By Syifa Sjah
I spent Wednesday night reunited with my people – high schoolers. On campus at the seminary, I’m always struggling to finish my homework or struggling to keep up in class discussions. At Plano East High School’s MSA event, I lived it up amongst my true peers. Sheikh Abdul Nasir and my classmates Jannah and AbdulRahman spoke about Muslims in America that evening. To be precise, they taught us that being a Muslim means fulfilling the rights Allah has over us and fulfilling the rights of others, and they taught us how to take that from its ideal to its reality. Masha Allah, every single thing they said was so beneficial and rang completely true, and gem after gem I was scrambling to take notes.
The first thing that stuck with me was actually something an MSA brother said: Our faith shouldn’t have to depend on anyone else – it’s just you and Allah. Taking that idea further, I always thought Muslim identity meant being an island. Sheikh Abdul Nasir described it as “The more Muslim you are, the more alone you are.” It never occurred to me that this shouldn’t be the case. It’s true that being a believer is about your relationship with Allah, but it’s also true that the Prophet (S) said you won’t believe until you love one another. He also said, “المسلم من سلم الناس من لسانه و يده”. The Muslim is the one from whom people are safe, people aren’t afraid that the Muslim will hurt them with his hand or with his tongue. Part of being a believer is your relationship with people, being good to them. Making sure to forgive others when they hurt you, and to apologize and make things right when you hurt them. It’s tough to be good to people, it requires being generous with your time and energy, two very limited resources. It’s only possible when no matter what the situation, your relationship with Allah comes first.
Putting Allah first might seem like the lifestyle of someone with superhuman strength, or maybe an occurrence that springs up in the rare moment of a spiritual high. But what about those days where you feel like you don’t care about anyone or anything? Don’t worry, you’re not broken or doomed to Hell. Just like a lamp needs a power source, we need a power source – not an electrical source, but a spiritual one. Reconnecting with Allah is the key, and it’s the mundane little things that are a really big deal in maintaining your connection with Allah throughout the day. Counting your blessings, saying words of gratitude for even the littlest things, acknowledging that it’s Allah who’s taking care of your needs every single second of every single day. The least we can do is thank Allah.
And what takes your relationship with Allah from rare moment to lifestyle habit is dua. Again and again, Jannah and AbdulRahman brought in the power of dua. We all have a long way to go when it comes to fulfilling the rights of Allah over us and fulfilling the rights of people over us, so ask Allah to help you, to make it easy, to make things happen. Jannah shared a beautiful dua, one that the Prophet (S) taught us: اللهم كما حسنت خلقي فحسن خلقي. Allah, make our characters beautiful, just like You made our appearances beautiful. And if you feel like your character is far from beautiful, follow Sheikh’s advice: do whatever little things you can do, like counting your blessings throughout the day, or remembering the one who gave you your food before you bite into it. He says it’s like painting a house. You could worry for weeks about which end of the house to start painting from, but if you start painting a little here and a little there, you’ll eventually get the whole house done. May Allah make us true believers, make us people of the Prophet (S)’s character, and furnish our houses in jannah.
By Ayesha Baig
The best among you is one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.
(Narrated by Imam Ahmed)
أَهْلُ الْقُرْآنِ عُرَفَاءُ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ
The people of the Qur’an are the most well-informed within the people of Paradise.
May Allah increase us in terms of knowledge and make us Ashaab ul Quran. Ameen.
By Amina Darwish
I remember listening to different reciters as to help me memorize Quran. I remember loving how they made the Quran come alive. I remember how I wanted to learn tajweed just to be like them. One of my top two favorite reciters was Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Shatiri. We would play the Quran in the car when we traveled long distances as a family and he was one of the favorites. We were told that he was coming to Qalam campus to visit us. I felt like a young child meeting an exciting celebrity, except it was the Quran that gave him his status. We wondered what he would be like. I imagined an old man with a big beard, maybe wearing a thawb. I wondered if he would speak to the women in the class. Until the day he finally came to class.
He was not what I had expected at all. He was very normal. He was down to earth. He smiled. He wore regular clothes. He sat at the front of the class. He laughed with us and made us all feel comfortable in his presence. His humility was shining through. He politely asked our teacher what was expected of him. He was asked to just give us some advice and share some of his thoughts with us. So he looked down for a second and gathered his thoughts. He smiled. He nodded. Then he started tell us how to be a successful at serving the community. It was clear that it was his passion.
