[This article was published in the 20th issue of Nida'ul Islam
magazine (), September-October 1997]

Sisters' Counseling Section

What is Counseling?

Before we define what counseling is, we will briefly describe what counseling is not. Firstly, it is not telling people about Fiqh. For example, someone may have a problem about defining what food is Halal and what is Haram. This is a Fiqh question and counsellors do not deal with it. If you have this type of question then you would need to see a sheikh or someone specialising in food classification. Another example is one sheikh says "I should not have any pictures at all", while another says that it is all right as long as I do not hang it up. Hence, what should I do?

Secondly, counseling is not telling people what to do, that is, it is not advice giving. For instance, someone has a problem and goes to a counselor, the counselor does not tell the person what to do to solve this problem.

Now we will define what counseling is: Counseling, in its pure face-to-face form, is talking about the problem that worries the client. In so doing, the counselor helps the client to locate the source of the problem. Once the source is found, the counselor helps the client to find Islamically sound solutions that are comfortable and acceptable to the client.

The difference between this and advice-giving is that, in this situation, the client has the first and final choice in what he/she wants to do to solve his/her problem. The counselor is merely a tool through which the client finds a solution.

But how does counseling in a magazine fit into this definition of counseling? Obviously, the important difference is that the client and the counselor do not have a continuous dialogue. This means the counselor will often have a limited and abstract problem to work with. Whatever a person writes on the letter to the counselor, cannot be queried into a question about. From this letter, the counselor will do her utmost to offer this person several (where possible) Islamically sound and viable options. The person will then be able to choose the option that he/she feels most comfortable with.

For example, the first two questions below are not, strictly speaking, counseling questions, rather they are queries. Counseling questions are the type a person asks in order to ease the stressful or uncomfortable situation that she or he is in, such as in the third question. However, we welcome the queries and will try our best to answer them.

Please write to us with any query or problem you might have at:

Sisters' Counseling Committee
PO Box: 216, Lakemba
NSW 2195 Australia
Fax: (02) 9740 7921

What is the essential knowledge?

Question 1: What kind of knowledge should a woman who recently embraced Islam learn?

In order to answer this question, we need to explain the different levels of worshipping Allah. At the beginning stage, there is Islam. When a person accepts Islam, she is a Muslim. At this level, the person needs to know the "Five Pillars of Islam". That is, the Shahadah (declaration of faith), prayer, zakat (poor-due), fast and Hajj (pilgrimage). Thus for a woman who recently embraced Islam, we recommend that she learns in-depth about these "five pillars". By in-depth, we do not mean just memorising these pillars and recanting them in one minute. Instead, learn the Shahadah and its nine conditions, Tawheed (monotheism) and what opposes it. Learn the prayer, how to perform it, how to make wudu' (ablutions) and what nullifies it. Learn about Taharah (cleanliness), Najasah (dirtiness) and ghusl (whole body shower) - for without knowing these, the prayer cannot be perfected.

As for Zakat: what is it, how much, who pays, who receives, when, how, where, why? Fasting is not just abstaining from food but also abstaining from saying, doing and thinking bad and evils things etc. With regards to Hajj, learn the reasons behind each step of Hajj. As you can see, each pillar is extensive. There is a wealth of knowledge to seek from them.

Also at this stage, preference should be given to learn the wajib (compulsory) things about the pillars. For example, learn the wajib prayers and perform them - the Sunnah prayers come after. Learn and carry out the wajib fasts - the Sunnah fasts come later and so forth. What we are saying here is, concentrate on the wajib and perfect them. The Sunnah aspects come when you have confidence and knowledge on the wajib. One book that we recommend (among many) is "Let us be Muslim" by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi. Recommended books on the topic of Tawheed (oneness of Allah) and shirk (associating partners with Allah) are "The Fundamentals of Tawheed" by Bilal Phillips and "Kitab-al-Tawheed" by Mubin Abdul-Wahab.

Thigher level of worship is the Eeman. When a person reaches this level, she is a Mu'minah (believer). At this level, she must be fully aware of the "Six Articles of Faith". Namely, believe in the Oneness of Allah, believe in the existence of Angels, believe in the Books of Allah, believe in the Messengers of Allah, believe in the Day of Judgement and believe in Destiny.

The highest level of worship is Ihsan and a person who reaches this level is called a Muhsin. This person worships Allah as if Allah is there with her. Her every action and every thought is for Allah. She is totally conscious of Allah in every second of her life. However, before she reaches this level, she would probably have acquired knowledge about most other aspects of Islam. This includes the stories of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and His Companions, Da'wah (propagation of Islam), Jihad (fighting in Allah's Cause), Ribah (interest), and so forth n

Raising up children

Question 2: What advice can you give a practicing Muslim lady for her to bring up her children in an Islamic way, and what are the steps she requires to take in order to reduce the devilish impact of the modern society on her children?

