Here comes a nerve racking step after you’ve secured your third-party messenger: contacting your prospective spouse from the MSA!
Previously in this series: Part 1 | Part 2| Part 3
Here comes a nerve racking step after you’ve secured your third-party messenger: contacting your prospective MSA spouse! You’ve done a lot of work to get here, congratulations on that. Get ready to hand the reins over to your third-party.
Using Your Third-Party Messenger to Make Contact
Now it’s time to inquire about your potential spouse in a few different steps. You simply ask the third-party you’ve chosen to get in touch with that individual and first ask them if they’re: 1-looking to get married and 2-available to talk to someone for marriage right now. If it’s a yes from that person, then you would ask your messenger to disclose your identity to that person. Then you’ll wait to hear if your prospective spouse is interested in talking to you specifically for marriage. This would imply they could potentially picture you as their spouse as well.
If Your MSA Potential Spouse Says No
If they’re not ready to get married, are talking to someone else, or are not interested in talking to you for marriage, that’s perfectly okay. For the first two instances, you may circle back and check on this person after some period of time through your third-party again. If they rejected you specifically, I’m sorry to hear that. You’ve probably been thinking about this person as your future spouse for some time now.
The worst part is that maybe they know that you “like them” now and you still may run into them through the MSA. It might be awkward, but you’ll figure out how to cope. Look at the bright side! You did a lot of work on yourself. Remember the day you went on a hike and sat on a bench and asked yourself all these intense questions? Not only that, you also faced your parents as an adult looking to get married…you grew into another stage of adulthood. Your parents may be disappointed or even unkind about this particular MSA person not working out. All the stuff you did and went through was really tough, important work. Honestly, it just stinks doesn’t it?
But it’s okay. In time the sting of this rejection will fade. Meanwhile, you can rejoice in the fact that you saved yourself from falling into a haram relationship. Major kudos to you!
Remember–the silver lining you’re looking at in this undesired outcome is that you progressed in your own life. You know you’re ready to get married and your family is supporting you. You’ve reached a new pinnacle in your life and insha’Allah, in time, you will be married to a great person.
This one rejection doesn’t have to stop your path towards getting married. Is there anyone else you or your family can think of that might be a good match for you? Are you ready to start exploring more options? Then go forward!
If Your MSA Love Says Yes: Planning for a Halal Courtship
If the person has expressed interest in talking to you–you’re allowed a few seconds for a touchdown dance and then a sajdah of shukr. You’ve cleared four steps now, my friend! One: getting yourself ready. Two: getting your family’s approval. Three: recruiting a third-party messenger to help you. Four: receiving the green-light to get to know the person you think you want to marry. Wow, look at you! And thank you, Allah!!
The next step would be to figure out some logistics of how you’ll get to know each other and determine whether or not you’d like to marry each other. Check with your family about their preferences and expectations for you in this process.
- Do they want to meet the person one-on-one with you?
- Do they want both families to meet?
- Do they think it’s fine for you to talk to this person over email for a certain length of time?
- Do they approve of you meeting this person without a chaperone for your initial talks?
Make a Decision: I Do or I Don’t
Go ahead and make a decision and let your third-party messenger know that this is your request on how the arrangement will work for the courtship to progress. Ask the messenger to find out the preferences of the other person and their family as well. If there are differences in expectations, you can have your third-party messenger mediate between you and your families. See, wasn’t it such a good idea to use an older, trusted person? They can be so useful on so many levels!
However you and your families decide to move forward, it’s important for the families on both sides to be involved in some way, shape, or form as you and your MSA beau get to know each other. I’d lastly advise you to keep a timeframe in mind of when you think you’d come to a final decision about each other. Is it a couple weeks of talking or a couple months? Maybe your family is okay with six months? Just make sure that you aren’t in a gray zone for too long. Firstly, you want to keep your relationship as halal as possible to maximize the blessings that your potential union brings. Secondly, if things don’t work out, you want to minimize the damage and heartbreak for both of you because going through this process and not moving forward towards marriage is somewhat akin to a breakup.