He told us about 5 things every community activist should have. The first was sincerity. He smiled gently, shook his head, and said if it is not for Allah, what is it worth? The second was patience: patience with people, and patience to get the work done, which brought him to his next point. Don’t be overly sensitive. To be able to serve, you have to let things. You cannot get upset with others. It wasn’t about them anyway. But it was still important for people to see your good character. And to be able to use this influence to guide others. He reminded us that the Prophet peace be upon him was known as the honest and trustworthy, and that people respected him even before he became the Prophet of Allah. He said we similarly should be deserving of people’s respect. Then finally he told us not to rush the results. They are not up to us, but the work was. Then he tied the last point back to the first. He asked why would anyone rush the results rather than ask Allah for help. Did we forget who it was for? He told us that the secret to success in all of this is simply to ask Allah for His support. And what better support can we get? Then he asked and wondered why anyone would ever do anything without asking Allah for help and support.
He was so down to earth. I had almost forgotten that he is the same man whose voice filled the car with a beautiful recitation of the Quran whenever we traveled as a family. But then, one of the students asked how to memorize the Quran with excellence. Then I was quickly reminded of why Allah had blessed him and gave him the Quran as a gift. He said you must memorize the Quran very well the first time. He said even if it took 10 years, don’t take short cuts. Memorize the Quran and do it well. He said he would recite each verse 21 times. Then he would recite the one after 21 times. And he would continue until he reached the middle the page. Then he would recite all the verses together 21 times. He talked about how by the time you were done, you should be able to write the ayah from memory. I was so floored. I had never heard of anyone having that much dedication to the book of Allah. It is true what the companion Ibn Abbas may Allah be pleased with him said, that people get from the Quran what they intend to get. May Allah bless Sheikh Shatri and make he make us all from the people of the Quran.
By Faten Abdelfattah
I am very excited! After many months of reading and close reviewing with Shaykh AbdulNasir, we finally get to graduate to independent research. Having the ability to navigate classical and contemporary texts from prominent scholars and hunting for the gems they offer feels like we’re growing up. I couldn’t have imagined doing this a mere four or five months ago.
This past week we started a new project that requires each student to independently research resources and present his or her findings to the class. Now doesn’t sound that exciting? Well, it actually is when the topic happens to be exploring the Names of Allah (SWT)! Each student has been assigned at least three or more names to present periodically over the next few weeks. This coincides perfectly with a new class we recently started: Aqeedah (Creed) Studies. We can easily get lost in the technicalities of what our creed is or is not, which scholar said what, or which school of thought declared the other to be a “deviant”. However, this project is a refreshing way to be able to take a step back, draw closer to Him (SWT) through His Names, and remember what “Iman” truly is.
While hacking away at the texts, page by page, jotting down points, hadiths, and scholars’ comments, I was taken back to my undergraduate days of research papers. I remember sitting for hours, reading page after page, and gathering evidence to support my view. Then I was struck by one important difference: I’m not writing about some novel a dead guy wrote a century ago or theorizing about the impact of current events, I’m reading about who my Creator is. What He (SWT) has told us firsthand about Himself in the Book we read every day. What His Messenger (PBUH) imparted upon us in an effort to get us closer to Him (SWT). My purpose should not be to put some words together, present a view, and hand in yet another assignment. The words I’m reading should be changing my life. I should be reflecting over what the scholars have said, what gems I can draw from a hadith, and how a particular Name of Allah (SWT) impacts me personally. It’s a blessing to know that we’re not just working on a mundane assignment, but rather one that has the potential to make us better people, better believers, and better slaves of Allah (SWT).
By Aatifa Shareef
We started upping our game this week. We started both Uloom ul Qur’an and Aqeedah, two advanced subjects that are actually really basic: they are the sciences behind the Qur’an and our beliefs. We also started our student-led MSA events, events beyond the regular weekly halaqas and khutbahs. This is taking place right after the Stand & Deliver Khateeb and Public Speaking Workshop, so our speaking skills are expected to be top-notch. And a few of the students just participated in the Rad Talks event, a Muslim version of TED talks, a conference for sharing bright ideas and collaboration with other activist-minded Muslims. We’re no longer just sitting and being spoon-fed information, but we’re working hard to research, learn, and then present information to the rest of our classmates and others. Our world is expanding, and it’s both frightening and exhilarating to know that we are able to tackle it head on.
