Real Men Cry

[Asma Ahmad is a Muslim American Social Worker who has been pursuing graduate studies in clinical Social Work and working with a state-certified batterer intervention program where she has had the opportunity to provide treatment and psycho-education to domestic violence offenders. Asma is also the Project Manager for Project Sakinah’s Northern Virginia chapter.]

Tears rolled down his face and drenched his beard as he cried. He cried in public and in private, setting an example for the men and women of his Ummah that the emotional manifestation of our internal states is a true sign of a connected soul. He cried from the fear of Allah, out of compassion for his followers, and in empathetic exchanges between his blessed companions. In studying the life of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), we see countless examples of times when he cried without hesitation, and yet today, the perception of crying in our communities and societies has turned into one of weakness and inferiority.

For men and boys in particular, our collective culture views crying as something incompatible with the idea of masculinity. The effects of this mindset are not only contrary to the practice of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), but they can have drastically negative impacts when it comes to the issue of family relationships, empathy, and anger. For Muslim parents, there is a need now more than ever to think critically about the values and perceptions children are developing in regards to what masculinity entails and what it means.

“Crying is for girls,” and “Real men don’t cry” are not uncommon messages we hear through today’s media outlets. Our children hear these messages in schools and from friends, but these skewed perceptions can be corrected if we take it upon ourselves to show them a different example, a real and humanistic example of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Among the negative ramifications of these ideas is that children do not develop proper emotion regulation skills and instead find other, often destructive means of expressing any pain or hurt they experience. They may feel that bottling their emotions and presenting an invincible image of themselves is a way to truly feel that they are worthy, valuable, and powerful. Over time, this can cripple any ability to relate to others compassionately, because all they have seen and heard has convinced them that hiding emotions is a sign of being masculine. Here, we must ask ourselves and our children to ponder deeply on the example of the man who was the strongest on the battlefield, the strongest in his iman, and highest in ranks before Allah, yet demonstrated compassion through his tears, his actions, and his words. We need to remind ourselves of the examples of our Messenger’s empathy towards people and his openness in expressing what he felt.

Building the muscles for compassion and emotional sensitivity should be at the forefront of any goals a parent has for teaching interpersonal skills to their children. When asked about the definition of compassion, most people say something along the lines of caring for another person and feeling what they are feeling. Teaching this concept to children can start at a very basic level where parents can help to instill in them a value of open communication and understanding their own emotions as they experience them, whether it’s joy, sadness, anger, irritation, etc. For younger children, this is a critical time when parents must decide between encouraging appropriate expression or limiting it depending on their response to the child’s emotions. The next level of developing compassion could include helping children to think about how and why the other person felt the way they did in the same situation, otherwise known as perspective-taking. In heated moments, children and adults alike can be blinded to the idea of what another person is feeling. Developing this skill is always going to be a work in progress, but at the earliest stage possible, children should be encouraged to consider what others are going through before following through with any reaction. One of reasons our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) was incredibly effective in problem-solving and conflict resolution is because he had an incredible capacity to think about others’ with respect to their situations and circumstances. Teaching children the next stage of problem-solving in difficult situations can be made easy by constantly reminding them to empathize with others before speaking and acting.

With the unfortunately increasing rates of bullying, violence, and abuse of all kinds in our society, there is no better option for parents seeking to raise compassionate children, than to return to the example of our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). He was the strongest in his faith and his actions for this deen, but this strength was coupled with humility. We cannot study the seerah without reading and learning about the Prophet’s crying, yet this sunnah is in constant need of revival, and it is upon the parents to be the primary educators and trainers in this regard.

10 Tips for the 10 Nights

The last blessed nights of Ramadan are upon us! Sadly, I have not been making the most of this Ramadan.
In between moving, work and running after my active tarzan toddler, I can’t seem to be very productive.  After talking with other moms, I guess they too feel the same frustration. I have  tried to compile some easy  ways in which we can try to make the most of these last few days/nights of Ramadan.

