Sabr Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

written by Theresa Corbin

Sabr. If you are new to this site or Islamic thought in general, you might Google this word and find out that it stands for the Society for American Baseball Research. Yes! We Muslims are so very invested in researching American Baseball. It’s alllll we think about.

I am not a sports fan (big shocker), but honestly baseball is the one sport I can tolerate. But I joke. Sabr, the term I have chosen to write about today has nothing to do with baseball at all. So relax, you silly right wing nutters. The Muslims ain’t coming to establish no Shariah on the baseball diamond.

But if we did, I am sure it would make the sport so much more high-stakes. Stealing bases would get you your hand cut off. I joke again. You gals and guys know me-I ain’t for that.

Ehhmem, so sabr, it is an Arabic word that is peppered throughout religious texts. And it is usually translated as “patience”.

And be patient, indeed Allah is with the patient ones. (Quran 8:46)

The problem with this translation, although it can mean patience, is that it makes people think that sabr only means patience. And that leads people to believe that sabr means to just let bad stuff happen and lock it up tight and never talk about it.

The other problem with this understanding of the word “sabr”, since it is such a heavily used religious term, is that it is also used to manipulate people with religion. Shock! Horror! What? People use religion for there own evil gains to manipulate others into doing what they want? How! This is news to me?– you might be thinking.

But you aren’t thinking that because you know people suck. I’ll say that again for the people in the back -PEOPLE. SUCK. <— write it down. remember it. trust in God. not people. because? that’s right! people suck. including me.

Well, that is not at alright. Sabr is so much more than patience. Sabr in fact means steadfastness, perseverance, patience in the path of justice, patience in doing what is right and good even though smacking people seems like so much fun. Sabr does not mean be a patient victim and let people oppress you.

But often this word is thrown around at victims of oppression to convince them that they should put up with and actually enable their oppression. E.G. a woman who is regularly beaten by her husband because he has a small penis and this make him angry. She goes to a dimwitted sheikh (scholar) and he actually tells her to have patience, meaning just put up with it or enable his behavior by doing nothing to stop it.

The thing is that Islam is not a religion that allows people to enable each other and it certainly does not advocate for people to allow oppression. How do we know this? We know this because of the famous prophetic tradition that states:

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Support your brother whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, we help the one being oppressed but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand.”In another narration, the Prophet said, “By restraining him or preventing him from committing injustice, for that is how you support him.”

Recently, I wrote an article about not putting people on pedestals. And as I always do when making a claim, I thought of the opposition’s argument against my claims. One idea that disturbed me while writing this but could not address due to space was that I knew people would take this to mean that the victims of a crime should never have put the perpetrator in the position to hurt them.

NO! This is victim blaming and I don’t stand for it. In this article about not idealizing people, I was addressing people in general, not victims of a crime. In general I absolutely believe that we should not idealize people. As the term “human” or “person” suggests, we as human beings are all weak and fallible pieces of dust on our way out.

But the thing is that if you are a victim of a crime by someone you put on a pedestal, the fact that you put them on a pedestal does not make the crime your fault. You must seek justice. Our religion demands it. Islam does not manufacture victims: 

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnessing for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, acquainted. (Quran 4:135)

Never ever be complicit in oppression especially if it is your own oppression. Never be silent when you see oppression, especially if you are the victim of a crime, even if the perpetrator is very close to you. The term sabr for the victim means to strive and persevere in seeking justice and stopping oppression. 

And never let anyone tell you any different even if that person calls him/herself a scholar. Scholars are wrong every day. Some scholars are even invested in keeping victims quiet in the name of protecting male supremacy. Don’t put up with it. To God we all are equal. By God we are demanded to stop oppression. By God we are charged with seeking justice. If you prefer to listen to a scholar over Allah then you should know that is worship. 

It is narrated from Adi bin Hatim (May Allah be pleased with him):
I heard the Prophet (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) read this verse:

“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and Messiah -son of Maryam, while they were commanded to worship none but One Ilah (God Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshiped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)”. (Qur’an 9:31)

So I said to him (May Allah be pleased with him)’ “Verily, we did not worship them,” to which he replied, “Did they not make Haram what Allah made Halal so you then made it Haram, and (did they not) make Halal what Allah made Haram and you therefore made it Halal?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “That is worshiping them.” (Ahmad and At- Tirmidhi)

Criminal behavior is haram. Allowing criminal behavior and not witnessing against it is haram. Do not let the sheikhs tell you it is sabr to enable it. This is worship. Sabr when witnessing against evil, injustice, and oppression means perseverance and steadfastness in seeking justice and stopping evil and oppression. 