The only way we’ll be able to be effective though is to actually understand people. The majority of the people we interact with willingly attend whatever events we attend, so it’s important to know where they are coming from. Up until now, we’ve been attending the halaqas and MSA events, meeting and talking to the people around us. At Stand & Deliver, each of us was given a group to work with. We introduced ourselves to each other to know what other kinds of activities people are participating in to do their part in serving Islam. Some people were newly religious Muslims taking the workshop to talk to their friends more effectively about Islam. Others were doctors who wanted to feel comfortable talking to their patients about Islam. And others were students trying to build the confidence to stand up to their classmates and teachers and present the correct image of Islam. Seeing so many people all working to bring people closer to Allah makes my efforts seem not so isolated and frightening anymore. But I realize that each of us is just a player on the same team, passing the ball amongst ourselves, all working towards one goal. May Allah reward all of our efforts in this world and the next.
By Wasif Khan
We had just completed the “chapter of I’tikaaf” in our study of Fiqh. Next up was Kitabul Hajj, and the Shaykh gave us a beautiful introduction to the book. I enjoyed the introduction, as I was able to relive some of the moments I had just experienced from Hajj, Alhamdulillah. Until the point where Shaykh mentioned, “So inshaa Allah, we will have Wasif give us an overview of the rituals of Hajj tomorrow!”
The preparations began; Mina, Arafaat, Muzadalifah, Jamaraat, Tawaaf, etc. It was great to relive the experience all over again. The following day, I was able to present the timeline of Hajj and also shared some of my own personal experiences with the class. Below, I’d like to share one of those reflections with you.
It was the 7th Day of Dhul Hijjah, the day before Hajj officially begins. We were stationed in Azizia, just a couple of miles from the Ka’bah itself. Where our group leader, Shaykh Omar had shared with us the following similarities between “Birth & Hajj”. He termed it the “Rebirth”. This reflection was based upon the Hadith of the Prophet Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam.
حَدَّثَنَا آدَمُ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، حَدَّثَنَا سَيَّارٌ أَبُو الْحَكَمِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا حَازِمٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ
“ مَنْ حَجَّ لِلَّهِ فَلَمْ يَرْفُثْ وَلَمْ يَفْسُقْ رَجَعَ كَيَوْمِ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ ”
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, “Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 1521 | Book 25, Hadith 9 | Vol. 2, Book 26, Hadith 596
The Shaykh eloquently depicted the similarities between the birth of a newborn and Hajj, and how this time around it was a better “rebirth”. Of how it wasn’t the first time we were at Arafaat. Before we were born, and before we were sent to this world we had already been on the plains of Arafaat where Allah SWT took the covenant from each and every soul as it is recorded in Surah Al-A’raaf – “Am I not your Master?” And we all replied, Of course you are, and we testified”. However, this time around during Hajj as we stood on the plains of Arafaat and begged for forgiveness it was much more meaningful. This time around, it was only by special invitation. And those who made the trip, answered the call of Ibraheem A that was made centuries ago.
After Arafaat we all headed over to Muzdalifah, where all the Hujjaaj are obliged to spend the night under the sky. This resembled when all the souls gathered in the skies after taking the covenant. The next step in Hajj was to return to Mina and head over to the Jamaraat to stone the pillars that symbolize Shaytaan. This step in Hajj resembles the time of birth, where Shaytaan pokes the newborn to show his enmity. At that time, we were vulnerable to Shaytaan. However, as we walk towards Jamaraat to stone the Shaytaan as we say Allahu Akbar “Allah is greater”, Shaytan is now the vulnerable one!
After a baby is born, the parents shave the head of the newborn. Likewise, the Hujjaj make their way to the Barber shop to have their heads shaved/trimmed. Lastly, we offer the Udhiyah/Sacrifice for the newborn and this is also resembled during Hajj as one of the last rituals.
SubhanAllah, what a beautiful rebirth! Now, the wise words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad S, are so much more meaningful…”Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew.”
