Ismail Kamdar

Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
How to analyze self-help advice the Islamic way

How to analyze self-help advice the Islamic way

The Self-Help industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon. Every day new books, articles, and videos flood the market offering a variety of tips, hacks, and advice on how to meet your goals and excel in life. But not all of it is Islamic or even halal. Often, Muslim readers are left confused regarding which advice to follow and which to cast aside as unislamic.

At Islamic Self Help, we strive to offer Islamized self-help resources that weed out the bad and keep only that which does not contradict our tradition. Utilizing a variety of techniques, we are able to separate good advice from bad advice utilizing sound Islamic principles. In this article, I will share some of these principles so that you too can read more critically, and can identify what is acceptable and what is not.

The Theological Lense

The first thing you need to do is analyze the advice for any problematic beliefs. Islam is founded upon theology (Aqidah). Our beliefs are the core of our faith, and we cannot accept any teachings that contradict our core theology. In the self-help industry, there are a lot of ideas floating around that contradict Islamic theology. Most of it is very subtle and may fly over the heads of the average reader. The only way to avoid this is to critically read such advice in light of Islamic theology.

Some of these ideas that contradict Islam are the following. The idea that you control your own destiny is false in Islam. Qadar (destiny) is one of the six pillars of faith, and Muslims firmly believe that Qadar is in the hands of Allah. The idea that you can attract money into your life by thinking positive thoughts contradicts Islamic theology. In Islam, we believe that our sustenance is already predetermined by Allah, we only decide how we earn it. Thoughts are not magical things that can override Qadar. Most importantly, the idea that you decide your own purpose in life contradicts the very fundamentals of Islam. The Quran clearly states that our purpose in life is to worship/serve Allah, we cannot accept any ideology that contradicts this.

The Legal Aspect

After theology, the next important aspect of our faith is the legal side i.e. Fiqh. When analyzing self-help advice, we must weed out any advice that is Haram (prohibited) in our religion. This requires at least a basic understanding of Islamic Law, and if one is in doubt, ask a scholar for clarification. Regarding legal issues, sometimes it is obvious when a self-help tip is haram, and sometimes it requires some deep thinking.

An obvious example is the idea promoted by some circles that one-night-stands boost self-confidence. In Islam, fornication and adultery are prohibited major sins, so a believer can never even consider following such an idea. Likewise, if a self-help author recommends any drugs to boost creativity. As recreational drugs are prohibited in Islam, a Muslim cannot even consider following such a tip. There may be other tips in these books that contradict the laws of Islam like accumulating interest in one’s bank account, upsetting one’s parents, and breaking family ties in pursuit of personal goals. As Muslims, we must be vigilant and analyze every piece of advice in light of Islamic law.

The Spiritual Impact

The third angle from which any advice needs to be analyzed is its spiritual impact. Islam is a deeply spiritual religion and our spirituality cannot be compromised for worldly goals or desires. One of the fundamental teachings of Islam is that we sometimes need to sacrifice our worldly desires for the sake of Allah. The modern self-help industry sometimes teaches the opposite. Rooted in individualism, many of these books and videos preach the pursuit of one’s own desires, even at the expense of one’s relationship with God.

Before we embrace any self-help idea or follow any self-help tip, we must do an analysis of whether it will cost us some of our spirituality or not. Any self-help tips that fuel greed, lust, selfishness, or arrogance needs to be shunned as these are viewed as spiritual diseases in Islam. A self-help guru may advice you to live life to the fullest and accomplish everything your heart desires before you die. As a Muslim, you cannot accept this advice because you know that obedience to Allah and preparation for the Afterlife takes precedence over fulfilling one’s desires. It may be difficult to analyze the impact a tip will have on one’s spirituality without a strong foundation. As with legal and theological issues, the rule remains the same; when in doubt, consult an Islamic scholar.

A Matter of Character

The fourth and final criterion to utilize when analyzing self-help tips is character. Akhlaq (good character) is a core component of Islam. We cannot compromise our integrity for anything. When a self-help tip comes from a purely materialistic and capitalistic perspective, it may encourage dishonesty and treachery in pursuit of one’s worldly goals. The believer can never embrace such ideas, as a believer’s character is his honor.

