Jamil Popatia of Mawaddah – Islam is our moral compass

By Denise Nanni and
Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Jamil O.
Popatia of Mawaddah in Canada,
offering marital counselling from an Islamic perspective.  On its website it says:
Mawadda’s marital counselling is offered with
complete confidentiality and the utmost respect for the sanctity and privacy of
the marital relationship. As a faith-based counselor, my process is to work
with the presenting issues from within the broad Islamic perspective. Since
Islam is our moral compass, it permeates the way I work with my Muslim clients.
Counselling and therapy is offered in an open, respectful and non-judgmental
The word mawaddah appears
in the Qur’an several times but most notably, it appears in Chapter 30, verse
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among
yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put
permanent friendliness and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are
Signs for those who reflect.

How can be non-violent
communication defined?
Nonviolent, or more
accurately, Compassionate Communication can be defined as a presence and
process of connecting with oneself and others which is based on feelings and
universal needs. At the heart of of it, it is about balancing honest expression
and empathy, for oneself and others. As a process, Compassionate Communication
entails 4 crucial components: observations, feelings that arise from those
observations, universal needs that are foundational to the feelings that arise,
and finally, a request from oneself and/or others that would contribute to living/meeting/energy
of those needs. 
How is it possible to
teach empathy?
Personally, I believe
this to be a deeply spiritual question that cannot be answered in any sort of
rational, linear fashion. For me, empathy can ensue when it is not enforced by
some external, moralistic pressure in a dutiful sense but rather when human
beings see each other, and indeed, the rest of creation, as integral parts of a
beautiful, intentional whole. From my own personal faith perspective, empathy
flows when we see the divine spark in every living creature on earth, for they
then becomes sign-posts pointing to the mercy, beauty and majesty of a Most
Loving Creator. In this sense, empathy becomes an act of God that human beings
can access and share with each other. In Qur’anic terms, this would be called
“The Stamp of Mercy”. 
According to your
experience what are the factors (both social and individual) that can lead to a
violent approach to conflicts?
What I have noticed is
that when people become fixated on positions, solutions, strategies and narrow
beliefs, it makes for an easy transition into the “us and them”
dichotomy. This can occur can between spouses, parent-child relationships, and
perhaps most disturbing, geo-political groups that only see each other through
the lens of enemy images. Also, if a person or community is not open to hear
other perspectives and paradigms it becomes challenging for empathy to flow
because there is already a barrier in place that says “I/we’re right and
there is no other way to see things…therefore how canI/we be empathic if I/we
are so fixated on your “wrongness”? 
What are the challenges
of intercultural marriages? Can they be considered similar to the challenges
within multicultural societies?
I really like this
question but I know I will not do it justice as it is deeply complex and
requires a separate conversation on its own. First, we must define what we mean
by intercultural marriages. Are we speaking of different cultures, ethnicities,
backgrounds, religions, etc.? It is critical that we create a common language
here in order to not “talk past each other”. Many of my private
clients are mixed couples that are primarily mixed in terms of racial/ethnic
background but they tend to be from the same dominant culture (e.g. North
American) and the same religion (e.g. normative Islam). 
How do you involve Muslim
principles into your coaching and support services?
I’m not sure what you
mean by the term “Muslim principles” but if I take a guess, I am
going to assume you mean how do I inundate the principles, morals, ethics,
spirituality of Islam into my work with families and organizations? Again, I do
this based on my own spiritual practice and learnings that I gain from my
teacher/sufi guide who imparts the letter and spirit of the Qur’an as
understood in the broadest spiritual sense. This is what some theologians term
Ethical Monotheism. It entails a deep spiritual understanding of Islam that
transcends culture, custom and even tradition, itself. Essentially, I am able
to work with my audiences this way by recalling our Purpose as human beings on
this earth. For Muslims, this means breathing the love and compassion of God
into everything and every relationship we encounter. Such was the way of the
Holy Prophet Muhummad.