This past week at the Qalam Seminary we started the tafseer of Surah Noor by Imam Al Qurtubi. This is our third tafseer out of the five we plan on covering throughout the year. As we discussed the consequences of zina [adultery/fornication] and what Allah (SWT) decreed for those who commit zina, we also discussed the time this was revealed and who it was revealed for. It was obviously at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (S), but it’s important to remember that his immediate audience was our beloved sahaba, the people who in our eyes did everything right. But they were human too, so they did make mistakes. It was their recovery after these mistakes and their tawba, their turning back to Allah after having turned away from Him, that made them remarkable. Even in times of great adversity, as we learned in the context of this surah, they still showed restraint and they forgave without compromising justice for the greater good.
The Qur’an is a timeless book. It is just as relevant to us today and as it was relevant to the sahaba at the time of the Prophet (s). The most amazing part is that the rules in the Quran are less than 10% of the Quran. The remaining 90% is building character, community, and emphasizing the importance of reaching our potential as human beings. It is important when reading about the rules in the Quran to not take them out of context without appreciating it as a whole in terms of human development. This is what we learn from the sahaba. They internalized the Quran as a whole and used it to better themselves as they applied the rulings. They weren’t perfect beings, but that’s exactly what makes them perfect examples for us. They were perfect in seeking forgiveness for their mistakes when they did make them, a great reminder for us to never forget that Allah (SWT) is The Most Forgiving and The Most Merciful.
By Muaz Inam
Many responsibilities rest on the shoulders of American Muslims. We struggle with balancing the needs of upholding a tradition of scholarship while remaining relevant in the face of modernity. Often the lines are blurred and our attentions are misappropriated. We are faced with two distinct classes—a class fixated on upholding a very scholarly tradition, but devoid of relevance and incapable of addressing the social challenges of a modern American Muslim community; and a more prevalent class of American born Muslim activists with an unparalleled passion towards social reform, however because they are not grounded in the traditional normative religious sciences, they are ill-equipped to meeting those challenges in an Islamic light.
Qalam Institute’s full-time program seeks to fill the gaping hole and bridge this gap. The program is designed to attract students who are activists in their communities, and equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to address the challenges of the American Muslim community. By no means will our students be proclaimed scholars of the religion, rather activists and leaders in their communities who are well-versed in the normative tradition and well-equipped to address the social needs of their communities in an Islamic light.
This is achieved through the triumvirate of normative Islamic scholarship, community service, and leadership workshops, all of which are indispensable for the development of the American Muslim activist. Under the tutelage of Sheikh Abdul-Nasir Jangda, every class increases and broadens our understanding of the normative religious sciences (Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, the prophetic biography, etc.). We are also familiarizing ourselves with the community through weekly sermons and talks to local community centers and college campuses, as well as engagement with local service initiatives like the Ma’ruf Refugee Center. Qalam Institute’s students are often visited by Muslim activists from countries and cities all over the world who share with us their initiatives and projects. We learn of their challenges, benefit from their insight, and grow inspired by their success.
Qalam Institute also hosts weekly workshops for the students which are themed around community leadership. Workshops will cover topics ranging from Managing Debt and Public Speaking to Event Planning and Conflict Resolution. These workshops shed light on the Prophetic tradition of service. It provides for us a holistic understanding, and brings relevancy to the traditional sciences of Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, prophetic biography, etc.
The first few months of the program have been overwhelming, but they were incredibly insightful. I pray that through the completion of this program I and my fellow students will be a means of great benefit to our communities. We pray that this initiative will be a means of bridging the gap and creating a new class of well-grounded activists who are well-equipped to address the pressing social and spiritual needs of Muslim communities across America.
“We’ll have class online inshaAllah” was what Shaykh Abdul Nasir told us in an email early Friday morning. It had snowed at night, and driving conditions were bad. Ice all over the roads, cars covered in ice/snow, and literally freezing cold temperatures. It was so bad, local scholars were reminding people that Jumu’ah is not obligatory on someone if driving is too dangerous. This weekend would be an interesting one.
As Texas is not prepared for snow, roads still had ice on them two days later. Thus, we were, for the most part, stuck inside. It is amazing how much value something as simple as leaving the house has when one can’t do so. For that matter, it seems that when we lose something, we see the true value of what we had. Consequently, we see the Prophet, sallalLahu ‘alaihi wa-sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), warning us not to fall into this trap, and reminding us to value things we have before we lose them.
The most well-known example of this is the advice of the Prophet, sallalLahu ‘alaihi wa-sallam, “Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.”
Let us try to take these moments as reminders to take advantage of what we have and use our abilities, time, and possessions in the correct manner, before it is too late. We have many blessing we often overlook. They could be something we have had our whole life, or something we just got recently.