The best quality any mother can teach her child is Taqwa (God-consciousness). That is to teach the child to be aware of Allah in every moment of his or her life. Once the child has this, his every action and thought will be for Allah. He or she will do the things that please Allah and will strive to avoid doing anything that displeases Him, such as cheat, lie, steal and so forth.

How to achieve this? The first step of Tarbiyah (education) starts when the child is still a baby. It is essential to continuously say to the child, for example, "Allah made this, masha' Allah", when smelling a flower. And, "Subhanallah, Allah created this", when playing with the cat. And "Allahu Akbar, Allah made the sky", when you are contemplating the sky, stars, clouds and so forth. By praising and glorifying Allah, and saying "Allah made this... Allah made that.." you will be affirming these facts for your child. When he or she grows up, these concepts will stay with the child. He will be constantly repeating them in his mind and heart. In this way, you will be creating an awareness that Allah created everything around us.

How often the child uses these affirmations and how extensive these affirmations are, depends on how often you say it to your child and how varied your affirmations are. You will be pleasantly surprised one day when your child walks past a flower, bends over and says "Masha Allah, Allah made this," or when he or she is playing on the grass, looks up and says, "Allahu Akbar, Allah made it," without a prompt from you. This is the first step to create an awareness of Allah. Having reached this, the process of teaching the child about praying, reciting the Qur'an and so forth, becomes easy.

Another step to take is to provide Islamic models for your child. These models include the Prophets, Companions, Muslim heroes, scholars and famous figures in the Islamic history. Read or tell these stories often to your child. Children love stories and they need to have someone whom they can look up to and copy. So by telling and retelling these Islamic moral stories you will be providing your child with a set of attitudes and behaviours which he/she can copy and follow.

If the above two steps were carried out when your child is young and, and are continued throughout his/her life, they will insha Allah, help build his/her character to be good. Hence, when faced with the bad influences of modern society, he/she will be able to choose the right path to follow since he/she is aware of Allah and has models to follow.

He doesn't want to talk!

Question 3: I am supposed to marry a man that is a born Muslim. He loves Islam and is a good Muslim. My dilemma is that we live very far apart and we are supposed to be engaged to each other. However, he does not spend even 5 minutes on me. He is finishing his Masters degree and tells me he can not email, write a postcard, or call (that one because it is too expensive and I understand that one). However it is really difficult for me to believe that he loves me when he wants to neglect me. I have told him that this bothers and hurts me but he just tells me that he just doesn't have time. I worry that if he is like this now what will he be like when we are married? If you have any advice for me would you please guide me?

Before we can understand someone, we need to know that each person has different needs, and that one of these needs will be predominant. There are four such predominant needs: recognition needs, social needs, security needs and achievement needs. Recognition need is when the person needs to be recognised for his work, efforts or abilities. Social needs is when the person needs to interact with people - he cannot be left by himself for long periods of time. Security need is when the person needs to feel secure in all aspects of his life. Whereas a person with predominant achievement needs, requires to be able to strive and work at something in order to achieve it.

Now, a person who has either of the first two needs is very likely to be talkative. That is, he likes to talk about things whether they are emotional or mental. As for a person who has either of the last two needs, he is very likely not to be talkative. That is, he does not like to discuss anything - not what he thinks and especially not what he feels.

Going on what you have written about your betrothed, his behaviour could be explained in either of the following scenarios:

First scenario is that he could be a person who has either a predominant security or achievement need. So that perhaps his inability to spend time on you could mean that he feels embarrassed or shy about talking or writing to you. He may feel that he does not know what to say or what to write about.

The second scenario is that, since he is finishing his Masters degree, perhaps this is a very busy time for him. He may be stressed out trying to complete it. And when he is faced with trying to correspond with you, he may feel even more stressed.

However, before you can find a solution, you need to find out why he acts the way he does. A good way to get him to talk about it is to talk to him about how you feel. Maybe he does not know that you feel this way. Explain to him exactly what it is that's troubling you, how and why you feel the way you do, then ask him what he thinks or feels or can do about it, keeping in mind which is his predominant need. The following is a format that you may wish to follow:

"I have a problem. When you don't write or spend time on me (state his action - be specific and use a verb). I feel upset and hurt (express how you feel). Because I think that you don't care for me (reason why you feel that way). Please tell me how you feel about it, or what you think? (Get him to talk about it)".

Notice in the above format that when you say "I have a problem", you put the focus immediately on yourself so that he doesn't feel that you are accusing him. When you have initiated the conversation like this, you will find that, Insha' Allah, he will respond.

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