In this WIYE, our Editor-in-Chief, Hena Zuberi interviews imam Safi Khan: founder and director of the Dar-us-Salaam Community in College Park, MD.

Brother Safi, as he likes to be called, holds a degree in Economics from the University of Maryland, and is well-versed in Islamic law, tafsir, and seerah. He has been a prominent imam, lecturer, and family and youth counselor in the Washington DC metropolitan area for the past twenty-five years.

The Dar-us-Salaam community is the parent organization of many projects, including Al-Huda School, Tooba University, DUS Medical Practice, Aqabah Karate, and The Muslim Link. The community is currently working to raise $10 million for a new comprehensive Islamic campus – find out more about the campaign at www.homeoftheheart.org.

Click here to download the WIYE mp3.

A  transcription of the interview.

1. What are you listening to?

[SK] When it comes to listening, obviously I listen to the news often, what's going on, whether it's CNN or other news agency. On the Islamic side, I normally don't get a chance to listen to lectures but once in a while I do listen to the speakers on the national speakers' circuit as well as scholars from abroad.

2. Do you have a favorite Qari?

[SK] I have a lot of them…I love their recitation. Some of them had actually come here, such as Abdul Rahman As-Sudais. I had the chance to meet Husary in Egypt, he is one of the great reciters of the Qurʾān.  I like Minshawi a lot, as well as Mishary Rashid.

3. What are you reading?

[SK] I obviously love reading. Before the smartphones came out, I [was known] for taking suitcases of books while traveling. After the Qur'an, I enjoy anything to do with tafseer, books of hadith, learning from Bukhari or Muslim or other Sunnan, other books of hadith that Shaykh Albani has authenticated, so to speak. I love to read books on sīrah, the biographies of our pious predecessors – men and women, Usool al-Fiqh, Tafseer of the Qur'an or on Purification of the Soul.

I could spend the whole day with a book and not even know that the day had passed. Favorite specific books include the Tafseer of the Qur'an by As-Sa'adi, Bukhāri and Muslim, Saheeh At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb, Purification of the Soul in English by Jamaluddin Zarabozo. When people ask me [about Purification of the Soul], I tell people that's not a book that you can read like a novel; read a few pages at a time, put it down, think about, and then move on.

On books on education, I wouldn't point to any specific book, only because I have seen so many books, both by non-Muslims, and now Muslims, especially in the last 10-15 years. In general, I like to read books on education that deal with the core of the Islamic education curriculum, which I feel is Tazkiyyat al-Nafs. I have learned this from the books and the scholars when they speak about education. Often times, we have an Islamic school, and call it an Islamic school, but it really is just a veneer for whatever is Western, and as a result, people often don't see the difference between a Muslim and non-Muslim school. As far as education, I like to concentrate on this issue. Purification of the soul should be the core and all subjects should be developed based on this.

4. What are you watching?

[SK] I think the extent of what I would be watching would be news. Outside of that, I don't really get a chance to watch anything. In the world that we live in here at Dar-us-Salaam, most of our time goes into trying to build this community.

5. What was the last thing that you did for fun or to relax that you really enjoyed?

[SK] To me Islam is fun; anything to do with Islam is relaxing. Of course, it does get tense and stressful, but that usually happens when you are dealing with people, which you have to when you are dealing with an Islamic Project. Personally speaking, if I am with a book and learning, then I totally lose myself. I'm learning about the world, learning about Allāh, and my own inadequacies and shortcoming. When I have an issue in the community, then I feel that it must be inadequacies in me, if I was different then perhaps things would be different…

Often times when I study the lives of scholars, men and women, it gives me a chance to reflect. Those moments of īmān are what I really relish. They are fleeting moments, that you feel a certain way, knowing that they will soon go away. Moments at tahajjud are invaluable, as well as going out and establishing the way of Allāh . Sharing Islam with Muslims and non Muslims is very enjoyable to me.

 

6. What's the best piece of advice you've received or is there any advice you have for MM's readers?

[SK] When I went abroad to learn Arabic and about Islam, I remember the issue was to just get active for the cause of the Muslims and to really fight the oppression that the Muslims have been suffering for so long. I remember when I was in high school, I saw how the Palestinians used to be slaughtered and it seemed as if no one cared. That really concerned me, as if our blood is not worth the blood of a mosquito, as if it is worthless.

To this day, I feel the best piece of advice I received in this context, was when I remember talking to the scholars about this issue, and they told me that they understood that there were all of these issues, but that you cannot be emotional, and that you have to concentrate on knowledge. You have to learn what is Islam, establish it within yourself first, and then establish it outside. Only when people are knowledgeable about Islam will things change in this world. Get to know Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), who is Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Take a look at the different between us and the generations before us; they would make du'a and boom, their duas would be accepted.  Today billions raise their hands in du'ā' yet… there is obviously some problem with the connection with Allāh. That was the best piece of advice I have received. I am a witness to this due to many things that have happened to me personally and especially in our community.