Regardless, it would be smart for us to save ourselves from the sorrow of realizing that we had wasted what was given to us once it is taken away.
By Jannah Sultan
It was a Tuesday night as I blankly stared at the laptop, searching for words, what to type. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Why was it so hard for me to write down my thoughts for the halaqa even though this was not my first time? I had been researching and reading up so much on such a great woman who had changed peoples’ lives for over 1400 years, and now here I am, trying to relay how she changed mine. The question in my head was, “how?”
How was I suppose to allow these sisters to feel what I felt? To be so inspired that they also want to be like our mother Umm Habibah (RA). How? Our teacher Shaykh Abdul Nasir had given us resources to research and understand these great women of eman, yet I still felt pressure due to the amana (trust) of making sure I am relaying the truth and not misunderstanding anything. I again sat quietly, pondering on how to go about this task. Why is this so hard for me? Of course the other issue was that Shaykh Abdul Nasir was going to listen to it and give feedback; the pressure never ceases at Qalam.
I decided it would be best to just write freely, letting my thoughts flow through my fingers without restraint. When I felt like I was done, I then started to fix and adjust my wording. It wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be, but I knew Shaykh Abdul Nasir would help me.
Thursday, the day before the halaqa, I’m finally able to meet with Shaykh for help in what I think are a few tweaks here and there. I’m already nervous going in because I feel my content is not as strong as it should be. The meeting begins with me asking questions, making sure everything I wrote about her is true. But now Shaykh is asking me what are my main points, what do I want to communicate? “Uhhhhh..” as I stumble for words, in my head I’m thinking, “Oh no! Why is he asking me questions? Please don’t, I thought only I was going to ask the questions…” Words come out although I don’t know if any of it makes sense.
Shaykh looks at me trying not to make me feel bad, continuing to ask me questions to broaden my spectrum of thought. By the end of the meeting, my entire perspective of the topic did a 180. There was only one issue: my halaqa was the next day. I rushed home worried about how was I going to make my “whatever” speech amazing in such little time. Shaykh made it very clear to me that he wants excellence, he wants quality! How was I going to prove to him that I can give him that?
For the rest of the day all I did was perfect my thoughts. It was a process: I kept editing over and over, unable to stop. The more I read it, the more I kept changing until I delivered it to my friend who said, “Stop, it’s perfect.” I sighed of relief, at last I can live normally again.
I finally got some rest and am now on my way to the halaqa. How will it be? How many sisters will there be? Who will be my audience? I walk in to find very few sisters, most of whom I know. “Alhamdulillah,” I thought, “I can do this!” I begin a tad nervously, but then I ease into a point of no stress, no worries, just me being me.
Alhamdulillah, I said what I wanted to say hoping Allah accepts it from me. Now I’m just wondering how Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda will respond to the recording of my halaqa. Until then, I am left in curiosity.
By Amina Darwish
“Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.” The beautiful sound of the athan filled the room. The muathin’s voice is calm, soothing, and full of conviction. The carpet was covered in tiny erasers, pieces of a pen, and other random objects that served as proof of the 50 children that had just left the room. We sat silently and listened til the end of the athan. We then learned that the imam that was calling people to prayer was actually a single father of three children. He lost one of his legs fleeing a war zone. And after spending countless days in the hospital, he spend countless other days fighting with Child Protective Services to be able to father his own children. Then one blessed day, he found a community and a community found him.
We all have thoughts and dreams of what a community should look like. People should know each other, love each other, and support each other. There was a point when I had honestly lost hope and wondered if such a community was even possible. Last Sunday, Allah blessed our class by introducing us to the community of this imam. Maruf is a masjid in North Dallas that serves the refugee community. It has won awards for their system of settling refugees within 4 months and helping them regain their independence, their sense of self, and the dignity that was lost fleeing from a war zone.
It was born out of a vision of keeping the Ummah of Mohammed (pbuh) together. The idea is so simple, yet so profound. Anyone from around the world is my brother or sister in faith, or my equal in humanity. The leaders of the community are humble, compassionate, and efficient. There were no quibbles about the gender of the board members; there was just a team that loved the Prophet (pbuh) and sought to honor him by living out his legacy of compassion.