Conclusion and Summary of the Courtship Process
I pray your next steps forward, whatever they may be, are blessed and bring you happiness and comfort in the end. This suggested courtship process is meant to steer individuals who may have taken a liking to someone towards marriage and keep them from falling into haram relationships. Revisit parts 1, 2, and 3 for a review of all of the steps.
In Part 5, we’ll go through the good, bad, and ugly real-life stories I know of as case studies to help you learn a little more about courtships within MSA’s or MSA-like groups.
A Scintillating Secret To A Successful Marriage
How Can NewlyWeds Avoid the Pitfalls of Marriage? | Haleh Banani
The post Contacting Your Prospective MSA Spouse: You’ve Found “The One” In Your MSA [Part 4] appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
Source: Muslim Matters
It’s Muslim Bookstagram Awards season again!
The Muslim Bookstagram Awards (MBA) is an annual celebration of Muslim voices in publishing, from mainstream publishers, Islamic publishers, or authors who self-publish. Hosted by MuslimMatters.org and featuring a panel of well-known Muslimah reviewers from Bookstagram, the MBA takes in nominations before finally judging the entries and announcing the winners on MuslimMatters!
MuslimMatters is proud to host the Muslim Bookstagram Awards.
What is Muslim Bookstagram?
Muslim Bookstagram is the unofficial name for the niche space on Instagram where Muslim book lovers reside! It is a vibrant community of readers, writers, librarians, bookstore owners, and all those who are bookishly inclined. Book reviews are shared, new and old publications highlighted, and deep discussions about publishing, representation, and storytelling are had. Muslim Bookstagram has become both an amazing space for valuable conversations and a resource for Muslim parents, as well as anyone else interested in diverse, representative literature.
Who are the judges of the MBA 2022?
Amire is a Mechanical Drafter by trade and a reader by heart! Her meticulous nature helps her identify quality and assess books. Amire not only helps online viewers with selecting Islamic content but also curates books for her local masjid library. Her background in Islamic knowledge has made her an authentic resource for Muslim parents wanting authentic Islamic books. Follow her on Instagram: @muslimkidsbooknook
Shifa Saltagi Safadi is the author of three books published by Ruqaya’s Bookshelf and an Islamic book reviewer. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember, and in fact, graduated with a degree in English literature. Find her Islamic reviews of books, products, and more on Instagram: @muslimmommyblog
Kirin Nabi is a former Islamic School Librarian who now hosts (often virtual) story times for the local Islamic school as well as for the larger Muslim community at the masjid. She runs an Islamic middle school book club, stewards two little free libraries, and blogs about children’s and YA books by Muslim authors or books containing Muslim characters at www.islamicschoollibrarian.com. Find her on Instagram: @islamicschoollibrarian
Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women’s issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She also provides in-depth book reviews of Muslamic literature on her Instagram account, covering everything from YA and adult fiction, academic treatises, and Islamic religious literature. You can find her on Instagram (@bintyounus) and support her via Patreon.
Calling all Muslim authors, illustrators, and publishers!
Due to an overwhelming response last year, this year’s nominations will be restricted to Muslim authors, illustrators, and publishers. If you’ve written, illustrated, or published a Muslim-bookstagram-awards-worthy book, we want to know about it!
Written by a Muslim author
A Muslim story: The story must involve a clearly Muslim characters and at least some reference to elements of Islam.
Islamically appropriate: The story must not promote beliefs or actions which are clearly prohibited by Islam or go against Islamic values. This does NOT mean that characters don’t experience serious conflicts or go through challenges; it does mean that the final message should not be something that promotes unIslamic beliefs or actions (e.g. shirky beliefs, promoting LBGTQ relationships, praising zina).
Published between January-December 2022
English language: Unfortunately, we do not have the resources or ability to include non-English-language books.
Must be prepared to provide sample pages upon request
Must be prepared to provide complimentary physical copies to all 4 judges
Nominate Your Favorites!
Click here to nominate your favorite Muslim publication of 2022 for the Muslim Bookstagram Awards!
Nominations will close on October 1, 2022, and winners will be announced in January 2023! There’s not much time, so hurry to nominate your favorite titles today!
Support Our Sponsors!
To Be Announced
Muslim Bookstagram Awards: What Makes a Winning Story?
