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Aug 22, 2009 - writings    4 Comments

On the first day of Ramadan…


Praise be to Allah for giving us the blessing of Islam. Praise be to Allah for allowing us to experience one more Ramadan. One more chance for Repentance. One more chance for Forgiveness. Welcome O Guest! Welcome Old friend! I have missed you. Welcome…

This first day of Ramadan (or rather I should say ‘first night’ since the Islamic calendar starts in the evening :) ) began hot and humid, as have been the days previously. I’ve been hanging out in my sister’s old room, the only one up here that has A/C! until I’m too tired or it’s cooled down a bit at night to go back to mine. So this morning it was hot and sticky as usual and I headed to Jum’ah in a town nearby. As I left it was quite sunny. As soon as I got on the highway and started driving, I saw these dark black clouds straight ahead of me. The air cooled and dimmed and the drops started to fall. By the time I arrived it was raining proper.

Summer rain here in upstate NY is different than rain I’ve experienced elsewhere. It’s like an almost light drizzle, sheets of straight rain that keep on coming and seem endless. And then inexplicably it just dries up, the clouds part and the sun pops out. So I had to park a million miles away as usual and hitched up my long grey maxi dress and headed towards the basement of the university armory where we usually have our Jumahs. The rain feels good and light and while most of the Jumah goers seemed a little damp they looked happy to be there. As soon as I walked in I noticed three rows of women which is usually our full capacity and it was still 10 minutes to go before Khutbah time! 8O

I found a spot and waited. After the Adhan, the Shaikh started the Khutbah. Unfortunately the speakers weren’t working! Luckily, a brother came who knew what he was doing and fixed them up a bit. The Khutbah was mostly about making this fasting more of an inner spiritual exercise against the Nafs, than an outward one about food. In Ramadan, we should just let it all go, to the extent where we might even have some rights, like if someone did some injustice to us, we should tell them “inni saa’im” and let it go. We should forgive, even those things done against us, and internalize our fasting.

I thought about that then and am thinking about it now. I really do want to let go of all the hurt feelings and mistakes of the past. It’s hard for me to forget when someone’s hurt my feelings though. I wish I could be a non-sensitive person where things didn’t bother me as much. Like the close friend of mine while growing up who never invited me to her Nikah, or the time I was supposed to have lunch with someone and she never showed up, or the bro who proposed while insulting me a la Mr. Collins style (what a story that one is!) Why do I keep so many of all these petty things with me? I mean who cares right. We’re all marching on this journey, on this Caravan to Eternity and all these grudges and remembrances of injustices of the past are just weighing me down and keeping me behind. Can’t I throw them off the side and leave them behind me? Can’t I forgive and forget? Can’t I meet people with a smiling face with no thought to the past? Is it enough to forgive and not forget, or must we forget, because if we still remember, have we really forgiven? Forgetting without forgiving seems like a workable method, but yet I must forgive to earn Allah’s Forgiveness.

While in these thoughts and listening, the Khutbah progressed and we could hear the storm’s mayhem outside. Thunder and lighting and huge booms that seemed like it hit right next to the armory. The lights flickered once or twice but Alhamdulllah held. The Khutbah was over and walking towards the entrance I saw tons of people just lingering and then noticed in front of them: a sheet of rain. No wonder no one was moving! I headed to the front and thought…well they do it in Bollywood movies right? ;) So I walked right out into the rain with nothing and casually strolled to my car; the cool water sliding down my face and arms. It actually felt nice and cleansing. As if while we were inside the world raged and stormed and when we came out the straight, endless rain was making sure we were purified.

As soon as I got in my car the rain stopped! (Of course! :P ) I headed home and got ready for the evening’s Taraweeh prayer. This year our Ramadan miracle came early and everyone (just about) in the world and all our local Mosques were starting fast on the same day.

The Mosque I decided to go to in the evening is the one closest to my house – the inner city Masjid. Now you might ask why I go there, as have others before you! Growing up we were pretty much middle class but when most other families started moving to the suburbs, for some reason we never did. We still live in the city per se but more in the uptown area. I don’t know why, but this Mosque feels like my roots, like as if I was someone who lived in the ghetto and made it big and was trying to come back. It just feels like this is where the real Muslims are, where the revolution starts, on the ground where things are happening. This is the Mosque the Prophet (s) would have come to teach in. The people here (not to insult them) are probably among the poorest and most oppressed. They have the most problems. Among them are many sick people with things like diabetes and broken knees and various illnesses. There are women struggling with many kids, those trying to learn English, recent immigrants, converts, African Americans, Sudanis, Somalis, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, families of Muslim men who are in jail. They may not have grand Arabic skills or a famous Shaikh or marble walls or sparkling chandeliers but they are the real thing.