There are many great self-help books out there that focus on good character and that are rooted in good character. The authors may have extracted their principles from Christianity, Buddhism, or other sources. As long as these principles do not contradict Islamic character, it is acceptable to follow their advice. But not all self-help authors have such principles and backgrounds. Some are purely materialistic, some may be greedy capitalists, many are con-artists trying to earn a quick buck, and some are narcissistic self-promoters. It is the works of these kinds of self-help gurus that may encourage bad character. In any case, all self-help advice must be analyzed according to the principles of Akhlaq.

Conclusion

Over the years, I have compiled many Islamic self-help resources on topics ranging from time management to self-confidence. For each of these topics, I utilized these four core methods to separate the permissible from the impermissible. By analyzing any self-help tip or principle in light of Islamic beliefs, laws, spirituality, and character, we are able to extract what is good and Islamize is, while rejecting that which contradicts the fundamentals of our religion. Armed with these four principles, you should be able to read or study any self-help resource critically and separate the good from the bad yourself with the help of Allah.

Looking to start your Islamic self-help journey? Grab our bundle of 10 ebooks for only $22 here. This bundle includes everything you need to get started on the road to Islamic Self Help.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, 2 comments
Islam Intensive 2021 – History of Islam

Islam Intensive 2021 – History of Islam

Alhamdulillah, 2020 has been a very productive year at Islamic Self Help, during which we launched the Islam Intensive ongoing program that is going very well. Besides this, we published two courses, three ebooks, and over a dozen articles this year, Alhamdulillah.

In 2021, we are taking Islam Intensive to the next level with a huge in-depth dive into Muslim History. The first three-six months of 2021 will focus on an intensive exploration of Muslim History from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until today. The course will focus on lessons that we can learn from the various events in our history, as well as discussion on various negative and tragic events in our history. 

My hope is to produce one of the most detailed and beneficial history courses available online in shaa Allah.

We currently have over a year’s worth of content available in Islam Intensive and will begin the History program during the second week of January in shaa Allah. 

May Allah grant us success and barakah.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
Surah al-Nisaa: A Thematic Tafsir

Surah al-Nisaa: A Thematic Tafsir

This article is an extract from the book Themes of the Quran, purchase the full ebook to learn more.

Many people assume from the name of this Surah that the theme is issues related to women. Because of this, they are confused to find many verses in it addressing topics like inheritance, dealing with the hypocrites and the people of the book as well as the dangers of Shirk.

Reality is that the theme of a Surah is not usually related to its name. The names were mostly given over time by scholars based on words unique or often repeated in that Surah, and so just like the theme of Surah Al-Baqarah is not cows, the theme of Surah An-Nisaa is not restricted to women. 

Themes of Surah al-Nisaa

This Surah is a Madinan Surah and again focuses on the themes of relevance to Madinan society, in this case the theme is society itself. The Surah addresses every aspect of the Muslim society including the following:

  1. Orphans (4:2-3, 6, 128)
  2. Marriage (4:3-4, 19-25, 32-35, 127-130)
  3. Inheritance (4:11-14, 176)
  4. Polygyny (4:3, 129)
  5. People of the Book (4:46-56, 153-174)
  6. Hypocrites (4:88-90, 142-146)
  7. Military operations (4:71-78)
  8. Peace and Justice (4:92-94, 135)
  9. Immigration from a bad society to a good one (4:97-100)

The Inheritance Question

Looking at the issue of inheritance, most of the laws of Islam are detailed in the Hadiths. Yet in this Surah, Allah details the laws of inheritance clearly and warns those who reject His Laws of the Hellfire. This is because many societal and family problems are caused due to fighting over inheritance. If Muslims submit to Allah’s judgment and accept the divisions He made, all these societal problems can be avoided.

These days, it is common to find many Muslims questioning the division of the inheritance in the Qur’an. This is a very arrogant attitude as it indicates that we think we know better than Allah. Allah has divided the inheritance based on the obligations he gave his servants. As the males of this ummah have more financial responsibility than the females, their portion of the inheritance is likewise proportionately more. This is in no way meant to indicate superiority, rather it is meant to indicate responsibility.

Family Law

This Surah lays heavy emphasis on family dynamics. It also lays a heavy emphasis on the importance of the man being the leader of the household and upholding that position responsibly. In modern times, this concept has been disputed and the results are failed marriages, high divorce rates,[1] the spread of Zina and general chaos in society.

For a society to function properly, families need to be stable and in line with the commands of Allah. The results of rejecting the family structure laid down by Allah can be seen in the abundant marital problems that surround us on a daily basis.