Muslim Bookstagram Awards: Interview with the Judges – Shifa Saltagi Safadi
Muslim Bookstagram Awards: A Chat With An Islamic School Librarian
Muslim Bookstagram Awards: Refugee Representation in Muslim Literature with MuslimKidsBookNook
Muslim Bookstagram Awards: A Glimpse Into Muslim Bookstagram with Zainab bint Younus
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Source: Muslim Matters
Being born Muslim and having a Muslim upbringing –however exceptional or flawed– sometimes gives us a sense comfort that we have guidance, therefore we are good. We know the drill well: pray 5 times daily, fast Ramadan, give to charity, dress modestly–usually exclusively told to women-, memorize a few ayaat and surahs, repeat some sweet supplications, watch popular YouTube lectures, and we are set.
Maybe at one point in our life that was sufficient, and we were getting what we needed. However, overtime we became comfortable, then complacent, and now we are in trouble. A companion of the Prophet named Umair ibn Habib said, “Iman increases and decreases.” It was said, “How does it increase and decrease?” Umayr said, “If we remember our Lord and fear him, it will increase. If we are heedless and we forget and we waste our time, it will decrease.”1 Furthermore, our imaan (faith/spirituality) fluctuating, is normal and at times painfully obvious, but it doesn’t mean the labor on our soul stops, and we abandon being diligent.
There’s bad news though; there’s a problem. There’s a threat, and we are in trouble. We have a crisis in spirituality, and the warnings should not be underestimated. It is no surprise to any of us the plethora of problems we witness in society today: from the individual level, to the family, to the community, and beyond. Although this reality may be anxiety inducing, do not be anxious and let’s not lose hope. There is also good news and there is a solution –a powerful one!
Remembering the Real Enemy
However, first we must acknowledge the truth and face a serious fact. Because lies and being in denial is poisonous, and the bane of our collective existence. The devil is real and he is our SWORN enemy–not just of Muslims, but of humanity. His obsession is to lead us all astray –by all and any means necessary– far from the path of God’s guidance and ultimately away from His Mercy. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Surely Satan is an enemy to you, so take him as an enemy. He only invites his followers to become inmates of the Blaze.” [Surat Fāţir: 35;6]
We need to understand that the devil is not dumb. He knows we are born sin-free and with the God-given innate knowledge of His Oneness. Abu Hurairah narrates from the Prophet that “no child is born except on true faith.”2
Depending on how and where we grow up, that knowledge either gets lost or strengthened. Regardless, the devil still has one job to do, and he won’t stop until he takes as many of us with him as possible. He knows our vices and exploits them; he is meticulous, patient, relentless, and sets all kinds of tailored and personalized traps for us.
But what’s the problem and why are we in trouble? The fact that we feel secure and we think we are safe –when in reality we are not. Living in the age of information, technology, and ever-changing ideologies, there’s a fierce competition for our unwavering attention, and frankly for our very being to be owned and controlled.
Being spiritually stagnant when everything and I mean EVERYTHING is being thrown at us is a dangerous place to be, and no longer an acceptable option –if we want to be saved that is. Nothing is spared from being corrupted. Just look at what’s in our food; we are being poisoned from the inside out, and that is not an exaggeration. Now think about all of the other things that have been corrupted and are damaging to our lives.
Furthermore, I’ve observed time and time again that there seems to be a growing obsession more with having the appearance of a Muslim rather than actually embodying what a Muslim is supposed to be. This overemphasis on appearance –whether done unintentionally or intentionally– and the abandonment of the true Muslim essence, has left us jaded. We’ve turned into shells. A Muslim shell. Holy on the outside and hollow on the inside.
A Sustainable Solution
So how do we move past being a Muslim shell? Good news! This is not a permanent state, and it is reversible. I mentioned earlier that there’s a solution and you already know it, but I’ll mention it anyway: It is the timeless guidance: The Qur’an. Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah:
“This is the Book! There is no doubt about it–a guide for those mindful of Allah.” [Surat Al-Baqarah: 2;2]
The same Qur’an Allah sent down to the beloved messenger Muhammad and transformed a corrupt and immoral society and brought about some of the best people to have ever lived; such as the family and companions of the Prophet , may Allah be please with them all. The same Qur’an that spread throughout the world and caused us to be guided by His mercy.