*Indicates things that can even be done when a woman can’t pray.

*1. Iftar: When preparing Iftar, make a little more and drop it off at the masjid.  The people sitting in itikaaf or spending the night in Qiyam-ul-layl can have food to munch on.  You can even leave energetic food items such as gatorade, granola bars and fruits to give them the energy to spend the night in ibadah.  For suhoor: You can buy breakfast items such as bread, butter, juice and bagels and leave them in the refrigerator in the masjid.

*2. Bathing Every Night: Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabari mentioned that of the Salaf who used to encourage bathing every night of the last ten nights of Ramadan, and Ibrāhīm al-Nakha’i was among those who bathed every night. Others used to bathe on those nights which they expected was laylat’l-qadr. It was reported that Anas b. Mālik would bathe, apply perfume and dress in his finest on the night of the 24th of Ramadan and every night. Ayyūb al-Sukhtiyāni would bathe on the nights of the 23rd and 24th and wear new clothes for these nights and fragrance himself with incense. It was also transmitted that Thābit al-Banāni and Hamid al-Tawil would dress in their best and apply fragrance during these ten nights.

*3.  Clean-up: Depending on your children, if you can manage to go to the masjid during the day then try to do a quick clean up of the musallah, hallways and bathroom.  Usually during this time the bathrooms are trashed, so it would be a big help to just throw away any paper towels or tissues.  On that note, it may even be a good idea to donate bottles of soap, paper towels or tissue.  Not all masjids are good about refilling, therefore us spending a few dollars can go a long way.

*4. Quran: Either before or after Fajr is a nice quiet time to sit and recite Quran.  Even during the day you can play the Quran while performing other tasks.

5. Sunnah or Nafil prayers: This may be easier to do since a person can pray before or after the obligatory prayers. Narrated by Muslim, “A house will be built in paradise for every Muslim who offers twelve Rak’ah of optional salah other than the obligatory salah in day and night, to seek pleasure of Allah.” Here is a source on the excellence of praying Sunnah.http://islamqa.info/en/ref/12844

6. Tahajjud: All it takes is 5 minutes (depending on the Surah), just get up 5 minutes before and do Tahajjud.  Abu Hurayrah (RA), related that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: When the last one-third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One descends towards the heaven of the earth & proclaims: Who is that who supplicates for Me, & I grant his supplication? Who is that who begs Me for anything & I grant it to him? And who is that who seeks My forgiveness, & I forgive him? (Bukhari, Muslim).

7. Qiyam ul Layl: Spending the night in worship, If you can manage to squeeze in a nap during the day then do so that way you can have some energy to stay up at least even a portion of the night.  What works for me is to let my child watch television while I take a quick power nap on the couch.

*8. Adhan: download the adhan apps or listen to it on youtube (at the designated prayer times) and repeat the adhan and make du’a between the adhaan and iqaama. Duah during this time is not rejected.

9. Tahiyyatul Wudu – 2 Raka’ahs Sunnah after doing Wudu (Ablution)
Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) saying to Bilal (RA): “Tell me about the best of your deeds (i.e. one which you deem the most rewarding) since your embracing Islam because I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise.” Bilal (RA) replied: “I do not consider any act of mine more rewarding than that whenever I make ablution at any time of night or day, I perform Prayer for as much as was destined for me to do.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)”

*10. Dhikr: As mention in a previous post, reciting these short words are extremely beneficial.
1. Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee – Recite this abundantly during the last ten nights of Ramadan.
2. Subhaanallah
3. Alhamdulillah
4. Allahu Akbar
5. Laa ilaaha illallah
6. LA HAWLA WA LA QUWWATA ILLA BILLAH-HIL ALIYYIL ADHEEM
7. AstaghfurAllah

You can even print out the Ramadhaan Planner to plan your time effectively.

May Allah SWT accept our fasts and good deeds Ameen

Something to be active about….