Sabr sometimes means to be the tree that grows through concrete and tears it up in the process. 


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What Is The Islamic World?

Written by Theresa Corbin

What exactly is the Islamic world? Is it like Disney world? A place where Muslims go to pay too much for halal snacks and wait in line for hours to get a fatwaIs it the place that I have been told to go back to by bigots shouting on the street? Ooorr is it the place where some media “personalities” pretend all Muslims come from- The Middle East? 

What is the Islamic world?

Well, I don’t hate to break the news to you, but there is no Islamic world. There is no place with over priced halal snacks (OK maybe there are those) and lines for the fatwa ride. Just because someone is a Muslim doesn’t mean they had to come from somewhere else. And only 18ish% of Muslims in the world live in the Middle East. 18%. only. Muslims live and practice Islam in every country on the planet in a variety of concentrations.

Muslims are diverse. Let that sink in. Diverse. We participate in every culture from every country. We are indigenous peoples in the West, in the East, and everywhere in between. We fit in no box.

We worship our creator, share in a sisterhood, wear jeans and eat red beans and rice down South. We pray 5 times a day, say “Salam”, wear embroidered caps, and eat dumplings in Xinjiang, China. The “Islamic World” is the actual world.

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It’s Not About The Headscarf

Written By: Elyse Keelani*

Why is a Muslim woman’s worth symbolized by a headscarf** or the lack thereof?

In Western societies, the lack of a headscarf makes a Muslim woman blend into secular society; whether or not she’s a practicing Muslim is less important. Usually, as long as she looks the part, she is accepted. A lack of a headscarf in the eyes of the West means that she is not oppressed, and that she has found freedom.

its not about the headscarf

However, the West fails to see that their own society confines women also, and that women are treated simply as objects. If a woman wears a bikini on the beach, she’s fine. If a woman wears a bikini on the street, she’s deemed “loose”. If a woman of the right body-type wears a low-cut top, she is seen as sexy; If a heavy woman does the same, she is trashy. There are so many rules to follow, it’s hard to keep up.

“Do I look confident or self-absorbed?” “Do I look strong or do I look overbearing?” “Do I look sexy or do I look slutty?” The lines are drawn according to a woman’s race, body type, socio-economic status, etc. Then a woman might find that the lines are drawn differently in some Western countries, or in some areas of Western countries.

The worth of a woman is often narrowed down to fabric, but that worth was taken away long before anyone saw how she was dressed. Being “Jane” means less opportunity in life, less pay, more risk of being a victim of violence, etc.

Clothing is simply a symbol of how well a woman is fitting into the society that already oppresses her.

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Putting People on Pedestals

written by Theresa Corbin for About Islam

Pedestals are for Prophets and plants. This has been my mantra since I nearly let someone destroy my heart with their short comings. I put someone high up on a pedestal and it was unfair to them and to me.

Pedestals are unstable structures. And that inevitable fall from a pedestal is hard and painful.

Learning about pedestals

As a child and a young woman, many of the men in my life were untrustworthy, abusive, and dangerous, with the exception of one shining example. I looked to this one man to restore my trust, to restore my faith in men, to be that perfect example. I created a perfect idea of him and put that fiction up on a pedestal.

When that idea of this last man standing finally fell from the pedestal, as it was always meant to fall, it nearly broke my heart. I became bitter, angry, and hopeless until a friend reminded me that I had put him in a place only the prophets are meant to be.

Taking this to heart, I began to do the work of learning about the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) perfect character. His life story gave me hope. The more I learn the more I understood what a real man’s character should and CAN be. The more I learned about him, the more I healed. And I started to slowly put him and all the prophets in that highly esteemed place to the exclusion of all others.

Honestly, I am so glad that Allah (SWT) allowed the image of the last man I trusted to fall from the pedestal. I am even grateful for the pain it caused me because painful lessons are the best teachers.

As Yasmin Mogahed writes in Reclaim Your Heart , “That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. We need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more dunya hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it.”

And so I told myself pedestals are only for Prophets and plants.