Related to this is the issue of polygyny. This Surah clearly allows a man to have a maximum of four wives on the condition that he is responsible and deals with them fairly. Modernists have tried to undermine and misinterpret this verse to bring Islam more in line with the norms of modern society. These modernists fail to realize that the culture they are trying to imitate is a culture revolving around unrestricted polygamy without responsibilities i.e. adultery and extra-marital affairs. 

History is proof that any society which practiced polygyny the way the Qur’an allows it has far less social problems. This practice simultaneously solves the social dilemma of the widows, divorcees and single righteous women who can’t find righteous husbands, as well as the issue of men being polygamous by nature. Society is better off when polygyny is practiced responsibly.

The Rights of Orphans

We also see in this Surah a special emphasis on caring for orphans. Orphans make up a large segment of any society and when societies neglect them, they end up turning to crime to support themselves and survive. Caring for orphans is a great deed and raising orphans as one’s own children gives them a second chance at succeeding in life and benefits the entire community.

Cultural Controversies

The verses in this Surah tend to be controversial due to the changing social norms in the West, and the pressure put upon Muslims to adopt these changes. While there exist many cultural practices in Muslim communities that need to change, it is important to distinguish between those and fixed rules clearly established in the Qur’an.

Cultural issues like prohibiting women from praying in Masjids, banning women from driving, education and work, and the acceptance of spousal abuse need to change. These practices are not Islamic, and removing them is beneficial for the entire ummah.

On the other hand, the concepts of Hijab and polygyny, the role of the husband and wife in the family structure, and the division of the inheritance are clear commandments which form part of the foundation of our religion, and cannot be changed to suit people’s desires.

If one analyses these laws with an open mind, looking at the benefits of implementing them, instead of just looking at things from an ego-driven perspective, it is quite clear that the laws revealed by Allah are what is best for society.

I believe that any society that bases its principles on those covered in Surah An-Nisaa will become one of the best, most just and most stable communities on earth.        


[1] A common cause of divorce these days is the reversal of roles in the family structure. This reversal of roles causes a lot of animosity and over time it erodes the marriage and eats away at its foundations.

This article is an extract from the book Themes of the Quran, purchase the full ebook to learn more.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
The role of Akhlāq in Personal Development

The role of Akhlāq in Personal Development

A Problem of the heart

Personal Development in the 21st Century tends to be a very selfish affair. The subtle and growing influence of individualism has caused many people to pursue their goals at all costs, with no regard for the impact it has on anyone else. We see this at every level of society. From people who break up families to pursue their personal goals, to companies that turn a blind eye to slavery to produce cheap products. The fulfillment of personal goals takes precedence over everything else in the new world.

In pursuit of their goals and dreams, people today are willing to put others down, turn a blind eye to injustice, pretend to be someone they are not, and break ties with anyone they view as an inconvenience in the path of their worldly goals. A selfish self-centered approach to goal-setting and personal development is slowly becoming the norm. When personal development is not grounded in Islamic foundations, its roots become shaky and its results potentially destructive.

The topic of individualism and its effects on the Muslim world is something I hope to explore in more detail in a later article. Here I want to focus on a potential Islamic solution to this problem. One potential solution is for Muslims to ground their personal development in the Islamic concept of Akhlāq. By laying a foundation of Akhlāq, the believer builds a wall of protection that allows him to pursuit his goals in a halal manner that does not compromise the dignity or rights of anyone else.

Akhlāq and Adāb

The study of personality traits in Islam is divided into two primary categories; Akhlāq and Adāb. Akhlāq refers to our inner characteristics like honesty, sincerity, and humility. These are the deeds of the heart and form the foundation of our personality. Akhlāq includes our attitude towards Allah, ourselves, and others. It is a reflection of who we really are deep down inside.

Adāb refers to our external manners and etiquette, our speech and actions. These are things like smiling, giving charity, speaking politely, and assisting people. These two subjects work together to make a Muslim beautiful, both inside and out. Reflecting on which of the two is more important, my conclusion is that it is Akhlāq that is more important. This is because it is possible to fake good manners, but nobody can fake good character. You can fake your words and deeds, but you cannot fake the actions of the heart. Humans have an intrinsic way of recognizing when someone is insincere towards them. We are able to read lies in people’s eyes, jealousy in people’s smiles, and arrogance in people’s tone of voice. The diseases of the heart manifest on the body in ways that betray the individual. This is often the case when a person only focuses on the external and forgets to work on the heart.