Then we met a 13 year old boy. He was a hafidh with dreams of becoming an imam. His love of learning was obvious. His eyes twinkled when he talked about completing his memorization at age 10. He smiled with pride as any boy his age would. If we hadn’t been told, we would have never known that this boy was an orphan. That the only family he knew was the other sole survivor from his village that had embraced him and asked him to call him dad. Despite his loss, he was proud. He was excited about life. He too had found a community and a new home.
Such is the community that returned my faith one day by witnessing a people that loved each other like the companions of the Prophet (pbuh). With all the atrocities in Burma, Syria, Somalia, and countless other countries, a feeling of helplessness is very overwhelming except that now, we can actually help. The actions could be as simple as packing supplies, but the feelings of love and compassion behind every action were as bright as day. The light of compassion and service to others would be enough to soften even the hardest heart. Allah says in Surah Hadeed,
“Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.”
Whenever we leave this world, our deeds will be the legacy that defined our lives. Hopefully our legacy will be one of compassion in the footsteps of the one who was sent as a mercy to the worlds. May Allah bless all those that do good for His sake. Ameen.
By Syifa Sjah
Tajweed class is twice a week with our esteemed teacher, Ustadh Wisam. We begin by saying, then reciting, then proclaiming the word “apple”. Bizarre, but incredibly inspiring, may Allah have mercy on our teachers. The class is a lot of breathing, and reciting, and thinking, and repeating – but not a lot of writing. العلم في الصدور لا في السطور “Knowledge is in the chests, not in your notes.” Immediately following up knowledge with action is empowering; before we dismiss class, we’ve already begun acting upon it.
First, take a deep breath through the nose. Your lungs fill up. Your sternum rises.
Then another quick intake of air, through your nose, inflating you until your lungs feel tight.
Then finally a sharp gasp for air through the mouth. His wording is, “Another breath through your mouth,” but realistically speaking at this point in time it’s a gasp.
Now your lungs are filled, “Let it out like a Pepsi can,” and you slowly deflate, air escaping through the mouth in a very long hiss. The cycle begins again and this time we let it out like a straw.
And now, deep breath again, you find your voice. It’s the “Aa” in “Apple”, it comes out of your chest, shaking the air inside and out of you. You know you’ve got it because it’s physically in front of you. And if there’s nothing backing your “Aa” up, as you push the air out with your diaphragm you try again, “Aa, apple.”
It isn’t all theory, it’s got substance. You’re not all talk and no show, you work that apple.
Now, recitation begins. You hit that “Bi” because you mean business, and the “Sss” has just the right amount of whistle. “Mi” comes out just the way it’s spelled, no hint of a “Meh” – and once you hit that “Llll” it’s all about commitment. “Aa” travels to the “H” and leaves you with stereo. You push the place where the sound occurs, and seamlessly push air out using your diaphragm to send the sound in front of you. All the while remembering: these words are divine.
The gravity of that understanding carries the combination of sounds and air past the point of reading into recitation territory. It’s not recitation unless you’re feeling it.
As you recite, you catch places where you find yourself reading. How’d that happen? Did I forget to raise my “Ain” where Allah raised the sky above my head? Did I forget the stereo in my “H” where Umar (RA)’s heart shook? Did I forget to commit my “Lll” where Adam and Hawa (AS) lament what truly is the ultimate loss? There’s no way we could possibly be reading if every word is weighed down by the realization of whom these words belong to.
Then you take another breath, and repeat the cycle, and take another breath, and repeat, breathe, repeat, breathe, repeat. You’re learning something new, and you’re implementing it right away. You are strong, capable, and courageous. And you feel yourself change. How could you not? With the Qur’an being divinely sent down like rain, nourishment from the sky: life-giving, life-sustaining, breathing life into our lungs. All we can do is feel alive.
After a little over 2 months we had all become comfortable with the way the class was progressing. We were making some real headway in all of the books we had been studying in class; day in and day out the workload seemed more and more manageable. Everyone in the class got top marks on our first Fiqh exam regarding the Hanafi opinion on taharah (purification), all the brothers had successfully given Khutba without crashing and burning, the Sisters’ Halaqa was really picking up traction with the local daughters of the community we had become a part of, and we made it through what would probably be one of the toughest texts we would be studying this year, Zamakshari’s famous tafseer, Kashhaf.