We know this, however so many of us have not internalized it fully. Allah is so merciful that He did not leave us hanging; rather He has armored us with His words of guidance and wisdom, and promised success to anyone who tries to live their lives directed by His guidance. It’s the right of every believer to have access to the meaning of the Qur’an, however it’s our responsibility to seek it. Allah repeats in Surah Al-Qamar:
“And We have certainly made the Quran easy to remember. So is there anyone who will be mindful?” [Surat Al-Qamar: 54;17]
Allah poses a question to each of us that we need to answer for ourselves.
Is it not the time to begin the work of building, filling, and nourishing our spirit with the Words of Allah and the teachings our beloved prophet Muhammad ? Isn’t it high time we move beyond being the shell of a Muslim and actually BE a Muslim? It’s no longer safe to be spiritually stagnant, because there are powerful forces –often sinister– that are working overtime to sell to us; but the question is: are we buying, and at what cost?
Practical Tips to Engage With Allah’s words
We are on different levels in our individual Qur’an journeys. Whether you are a beginner or you want to build a more consistent habit, start with the smallest amount of Qur’an you can handle every day. Even if it’s one ayah a day, or just a couple of lines a day. Listen to the recitation, recite along (if you are able to read the Arabic), and follow along with a translation. This way you are getting your ears used to hearing the Qur’an, and your tongue familiarized with the recitation, and your mind making connections with the meaning.
Start with the shorter surahs, or the surahs you recite frequently in your prayers. Pick the most oft-recited ayaat or surah that teaches us about the fundamental aspects of our faith. Choose one area to focus on –for example, Who is Allah ? Search for ayaat or surahs where Allah describes Himself; Surah Al-Ikhlas is the perfect example. Another way to keep it simple is by finding a translation that is easy to read and understand.
This tip is difficult to implement for me, but it is crucial. A hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah mentions that the Prophet said, “Take on only as much as you can do of good needs, for the best of deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little.”3 By staying consistent, you’ll notice your life transform. What helps me stay consistent is having visual cues or alerts on my phone to remind me to recite an ayah. There are quite a few Islamic and Qur’an apps that you can set up to send you a Qur’an reminder every day.
So as not to become stagnant, we must build on our progress. Once we’ve established a strong foundation and formed a solid habit of reciting/listening to a certain amount of Qur’an daily, let’s build on it. Let’s challenge ourselves to add more and more Qur’an every day so we do not spiritually plateau.
Most importantly, ask Allah to make it easy for you. Ask Allah to remove the locks in your heart. Ask Allah for you to be able to receive His message wholeheartedly. Ask Allah to protect us from the whispers of the devil. Ask Allah to remove any lingering and subtle doubts. Ask Allah to help you gain the guidance you need. Ask Allah for sincerity. Ask Allah to unlock for you the treasures and wisdom contained in His book. Ask Allah to make the Qur’an a source of peace, healing, and a means of purification for you. Ask Allah to help you understand and to make the Qur’an clear for you. Keep asking and asking. Allah will answer your dua’ as he promised in the Quran:
“When My servants ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about Me: I am truly near. I respond to one’s prayer when they call upon Me. So let them respond ˹with obedience˺ to Me and believe in Me, perhaps they will be guided ˹to the Right Way˺.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;186]
To bring it all together, practical tips I personally use to try to engage with the Qur’an daily is to: start small, keep it simple, be consistent, build on it, and -lastly and very important– make dua’! I ask Allah to guide us, keep us guided, and help elevate us spiritually.
– Making Sense Of The Quran Through Journaling
Making Sense Of The Quran Through Journaling
1 [Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, 55]
The post More Than A Muslim Shell – How To Break Free From Spiritual Complacency appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
Source: Muslim Matters
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Ever heard the saying “when you’re hurt, I’m hurt”? No doubt the person saying this means well, however, it reinforces poor boundaries and misses the point of empathy entirely. We are often mistakenly taught that to care for others means bearing their burden, absorbing their feelings, rescuing them from their pain, or fixing their personality. But none of these constitute empathy.