What happens when we put someone on a pedestal is that we put all our hope in another flawed being, we trust an imperfect person to perfectly pass all the tests of this world, or we imagine that they are here as a perfect example for us.

And in the end, we don’t even realize that the object we put on the pedestal is a flawed being- a human. That is until the image we have of them falls and breaks our hearts.

Continue reading here on About Islam.

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Your First Practical Steps as a New Muslim

written by Theresa Corbin

originally written for and published on About Islam

Much has been written on what a new Muslim should do after converting. What the first steps after shahadah should be is a topic even I have expounded on many times—like the article I wrote entitled, The First Step A New Convert Should Take which is all about intentions, motivation, and matters of the heart.

But sometimes this kind of advice makes it seem as if material matters aren’t important. But you should know that they are.

Islam teaches us a balance, to be in this world and to take care of one’s worldly needs while also thinking of the life of the hereafter and taking care of one’s spiritual needs.

We are beings of duality. We have a physical existence and a spiritual existence. When the needs of one or the other are ignored, bad things happen.

Far too often the worldly needs of new Muslims are brushed off as less important than spiritual needs. And what comes from this kind of treatment is understandable.

New Muslims often complain that being a Muslim is impractical or difficult. If the Islam presented to you seems Impossible, excessively difficult, or impractical, know that this is a kind of imagined Islam that ignores the worldly needs in favor of the spiritual needs.

However, Islam demands balance and that all needs are met. Here are a few practical things to think about after taking the shahadah.

Know Your Rights as a New Muslim

As a new Muslim, one of the first things you should understand about your faith are your rights in Islam. Often new Muslims’ complaints about Islam have nothing to do with Islam at all, but a failing on the part of other individual Muslims or even their community as a whole.

It is critical that you, as a new Muslim, understand that Allah has instructed your community to provide you with support. If it is not offered to you, or if support is not given when you seek it, then you need to know that that is man’s failing, and not Islam’s.

Muslims have an obligation to help new Muslims in a number of ways, including but not limited to mentorship, counseling, education, supportive community, and even financial support if need arises. You can read a declaration of the rights of new Muslims here that discusses this in more detail.

Continue reading here on About Islam

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Answering Tough Questions about The Prophet

Questions asked anonymously, answered by Theresa Corbin, and originally published on Al Jumuah

There are so many untruths spreading through the Western world (and have been for centuries) about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). For those of us who love and deeply respect the Prophet, these egregious fallacies can be hard to fathom, much less refute. But we must answer the hard questions for those who are curious and have been wading through the mountain of ignorant cant about this noble man.

Answering Questions about The Prophet


And recently, I had the honor to do just that for one brave person who chose to ask a Muslim –and not the number of unreliable sources out there– honest questions that were born out of research into Islam. I hope that sharing the following Q&A can help others clear up some of the misconceptions and malicious errors about the Prophet (PBUH), his example, and the message of Islam.

Q: Why would Muhammad send followers to loot and raid caravans travelling through Madinah? OK, so it was an accepted practice at the time, but you kind of wish that your prophet could rise above stuff like stealing and killing.

A: This is one weapon Islamophobes use to paint the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a war monger. But they don’t seem ever to talk about the context: that would put a damper on the claims they are trying to make.

The polytheists of Makkah during the time of Revelation tortured, killed, starved out the Muslims. When the Muslims made their exodus from Makkah for Madinah, they had to do so in secret for fear of being murdered. And that meant they would escape only with what they could carry for a safer place to live and to worship God alone.

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Let’s Stop Sugar-Coating The Muslim Community

written by Kaighla Um Dayo

Ladies and Gentlemen, have I got an excellent deal for you! But Hurry! It’s only for a limited time. Act now and don’t miss out on this incredible offer!!

How would you like to leave your current religious community and join mine, for free? Our community is made up of only the best-quality people.

Imagine how you’d feel in THIS beautiful religious community! No more broken hearts, no more frayed nerves. Bye bye frustrating unanswered questions! Sayonara, pew-brain!

You can kiss those pesky fellows good-bye, because in my 100% certified authentic religious community, there are absolutely no fillers, no artificial people, and no annoying preserved traditions!

And if you act fast, we’ll even throw in a tacky hijab or kufi AND a poorly-translated Quran, all for FREE, but only today! 

No, But Seriously

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