Things were really starting to look up, and we made the mistake of relaxing and letting our guards down. Sheikh with his infinite wisdom (yes, sometimes it’s okay to be a suck-up) realized that it was time for him to up the ante, and move into the next phase of his plan to educate us and raise us to fulfill our potential. Or to ruin our lives, depending on how you look at it. So in our last class, he let us know that in the next few weeks each of us would have to give a khutba or halaqa on a weekly basis. We all know this isn’t something we can talk Sheikh out of, so there’s nothing left to do except to batten down the hatches and prepare ourselves for what’s to come. Other than the fact that it’s pretty scary to talk in front of other human beings, being put in a position like that can really get to someone’s head, even more so for those of us who are at the tender ages of 18-21.
But this is our crucible and we must stand strong.
So I ask of you, fine reader, to make dua for me, my fellow students, Sheikh Abdul Nasir, and his family who have made a huge sacrifice in sharing his time and presence with the rest of the community.
After being immersed in learning for almost two months in the brightly lit room with soft grey and blue walls beautified with Arabic art, the time has come to start giving back. All the knowledge we have absorbed, the wisdom, gems, and the answers to our many questions bring us to the point where we must take the first step in sharing what we’ve learned.
We had our first sister’s halaqa on Friday at Mansfield Islamic Center.
Alhumdulillah, the sisters in charge did a wonderful job advertising and organizing the event. As we walked in, we met with a pleasant batch of young sisters whose smiles warmly greeted us. Before the halaqa, we prayed Isha and spent some time having refreshments and getting to know each other.
This was the first of the series on Real Women of Eman, starting with the wives of Prophet Muhammad (saw). Khadija (ra) was the focus this week.
MashaAllah one of the sisters from our class offered to speak first (something most of us were a little nervous to volunteer for). She highlighted the character of Khadijah (ra) and how one woman encompassed so many amazing qualities. She mentioned how she was an intelligent, beautiful, rich, religious, honorable and well-respected business woman. She also pointed out how loving, caring and extremely supportive she was to our beloved Prophet (saw) through thick and thin; how Khadija (ra) knew and trusted Allah. She knew how to interact with others, and she knew and trusted herself. The engaging talk was concluded with these inspirational words:
“1) Know Allah, Trust Allah 2) Know People 3) Know yourself
You can’t trust what you know until you trust yourself
You can’t trust yourself until you know yourself.”
The program was beautifully wrapped up with an interactive question and answer session.
SubhanAllah it was a great experience. The most fulfilling part was seeing one of our classmates engaging the sisters and using what we’ve learned to help ourselves and others get closer to Allah. We cannot thank Allah enough for blessing us with this great opportunity!
May Allah (swt) make us a source of sadaqa jariyyah for our Sheikh, and give us the ability to understand, apply, and convey what we’ve learned with excellence! Aameen
Time is flying by! It’s easy to get wrapped up by the routine of everyday life- between work, class, homework, and the introduction of new challenges, you have to consciously take time out to reflect. We have a whole week off for Eid Break and the opportunity to go back home to visit our families: the type of break that forces us to pause and think about some of the blessings in our lives.
We are a small group of students in this Qalam program. Why were we blessed with this opportunity? How did we get here?
Sheikh ANJ discussed something in class that stuck with me- he mentioned something along the lines of ‘it’s not just about the blessing, it’s also about the whole process of that blessing coming to you’. The process before the blessing is a blessing itself. Think of all those countless, known and unknown blessings that lead to just that one you are reflecting on. Out of the innumerable blessings that allowed us to be a part of this program, the most obvious are the people that facilitated it. Sheikh ANJ reminded us to appreciate them. Many years of parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, and strangers sacrificing and being supportive. It is humbling when you realize that your small steps are nothing compared to theirs. May Allah (swt) grant us the ability to appreciate others and to benefit those around us. May those who sacrificed for us, supported us, and made dua for us be rewarded by Allah, as we are unable to appreciate them as they deserve. Ameen.
As our first month of the Qalam program concludes and the second begins, I cannot help but feel that taking out an entire year to do this program has been one of the best if not the best decision of my life. However, these paragraphs are to highlight some of the things that really hit home for me this past week.
