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Qalam Seminary Blog – Home Away From Home

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.

 

Qalam Seminary Blog – Living the Qur’an

By Syifa Sjah

“apple.”

“Apple.”

“APPLEE!!!!!”

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.

 

Qalam Seminary Blog – The Crucible

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.

 

Qalam Seminary Blog – Time to Start Giving Back

 

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

 

 

Qalam Seminary Blog: Appreciation

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.

 

Qalam Seminary Blog: Seerah and Tafseer

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.

 

Qalam Seminary Blog: Giving Khutbah

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.

 

 

Qalam Seminary Blog: ‘Girl Day’

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.

 

Qalam Seminary Blog: Getting Started

Can all of my students please stand up.” About 15 of us awkwardly rose from our seats at the end of the session. The females of our class constituted about 25% of the female side of the audience; the males of our class about 95%.

We were attendees at the local MSA’s event. This was the first session of a series of monthly halaqas with Sh. Abdul Nasir, and this month’s topic was love and marriage in Islam. During the session, Shaykh talked about how love is mentioned in the Qur’an, the different aspects of it, and advice on how one navigates college life with these strong emotions. The session was naturally followed by an enlightening Q&A and snacks, but I felt the real benefit from attending this event came from meeting the members of the MSA.

Sh. Abdul Nasir introduced us as his students who would one day be called to give this halaqa instead of him. It was an intimidating an exciting thought – one day, in the near future insha’Allah, I will know enough about Islam to help first myself and others address their day-to-day concerns properly. One day, I will know and I will do.

We spent the week in class studying a series of books called the مبادئ. They are 3 booklets by Dr. Akram Nadwi from the UK written as primers for the different sciences: Usool al-Tafsir, Usool al-Hadith, and Usool al-Fiqh. These booklets were just stapled pieces of paper written for his daughter who was struggling through these sciences as she was studying them. Halfway across the world, we’re struggling through the same terminology and categorizations and history. May Allah make studying His religion easy for us all and reward the scholars for their efforts and precision in these sciences.

It’s sometimes frustrating when we know all these words are not an end result; following the chain of a hadith all the way to the Prophet (S) is not going to help me if I’m not following his actions with my actions as well. However, it is also important for those of us in the class to remember that we can only excel in our actions if we excel in our means to understanding those actions. So I just remember the Arabic expression خذ ما طفّ لك “Take what’s in front of you”, and focus on the task at hand.

After the MSA event, we exchanged numbers and email addresses, and tried to schedule a time when we could meet on a more regular basis. Unfortunately, our schedules conflict and we couldn’t set anything up. We still plan to work with the local community and provide what they need, but in the meantime, I’m happy with studying what it means to be an authentic hadith, with a little bit of love on the side.

 

 

Qalam Seminary Blog: Student Diary

We hope to make this a new series with regular updates from the students at our full time seminary program.

Alhamdulillah, the first week of the Qalam program is officially complete…whew! That was easier than I thought it would be. Needless to say Shaykh Abdul Nasir went easy on us (for now!). It’s been a good experience so far and I hope that’s a sign for the rest of the year. Our class hours are from 7:30am to 1:00pm with the rest of the day to be used for reading various texts (in Arabic, gulp!). The campus has been made amazingly comfortable and welcoming (look for pictures soon). Shaykh Abdul Nasir wasn’t planning on any decoration and wanted us to study on the floor, ol’ school style! I don’t think Br. Abdullah would have that. Thanks for the comfy sofas! It’s cozy and intimate and allows for great one on one interaction with our teachers. There are a little less than 20 students in the class, half of which are brothers and the other half obviously sisters. It’s been a comfort knowing how down to earth and welcoming the students have been. It’ll definitely make the program easier knowing there’s someone there to lean on.

Since Sh. Abdul Nasir was welcoming us gently, we focused on just one text this week: أيها الولد (My Dear Beloved Son) by Imam Ghazali. It’s a series of letters filled with advice that Imam Ghazali imparted to a student of his who had studied with him for 30 years. Having had a close relationship with this student and considering him like a son, he had no qualms about giving him a verbal lashing. It was a great and fitting way to start off the program. It definitely put us in check (which is something I know I need). There’s a lot of beautiful advice though. He pretty much tells him the studies he completed mean absolutely nothing if not acted upon. He goes back to basics which is the beauty of it all. It doesn’t matter how many daleels you know, or how many hadiths you’ve memorized, or how awesome your halaqa is. At the end of the day it’s all about purification of the heart and soul; and along with good deeds, you have a chance of earning Allah’s loving mercy. This is being said to a student of knowledge of 30 years! Needless to say it was a humbling experience for us youngins.

In addition to that, we had a discussion session about “what’s in the news”. We’ll be doing this on a weekly basis to discuss contemporary issues affecting the Muslim ummah both locally and globally. Under the guidance of Sh. Abdul Nasir, it was a great way to discuss our views and opinions about these matters through the lens of Islamic principles. I can easily see this becoming one of my favorite classes as you don’t always have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a mature and objective setting. Alhamdulillah there was a lot of meaningful discussion from the whole class and I look forward to learning a lot from my classmates, in addition to Shaykh Abdul Nasir, which goes without saying.

It’s truly an amazing thing to have the opportunity to enroll in on-site Islamic Studies program without having to relocate to a foreign country. Studying what is considered to be the inheritance of the prophets is a daunting task and to be able to do that in a society I’m already familiar with and with a shaykh I trust is truly a blessing. I ask Allah (swt) to always make me truly grateful for this opportunity and to show my gratitude by serving Him and His deen through the knowledge I gain.

Please keep all of us in your dua’ especially for sincerity & the wisdom to use what we learn properly.

 

 
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