Allah urges us to avoid extremes and follow a balanced middle path. He mentions,
“Say, ‘O People of the Book! Do not go to extremes in your faith beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of those who went astray before ˹you˺. They misled many and strayed from the Right Way.’” [Surah Al-Mā’idah: 5;77]
He also discourages Muslims from loving and caring too much or too less,
“..and they are truly extreme in their love of ˹worldly˺ gains.” [Surah Al-`Ādiyāt: 100;8]
As a Muslim therapist, I often see individuals who define themselves or others by extremes as those who care too much (the selfless empath), or those who care too little (the selfish narcissist). The truth is, when we experience reality in black and white, we neglect seeing the full spectrum based on reality, and therefore live lives out of balance. We care inappropriately and out of moderation, and that harms our well-being and our relationships.
When our loved ones face a challenge or a difficult situation, they typically aren’t looking for a magic response or quick solution. They may be looking for someone who understands their feelings and helps them feel like they aren’t alone in solving the problem. They are looking for connection, and that’s what empathy is all about.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the way we connect to the emotion another person is experiencing, and let them know that they are not alone in their struggle. Empathy requires us to recall or reflect on feelings that are uncomfortable -such as frustration, helplessness, guilt, or shame-, and try to take that perspective with another person. Empathy is about recognizing a feeling enough to be able to identify it as if it were our own without making it our own problem.
I like to look at empathy as if we are taking a small bite of another person’s feeling, not an entire truckload, and chewing on it to see if we remember its taste, identifying it, and sharing our experience with another. In essence: empathy is presence, “It is being in the present moment with another human being feeling into their experience.”1
There are two main types of empathy:
- Cognitive empathy. This a type of empathy that requires taking the perspective of another person as an attempt to relate to them.2 With cognitive empathy, you are trying to place yourself in someone else’s situation to gain a better understanding of their experience.
- Emotional empathy. This however, requires us to feel how the other person is feeling. For example, you feel happy when your partner is happy. Emotional empathy3 is when we:
- Feel the same emotion as the other person
- Feel our own distress in response to their pain
- Feel compassion toward the other person
Therefore, a person who practices emotional empathy is more likely to not just relate, but help another person in need.
What Empathy IS NOT
– Empathy is not carrying a burden.
Empathy is often misunderstood as carrying the emotional burdens of others. Many people believe that caring for others requires us to feel all of another’s emotions, and merge with that person’s experience (which is impossible because we can never share the same exact experiences at the same time). Empathy is more like saying “It seems you’re hurt by this”.
– Empathy is not rescuing someone from their experience.
“If I could, I would fix it for you”. We often believe that caring means rescuing another person from a problem. When we do this we rob others of the opportunity to feel a necessary discomfort required to learn and grow. When a person is allowed to experience discomfort, they are given the opportunity to consciously choose better choices. Repeatedly trying to rescue someone from their uncomfortable feelings prevents the progression towards acceptance, healthy coping, and moving on that are required to fully feel an experience.
Also, rescuing someone instead of allowing them to experience natural consequences is a sign of poor boundary-setting. Empathy is allowing others the full and complete exploration of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without the intent to end the process quickly simply because we cannot tolerate others’ pain. Empathy requires patience, and for us to examine our own discomfort as we listen to the other person.
Most importantly, empathy is not about sharing the best advice and expecting others to do as we say or threatening rejection or abandonment. Habitual rescue attempts can teach long-term insecurity and unhealthy dependency in relationships. It conveys the message that they are helpless and incompetent and cannot do things on their own, and ultimately dealing with their own feelings is not their responsibility.
– Empathy is not minimizing someone’s experience.
Researcher Bréne Brown states that no empathic response begins with ‘at least’. For example, if a friend shares that she is having marital problems, you may feel tempted to highlight the good in the situation instead of giving her the space to share her feelings and experiences. (At least he prays! At least he doesn’t beat you!)