 

Allah knows best. My advice to MuslimMatters readers would be really learn about Islam,as  the scholars in the past have told me also. Specifically for our situation in the West, apply what we learn, and as we learn to put it in practice, we shouldn't just be negative and criticize. We should not just bash people, we should present the solution.  Practice what you are learning. Yes, learn but don't just stack up knowledge. We learn that dealing with interest is haram, let's all strive to produce an Islamic bank. In the nation we live in, health insurance is always an issue, let's come up with a Islamic way to do health insurance – these are all in the books of fiqh. In our schools let's not just criticize Islamic schools or public schools, let's try to create a curriculum that addresses these needs. Let's offer a solution.

Learn but as you are learning, put it in practice. Get involved in an Islamic project, because everything you will learn will not be in the books. We have lectures and seminars on how we should be united and work together, yet we hear so many Muslims saying 'the Muslims are always disorganized and are fighting with each other'. It seems like we haven't really tackled these issues in the field. When we have people who are Islamically knowledgeable but then there are egos involved or issues such as, 'I was offended by this and I was offended by that, I don't tolerate this or that.', these are all issues of purification of the soul. If we the knowledgeable people cannot get together, then how do we expect the Ummah to come together? I don't think that there is a single Muslim that doesn't know something as so simple as our Rasul ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “la taghdab” but people get so angry and upset so quickly. Because of the insecurities of the modern day world, we bring those insecurities even into the Islamic realm, into our Islamic organizations. People don't trust one another and are suspicious, they don't think the good of each other. These are basic values that we don't implement.

RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said 'Who ever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment, let him say something good or keep quiet.' But we often see people say 'Don't come near me I am having a bad day, I don't care and I am going to tell you to your face', without any manners. RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, 'I was sent with code of ethics, with manners.' Manners really reflect your tauhid, they reflect your aqeedah, your belief.

One of the names of Allah  is As-Sabur. At a practical level, people are very impatient.

In the practical manner, people don't let people finish their thoughts and ideas. They are judgmental because they cannot be patient. People don't wait for others, people don't keep secrets. These are things that fracture relationships, not just between husband and wives, but also between brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters and communities and nations.

Whatever little you learn, put it into practice. Perhaps you learn 1/10 of the knowledge from a book, and 9/10 when you put into practice.

 

6 Responses

  1. AbdulBasit Khan

    Amazing amazing interview… a window into the life of a great scholar and Imam of this country, may Allah preserve him!

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  2. Mona

    It’s the Sunnah of our Beloved Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhe wa salam) to maintain a balance between matters of this life and the Akhirah. This can be clearly understood from the following Hadith from the Sahih Bukhari:

    Anas ibn Malik Radiyallahu Anhu narrates that a group of three (men) came to the house of the wives of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam asking about the worship of Allah by Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. So when they were informed, it seemed less (than their expectation). They said: Where are we, compared to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam when Allah has forgiven his past and future sins. So one of them said: As for me, I will offer Salat throughout the night forever, and another said: I will fast forever and I will not break my fast. And another said: I will forsake woman, never to marry. Then Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam came to them and said: Are you the ones who have said such and such? Behold. By Allah! Indeed I am the one who fears Allah most amongst you, and the most pious amongst you. Yet (is spite of that) I fast, and break fast, and offer Salat and I sleep (at night) and I marry women, so whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not from me! (Bukhari)

    In this regard, Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu ‘alayhe wa salam) is describing a balance of the matters of this world and the Akhira; and I would like to ask Imam Safi what he does for fun in the Dunya, in sha Allah. For example, if he is married, his wife and family have rights to his time and companionship which, in sha Allah, brings enjoyment.

    I don’t know Imam Safi, although I have heard of him and, of course, the Dar-us-Salam community is esteemed; but especially because of his leadership role I think it important that he send the message that that he loves spending time with his family and he could share the halal ways in which he does so. (This might inspire the Brothers who spend all their time out of the home, in the Masjid and out of the community and neglect (evan benignly so) their families. Some wives and mothers who are married to pious brothers feel akin to single Moms — except they get conjugal visits. And many children wait for Baba to come home after bedtime while longing for them to spend weekends with them.

    May Allah forgive me if I have hurt anyone. This is not my intention.

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  3. Shahin

    subhanAllah! this was amazing! i mean, beyond amazing actually. the ideas for Islamic books to read were very helpful and Br. Safi’s deep insight about changing the character of the entire Ummah in a few sentences is more than enough advice for a time. I love how he mentioned the fact that when reading about spirituality, reading a few pages and then reflecting on it is the way to go. SubhanAllah, I was reading Al-Jumu’ah magazine a few weeks back and in it, I came across an article about Ar-Ridha (Contentment with Allah) by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah). and that article was so deep and so comprehensive that my entire week, I was able to focus on that one aspect of spirituality and it increased my Iman every time. May Allah Reward you and Br. Safi for taking out your time to do this interview. Ameen :)

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  4. Farhan Yusufzai

    I had the honor of going to Hajj with this great Imam as my guide. May Allah bless him.

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