eventually your spouse will begin to come around more regularly. What will happen is that you will get more good days and less bad days but that doesn’t mean the bad days will go away, that’s the reality of human beings. Just like you are not always in a good mood, you can’t always expect your spouse to be the same. Part of the package of heaven is having to deal with living in a broken world for a few years and that broken world doesn’t always make us happy.

So learn to spend quality time with each other. At the beginning it may not be an hour, it may be 30 minutes or 15 minutes, but those minutes will make a difference if pursued consistently. Learn what your spouse likes, learn his or her dreams and try to fulfill them, but it doesn’t need to be complicated like that. You can simply pick your spouse’s favorite restaurant and have someone take care of your kids for you for 2 hours. You don’t need to do this every week, you can do this once a month and even that once a month will have a significant impact on the quality of your relationship and may encourage both you to hang out more often. What this will do is put points into your relationship’s positive emotional bank account. The more points this bank account has, the more often you will find intimacy in your relationship and the less intense your fights will become.

Now if you feel guilty that your abandoning your kids you are wrong. Who do you benefits the most from a healthy marriage? You guess it, your children. Your children benefit more from attention paid between husband and wife than parent and child because there is nothing like a strong healthy marriage to ground kids in the world and give them the self-esteem, love and sense of security they need.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California

Fixing Your Marriage Is Like A Bumper Car, Not A Train

Fixing Your Marriage Is Like A Bumper Car, Not A Train

People fail to fix their marriages because they are perfectionists. Martial reform happens incrementally with lots of bumps on the road.

By Nabi Raza Abidi

Success in fixing marriage tensions does not come all of a sudden; it is achieved incrementally. After having counseled countless couples at the SABA center and beyond, I’ve come to realize that many of the relationships that end up breaking apart do not do so because they are hopeless (and indeed some can become hopeless due to mental illness, substance abuse, malevolence etc.) but because they have unrealistic expectations of what success is and how it is achieved. In short, they fall prey to the disease of perfectionism.

Human life is complex because relationships are complex. We think that achieving marital success a bit like taking the train across country: you start from point A and eventually land in point B after a relatively smooth ride. But this is a cardinal mistake and a corrosive way of approaching marital reform. Improving your marriage is like driving a bumper car. Somedays you will go around the track without a problem at an ideal speed, at other times some unforeseen disastrous thing will slam into your side, and at other times you will be stuck in a cluster of other bumper cars and you will feel like you just took a few steps back. A train moves forward perfectly, a bumper car moves forward imperfectly.

What happens with perfectionism is that people become impatient and discouraged. They either do not see the results they want, or they don’t see them fast enough. They feel that stagnation or even regression means hopelessness. As such, they are chronic starters when it comes to fixing their marriage but they do not have the patience to finish the job.

So what should you expect while trying to work on your marriage? You should expect your past problems to repeat themselves. You should expect that unexpected events will slam you on the side and temporarily debilitate you. You should expect promises to be broken. You should expect moments of discouragement and even despair. You should expect the outcomes of your efforts to only partially be successful. Above all, you should expect even partial resolution to take a long time.

Remember: success is gained incrementally. When you take marital advice, you must follow it until its finish. We are all chronic starters but we aren’t consistent finishers. Do not set grand goals for marital success. Set yourself very small goals and try to finish them. Your marriage’s success is not the achievement of one large goal, but the finishing of a series of small goals you set for your relationship.

The elephant in the room: avoid trying to fix your spouse directly; that will not happen and it will lead to resistance. The way you fix others is by fixing yourself. Some people realize this yet they only temporarily work on themselves and suddenly start looking down on their spouses and wonder why they aren’t getting better. Like children, we don’t do what people say, we imitate other people’s spiritual states and demeanors. If your kind, loving, forgiving, eventually it will rob off on your spouse (at least in most cases). The problem is that people do not realize their own shortcomings, they always think that they are upright. A true mumin is able to see his or her faults and acknowledge the depth of his or her sin, the sign of a person who is not doing well spiritually is a person who is incapable of seeing himself or herself as the greatest sinner. Yes, in our duas we may admit our mistakes, but that’s often lip service. True self-reform comes from a visceral realization of one’s own sin and shortcomings and laying the problem in our environments first and foremost in ourselves.

When the Prophet Musa (as) (Moses) saw the political and social injustices done to people in Egypt, the first thing he did was blame himself: “O my Sustainer! Verily, I have sinned against myself! Grant me, then, Thy forgiveness!” And He forgave him – for, verily, He alone is truly-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.” (Quran: 28: 15-16). Despite the fact that it was Musa (as) who was the victim of social injustice and hypocrisy, he nevertheless lay the blame in himself and sought his Lord’s forgiveness. It is the act of seeing laying the blame on himself first and seeking God’s forgiveness that allowed him to overthrow an empire and reform a whole nation.

It may be asked, wasn’t Musa (as) infallible? Indeed he was, but out of humility and acknowledging that he was on the same boat as everyone, he could not criticize others before criticizing himself. This act of humility is what gave him sufficient grace to carry out the divine project of social reform. Like Musa (as), you and your spouse are in the same boat; harming one will harm the other. In order to get sufficient grace to fix your marriage, you must learn humility and criticize yourself first and foremost. You must embark on the path of reform yourself with humbleness and with that God will give you sufficient grace to transform your spouse as well.

Waʿlaikum as-Salam,
Yours Faithfully
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California