There’s things I’ve seen here and people I’ve met that I never would have anywhere else. I once met a woman who was a member of Malcolm X’s original Mosque and she told us in her own words how Malcolm was, the people she met and stories from those days. I met an Afghani woman once who just had triplets! I met a woman who fell down her stairs and broke her back. She came every day to Taraweeh with her back in a brace! I met a sister who is 89 and has a Southern accent, she has gout and takes the bus from the nursing home to come to the Mosque for Iftars every day. She brings crafts for the kids to do like making Ramadan cards. I met a sprightly elderly Sudani lady who lives around the corner and comes for EVERY Jama’ prayer in the Masjid. She knows her Pakistani neighbors so well she’s even learnt some Urdu from them. One time I heard her speak to them and was so stunned, she winked at me and told me she knew how to speak my ‘Hindustani’ too! Yes, even the Hafiz that leads the prayers here is amazing. He is also blind. :D

Now you just can’t get that anywhere and I’ve been to Mosques around the world and can testify. It may be the best kept secret that an Iftar at an inner city American Masjid is as interesting as walking into a cafe in Casablanca in the 30s. Just as mysterious, with many shady characters, each one with their own story, you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll experience. And don’t worry there’s no guy with a patch and a parrot on his shoulder either! 8) You may have to watch your purse a little more closely, but these are the people Allah will save. The uncle with the Jaguar or the doctor who hurries outside when their beeper goes off at the other Mosques, hmm all good of course. I’ll still go to other Mosques, but raising my hands for the Witr Dua with the wife of the custodian of the Mosque on one side and the young daughter of a Muslim prisoner (unjustly) on the other, I feel like if it is somewhere, it is here Allah would answer my prayers.

Jul 23, 2009 - writings    12 Comments

Amazing People I Really Admire

Amazing people I really admire…

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in front of four amazing famous speakers at ISNA and it started me thinking about the people I really admire in this world, so here they are….



Sh. Qaradawi – Dude, ppl talk about the mujaddid of this age and they bring up all these hard core hadith scholars and Iranian shah or someone. But this is the real thing right here. Sh. Qaradawi has vision, he has knowledge and above all he has wisdom. There is a reason ppl make fun of him and call his book “halal wal halal” because he’s just cool like that. They can’t stand it :-) But seriously, all you have to do is read one of his books or hear him speak. He may make things easier for the people, but he continues to be straight with the principles of Islam and Quran. This is the best kind of scholar, which keeps everything including the personal circumstances of people in mind and modern times, and brings us back to the real Sunnah. Read any of his books like Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase and you’ll just be…illuminated! You’ll breathe a sigh of relief and say finally someone making sense about Islam with real vision! He makes Islam so cool and amazingl!!

Dr. Ingrid Mattson – Here is a scholarly woman who has broken new ground by becoming ISNA’s first woman president. And the thing is she did it by just being herself. She isn’t loud or opinionated or pushing for things or trying to be motivating through her speeches. She said once that from childhood she was always a melancholy serious person and that’s what she is. She’s quiet and serious and makes excellent scholarly speeches that have more depth to them than most others. I think she’s awesome.

Suhaib Webb – I mean how can you not? DJ from the Midwest turns Azhari scholar. It’s got tabloid all over it :) But really he’s someone that’s following a certain path and you can just see the bright sparks trailing behind him. I can’t think of any other Da’ee that’s trying to bring Islam to the youth using today’s technology. I’m just waiting any day now for when he gets twitter ;)

Sh. Mokhtar – I could write a book here, but suffice it to say there is no-one like him. He’s like salafi/sufi all mixed in with a feminist side, lol. Does that explain it? There’s no other scholar I know who is more pro-women and fair to sisters. There’s no one with more spirituality and love for the prophet and the Quran and the sunnah. There is no one in the world I would rather go to with my problems or for help. ANDDDd he’s moving back to Albany YAyyyy! My life isn’t over. Thanks :)

Yusuf Islam – Even before I ever heard any of his music I used to listen to him on the lecture circuit when I was a kid. Back when ICNA was in those weird campuses like Delhi or NYIT he used to come and speak to us. We were always in awe that he was once ‘Cat Stevens’, but we really didn’t know what it meant. In his speeches, he’d talk about peace, love for Islam and helping others. He’s always been the same. Humble, down to earth, laid back, has a sense of humor, cares for humanity, cares for Muslims, wants people to see the real Islam, a father, husband, da’ee, artist, educator, philanthropist. I totally want to marry someone like him, or be him, one or the other ;)