Keeping this definition in mind, the concept of Akhlāq becomes integral for curbing many of the wrong paths people choose when pursing their life goals. To put it simply; when a Muslim has great Akhlāq, he/she will ensure that in pursuing their worldly goals, they do not harm their own Afterlife, or the lives and feelings of anyone else. Therefore, working on our Akhlāq should take precedence over chasing worldly goals.

The Benefits of Akhlāq

When working on one’s character, the following characteristics are crucial for ensuring that our pursuit of worldly goals does not endanger our afterlife. These are the primary characteristics of the believer, and every Muslim should prioritize working on these, even if one does not have any interest in pursuing worldly goals.

  1. Sincerity – The character of the believer is grounded primarily in their intentions. This is crucial to every aspect of our lives. This religion is sincerity. Sincerity towards Allah, and His Creation. A sincere believer will not pursue fame or shady goals. A sincere believer will live an ethical life and pursue his goals only through ethical means. A sincere believer will not be two-faced, more will he deceive anyone purposely.
  2. Humility – Humility is the essence of good character. In my book Best of Creation, I showed how humility does not contradict self-confidence. A true believer is both confident in the abilities Allah has given him, while humble about it. This balance helps the believer achieve goals without developing a destructive ego. Developing a sense of humility is essential for curbing the ego and remaining grounded in one’s journey of life. Without humility, every successful goal has the potential to turn an individual into a nasty arrogant show-off.
  3. Empathy – Individualism has caused too many people to lose any sense of consideration for the feelings of others. All that matters is my desires, my goals, and my life. Consumed by this mindset, too often we hurt our parents, spouses, children, and the rest of society in chasing worldly goals. No goal is worth breaking ties and hurting people. The believer loves for his brother what he loves for himself. This empathy forms a core part of his personality, guiding his plans and goals so that he can pursue them without causing any harm in the process.
  4. Justice – A sense of justice is necessary for any believer. Universal Justice is a fundamental part of Islamic Law, and therefore should be an ingrained part of every believer’s character. Turning a blind eye to oppression in order to fulfill one’s personal goals is a compromise a believer should never willingly make. Every decision must be guided by justice, to ensure that in pursuing our goals, we do not contribute to the oppression of anyone else.
  5. Selflessness – Selflessness here refers to the opposite of selfishness. It means wanting for others what you want for ourself. The idea that selflessness means neglecting one’s own needs and harming oneself is a misconception and does not fit the Islamic definition of selflessness. Selflessness simply means not being selfish. The believer wants success in both worlds, for everybody. His actions are guided by this belief which fuels every goal he develops. As a result, he rarely sets goals that are selfish. His focus is on benefiting society and helping as many people as possible achieve their goals in both worlds. A selfless person will not harm others in his pursuit of success.

Conclusion

The believer is guided by Islam in everything he/she does. Worldly goals are secondary to one’s relationship with Allah, one’s family ties, and one’s spiritual development. In pursuing worldly goals, the believer grounds his goals in sincerity, humility, empathy, justice, and selflessness. These characteristics guide him to the best goals that benefit humanity in both worlds. In doing so, the believer escapes the traps of individualism and achieves higher deeper spiritual goals that have a lasting impact long after he has left the world.

To learn more about the Islamic approach to personal development, get hold of my latest book Productivity Principles of Umar II, now available in PDF, Paperback, and Kindle.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 3 comments
Cyber Weekend Sales

Cyber Weekend Sales

The following offers are valid from 25 November 2020 until 2 December 2020.

Online Course Sales:

Aqeedah al-Tahawiyah – $18 (ACCESS IT HERE)

Muslim Golden Ages – $20 (ACCESS IT HERE)

Usul al-Fiqh Intensive – $18 (ACCESS IT HERE)

How to Homeschool Like a Pro – $25 (ACCESS IT HERE)

The Ultimate Self-Confidence Course – $30 (ACCESS IT HERE)

How to Self-Publish Like a Pro – $10 (ACCESS IT HERE)

eBook Sales:

Productivity Principles of Umar II – $7 (GET IT HERE)

Getting The Barakah: Time Management – $3 (GET IT HERE)

Best of Creation: Self-Confidence – $3 (GET IT HERE)

Themes of the Quran – $3 (GET IT HERE)

10 eBook Bundle – $15 (GET IT HERE)

The above discounts apply only for the selected products when purchased between 25 November 2020 until 2 December 2020 from these specific links.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, 0 comments