In empathy, it is very important to allow a person to go through the natural process of grief without rushing to remind them to be grateful or see their blessings. When we do this, we invalidate a person’s experience and shame them for having feelings about their problem. (“If I were you, I would feel the same way”, “I can see that you’re in a tough situation”)
There is a time and place for positive statements and spiritual guidance, however, it is essential to remember to first listen, not add on “be patient/be strong/ don’t worry” or minimize (“at least…”). It is not the time to expect them to forgive or accept quickly to allay our own discomfort, instead forgiveness and acceptance come naturally after the process of feeling through a problem.
Overall, empathy is not about absorbing or carrying the load of others, rescuing or fixing what we think is broken, or minimizing or spiritually invalidating a person’s experience just because it brings us comfort. Empathy is about staying still inside a moment, showing that we care for another, and that we accept their humanness while letting them fully share their experience.
The Need for Care Boundaries
As a counselor who listens to people’s struggles every day, I know how important it is to have boundaries, or acknowledge and communicate my personal limits to preserve my well-being. Many people ask me if I am burdened by the struggles of others, and to them, I talk about the importance of self-care and care boundaries.
To illustrate this, I have designed a graphic that explains the limits of empathy or care.
The Unhealthy Extremes
– Unhealthy Caring
Unhealthy caring can look like absorbing others’ emotions like a sponge until we feel exhausted or numb. When we care too much, we can experience vicarious trauma, or feel as if we are going through the struggles of the people that we care about. For example, if a friend reveals that she was sexually assaulted in the past, we may feel as if we have gone through the same experience.
Caring too much can lead us to rescue others from their negative feelings and fix their problems which can feel smothering or controlling. Repeated rescuing can create an unhealthy dependency and we teach others that they are incapable of taking care of themselves. Caring too much about what others think can also mean people-pleasing. In trying too hard to impress or cater to others’ we can neglect our own needs and feelings.
– Unhealthy Not Caring
On the other hand, unhealthy not caring can look like being completely detached from others both emotionally and physically. Sometimes this is the result of caring too much over extended periods. We can become self-absorbed, distant or dismissive in relationships, and appear to others as selfish or narcissistic. Some may cut off relationships as an unhealthy way of coping to protect themselves from feeling judged, rejected, or abandoned.
The Healthy Middle
– Healthy Caring
Healthy caring is when we can offer the appropriate level of empathy. It means we care enough to sometimes loosen our grip on those we care about and accept that change comes on their own terms.
Instead of controlling others, we coach them, empower them, or act by example. This doesn’t mean that we don’t express our discomfort or disappointment. Letting the other person know that we are bothered by their behavior and then giving them the choice to choose better behaviors can lead to mutual satisfaction. Healthy caring is learning to have tawakkul by doing our part by tying the camel, and then trusting that Allah is the one who turns hearts.
– Healthy Not Caring
Healthy not caring looks like taking care of ourselves and being aware of our human capacity (our time, energy, abilities, preferences, comfort, values, and responsibilities). It is being able to clearly communicate to others our needs, wants, feelings, and limits, and respectfully setting the terms of the relationship.
In some situations, emotional detachment is a necessary self-protection, especially when dealing with abusive, controlling, or manipulative people. Learning to emotionally detach from matters that are outside of our control can be vital in preserving our mental health.
Lastly, healthy not caring allows others to step up and be the force of change in their own lives. It gives them the space to make choices for themselves as well as the freedom to make mistakes and experience necessary consequences.
When we think and feel moderately, we experience the world around us moderately, and we follow the balanced and middle path that Allah has intended for us. Caring in extremes can lead to anxiety, depression, and/or other mental and physical disorders. Learning to live in balance requires self-examination and a commitment towards growth. Keeping a focus on the akhirah can help us to decide what matters most and what deserves our time, our efforts, and our care.
– Sharing Grief: A 10 Point Primer On Condolence
Sharing Grief: A 10 Point Primer On Condolence
– Grief and Giving Survivors Meaning After Attacks
Grief and Giving Survivors Meaning After Attacks
2 Ratka A. Empathy and the development of affective skills. Am J Pharm Educ. 2018;82(10):7192. doi:10.5688/ajpe7192
3 Hodges SD, Myers MW. Empathy. In: Baumeister RF, Vohs KD. Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing; 2007 doi:10.4135/9781412956253.n179
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Source: Muslim Matters