Zarqa Nawaz – Creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie! I know there are a lot of haters out there that are like the characters should be wearing burqah or should be puppets to be Islamic or whatever, but come on. Have you ever seen a non-terrorist Muslim on TV, like EVER?! That is why she’s awesome. She had a creative idea and despite any detractors, Muslim or Non-Muslim, she made it work to the benefit of everyone even if they can’t see it. The show is great and so is she. And when I’m done writing my Muslim version of Pride and Prejudice I’m totally sending it to her!! :)

Abdullah Yusuf AliYes, the Quran translator! Why? Because every time I read it I think his translation is amazing. His commentary is amazing. His poetry and references are amazing. There’s a reason why his translation is the gold standard no one has been able to touch. He’s a person through which millions of Muslims understand the Divine. I read a biography of his where it talked about how he died alone and penniless. InshaAllah never. He has accrued a million good deeds from all of us.

Zaid Shakir – I remember sitting around a MYNA campfire somewhere while he told his story of how he became Muslim and then when I went to Syria I’d hear all these stories about Imam Zaid riding around all over town on his bicycle attending all these Duroos and how he started the first Eid party for the foreigners. And then he would come to our small town college to help us fundraise when I was at school. Now he’s on the West coast but we still love him because I mean he’s Imam Zaid!

Altaf Hussain/Naeem Muhammad – I hope they don’t read this heh. Altaf I mean is Altaf. Everyone knows, loves and learns from him. He’s traveled up and down the coast to the Midwest, to Cali and back fundraising, speaking and motivating. He reminds me of a young Imam Siraj who I know is also one of his heroes. He is an amazing person MashaAllah. Naeem went to Islamic school his whole life, active in MYNA, now Native Deen and Islamic Relief. Boy has passion or strength or something. Everything he does he does 100%. He’s like the Muslim Hannah Montana. Relief worker by day, rock star at night! Lol :D Plus both these brother’s wives were once my roommates!!! :)

Muslim Solidarity Committee – This is a group of non-Muslim Americans in my town who banded together to help the Muslims that the gov’t targeted post 9/11. They have supported the victims for the last 5 years physically and monetarily and continue to work tirelessly for social justice for Muslims. At a time when I have to literally beg Muslims to help in any way or to try to do something about what is going on, they are the ones organizing everything, staging protests, talking to the media and politicians, making films and supporting the families.

Sisters X– These are various sisters I met while in Syria. Mostly British they come from all different backgrounds but the one thing they have in common is that they left everything to travel halfway across the world to study Islam. The strength and vulnerability and just character of these sisters is something I think of often. Sometimes I’ll think of something they did or said, or something they taught me or some trip or fun we had. I don’t know what it is but I’ve just never met any sisters like these except there.

Various Husbands – I won’t mention any names, but every time I see something they do for their wife or their kids or their parents or the community, I’m just amazed. They are soo good! Maybe I’m comparing them to all the fob husbands I know or the freak-file guys I interact with on the web, but I’m always filled with admiration for them just for being good men.

Wives of Imams and Speakers – I’ve never met one who I didn’t think was amazing. From Imam Suhaib’s to Imam Zaid’s to my own sister. They’re never in the limelight but everything their awesome husband’s do is to their credit. They take care of the homes, the family, the kids, their husbands and they sacrifice a lot in the way of Islam. I admire them much! :)

Gosh this list could get endless. I’d add like Jamal Badawi, more amazing anisahs of mine in Syria, a great American daee’ah there sr. Tamara, Salahuddin, Muhammad Asad, Ibn Hazm, Malcolm X, Hamza Yusuf, Imam Siraj, Br. Djafer, Rachel Corrie, Sr. Zainab, Scott Ritter, Ghazali, Rumi, tons of poets, sahabah, sahabiyat, prophets, our prophet (s). Who else??

Elizabeth Bennett once said, “The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense.” There are days that I get more and more disillusioned by humanity, with their meanness, their greed, jealousy, evils and selfishness. Sometimes I honestly ask Allah why He created us all when we’re so messed up! So that’s why today I thought I’d do the opposite and try to reaffirm that there are still some good people out there that I love and admire and make Dua for.

Jazaks for reading & coment!!! Let me know who you admire the most and why!!

Ws :)