Firstly, was our seerah study. We are currently reading through a fantastic book titled عيون الأثر. I cannot emphasize on how much my love for our Habib Rasool Allah (SAW) has grown in this past week! Especially, when we spoke/read about all the hardships that Rasul (SAW) had to go through at such a young age. Solely for us, his umma. Allah (SWT) put him through so many trials, from never being able to see his father to seeing his mother die in front of his eyes, only to prepare him (SAW) for prophethood and to be the perfect guide and example for us. After reading these parts of his life (SAW) and seeing all the hardships he (SAW) went through, there truly is no other feeling but extreme love and appreciation for our Habib Rasool Allah (SAW). And to think the way we repay him (SAW) and show our gratitude is by leaving his practices, forgetting his mention, and moreover not reading a single book about him and what he has done for us Sala Allahu Alaihi wa Sallama Tasleeman Kateeran. As our beloved teacher says, “it’s food for thought”.
Another very humbling part of our studies this week was the tafseer we read through, which was the first five ayahs of Suratul Baqarah. In these five ayahs alone I am completely convinced that these are the words of Allah (SWT), while fully being aware of the fact that we mainly studied it from a linguistic perspective. How magnificent and extraordinary Allah (SWT) perfected His speech that no matter who you are, there is a lesson specifically for you — always relatable to your life/situations. The only way to put it is that these are the words of Allah (SWT) and no human is capable of writing anything in any way, shape, or form close to the eloquence and perfection of the Quran.
Lastly, I conclude by asking Allah (SWT) for the sincerity and steadfastness to finish this wonderful program and I ask Him Jalla Jalaaluhu to accept our efforts as students and more importantly the efforts of our teacher for taking out time from his very hectic life to teach us. May Allah (SWT) reward us all.
By Shuaib Yousuf
Alhamdulillah, although it seems like the Qalam Program began yesterday, four weeks have already passed. In other words, a tenth of the program is already over. I guess time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. However, it seems like the hard work is just beginning. We came into the program knowing that community service would be a huge part of the curriculum, but I never expected to give a khutbah after only one month into the program. Alhamdulillah, I already had some experience giving khutbahs, but giving one in a new community was an entirely new challenge.
Although delivering the khutbah was a challenge, preparing for it was even more difficult. My first challenge was picking a topic. Choosing a topic is always tricky because the khutbah should be relevant to the community and at the same time a beneficial reminder to everyone, including the khateeb. After sitting in some of Sh. Abdul Nasir’s tafseer sessions, I decided that my khutbah would be about the importance of The Quran. My second challenge was finding time to prepare. Between time spent in class and on homework, I hardly had time to sit down and do research. But with some help from Sh. Abdul Nasir, I was able to get it done.
Before I knew it, the week was over, and it was time to give the khutbah. SubhanAllah, I never realized how accustomed I had grown to my community back home until the khutbah began. Everything was different: the faces in the masjid, the placement of the clock, the microphone, the podium, and so much more. But to top it all off, literally as I’m walking to the front of the masjid to begin my khutbah, I’m requested to do an impromptu fundraiser at the end of my khutbah for the masjid’s new building. Alhamdulillah, I was able to squeeze in a few words of encouragement on donation at the end, but at that moment I realized why Sh Abdul Nasir is pushing us to work with the community.
Giving khutbah in a new community was an unforgettable learning experience. However as a student of knowledge I learned that just as the Quran was revealed over a span of 23 years, gaining knowledge of Islam and The Quran will also take time, effort, and consistency.
As Sheikh ANJ announced the end of class, we closed our books and began packing away our belongings. However, as the boys trickled out of class, the girls remained eagerly sitting in their seats. At last, with the boys gone and Sheikh Abdul Nasir sitting right in front of us, we were able to start our new weekly activity we called “Girl Day.”
The idea behind Girl Day began when Sheikh Abdul Nasir addressed the concerns of us girls regarding disadvantages we must endure simply due to the fact that we are girls. For instance, boys and girls alike go to lectures and sit in halls where they are given equal treatment (or at least most of the time). Then, after the lecture, the boys go and hang out with the speaker where they are given more time to talk to him, ask more questions, and perhaps even discuss personal issues. Meanwhile, the girls have been taken out of the picture.
The matter was brought to Sheikh ANJ’s attention, and as a result, we were given Girl Day. It was a way to compensate for all those instances when the boys would have exclusive time with him; now we had exclusive time with him as well. One day a week, we stay after school where we can ask him anything we want. Moreover, because it is girls only, we also feel comfortable asking girl-specific questions which we normally wouldn’t ask in front of the whole class. Alhamdulillah, we had our first Girl Day this past week and I believe it was a great success and a huge step towards accommodating and addressing our concerns.