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Positively Muslim in the West (July 2009): Mona Minkara

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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InshaAllah, this is the first of what we hope will be monthly recognitions of outstanding and inspiring Muslims, residing in the West. We hope to showcase the talents and contributions of these individuals to the Muslim Ummah. Feel free to nominate other talented Muslim individuals, who have made a positive contribution to the society.

Our first, “Positively Muslim in the West” recognition for July goes to sister Mona Minkara whose inspirational and beautiful commencement speech at Wellesley College is making the rounds on the internet. We spoke to sister Mona, who is legally blind, and asked her a few questions:

MuslimMatters Exclusive Interview with sister Mona Minkara: Wellesley College 2009 Commencement Speaker.

What are you aspirations for the future?

InshaAllah I would really like to go to graduate school and get my PhD. I don’t have a set path in life but I really hope that somehow I get to show a different face and be able to be in the public eye in a good way for the sake of Islam and please Allah azza wa jal. I would like to memorize the Qur’an one day. One step at a time inshaAllah!

Someone (a Non-Muslim) actually approached me about writing a book, and I think it would be such a great form of da’wah to show the positive influence of Muslim women in the West.

What message do you have for Muslim youth?

One message I have for Muslim youth is to be who they are and not to be shy of who you are. We all have a place in this society and if you stick to who you are as an individual, people will respect you for that. This is my experience as a Muslim.

As a muhajjabah, what message do you have for other young sisters?

Be who you are. People should respect you for who you are and they should not judge you for what you are or are not wearing. People will see that you are more than just the hijaab.

Here is her inspirational speech in written form and video:

Thank you, thank you. Welcome everybody. Are you ready?

As Wellesley women, it has always been expected of us to strive to our utmost to reach the top, to be the best that we can be. Time and time again, since the speeches of orientation week, we have been told that we have the ability to achieve whatever we set our sights on, that we can go wherever we dream of going, that we can overcome any obstacle to reach the summit. We are Women Who Will. I don’t doubt this for a second.

But I want to make sure that in seeking to reach the heights, I never forget where I once was and how I got here.  I hope that as we await to receive our diplomas today, we each remember where we came from and how we got here today.

Let me tell you my story. Apparently I’m going to be one of the first legally blind students to graduate from Wellesley College with a science degree. I’m not saying this to be boastful, but this was not what was expected of me. When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with macular degeneration and cone rod dystrophy; doctors predicted I would be completely blind. Currently I have no vision in my right eye, and just peripheral vision in my left eye. Around the time of my diagnosis, during a summer trip to Lebanon, my mom and my uncle took me to one of the most prestigious eye doctors in Beirut. I remember that day so clearly; my mom came out crying, and my uncle was telling my mom that he would go to the ends of the world to help us. I found out only later that the doctor had told my mother that it wasn’t worth spending a penny on my education because I was going to be blind anyway.

But as my life went on to prove, it was not I who had limited vision, but he.
I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who believed in me, first and foremost my parents. My parents gave up their dreams of going back to Lebanon so that I could stay here and become educated. My mom would stay up all night going through projects with me. My dad would literally wake up at the crack of dawn to go through math and physics questions with me. But the list doesn’t stop there. There were many more individuals who were instrumental to my success.

As I await my diploma, I fully realize that I would not have been able to make it onto this stage today, if it wasn’t for the help of so many individuals who have aided me, every single step of the way. From my fellow classmates who would read to me on a daily basis to my professors who would regularly meet with me and go over concepts and were willing to adjust their teaching techniques, I was never alone in my journey. If it weren’t for these individuals—family, friends, faculty, staff, and even strangers along the way—who took time out of their lives and ambitions, I would not have been able to graduate with all of you today.  Their kindness and generosity have inspired me to strive to help others. As I approach the end of my time here, I see, or sense, to be more accurate, many of my supporters around me, and I would not have wanted it any other way.

As I share with you my story, I want you to reflect upon your own story. Because the truth is, no matter how independent we imagine ourselves to be, we’ve all been on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness and generosity. Every single one of us sitting here today has a story: a set of goals and ambitions that drives us. Some of these goals have been achieved, like waiting here today for our diplomas. Some have yet to be realized. Surely though, just like there were individuals who helped me get to this day, there were individuals who helped you. Family, friends, faculty, staff, and even even an invisible hand, have all played a role in making this day possible.

Sometimes though, to be honest with you, we get so caught up in our own ambitions and our own struggles that we don’t notice the people around us. We don’t notice those who need our help. We become so self-absorbed and oblivious to whose struggles are much greater difficulties than our own. We become so consumed by our drive that we might even avoid or look down upon those who do not measure up to our definition of success. But I have come to realize, that as Wellesley Women, we don’t only achieve what we put our minds to, but we do so while helping others achieve their own goals.  For how else could we claim to live according to our very own motto: Non Ministrari Sed Ministrare: Not to be served unto, but to serve?

Let me share with you another story: Over the past spring break, Wellesley sent a group of students to Utah for the annual American Chemical Society meeting, and I happened to be one of those students. On my way there, I had a connecting flight in Denver. So I was sitting in the airport, growing kind of thirsty, and I asked a lady, a stranger, where I could find a water fountain. The next thing I knew, she had bought me a water bottle. I asked how much did it cost so I could pay her back. You know what she said to me? She said, “You can pay me back by buying somebody else a water bottle.”  I can’t share enough with you how much her words struck me.  I have realized from this simple incident, that it doesn’t take something phenomenal to make a significant impact. But something as simple as buying a water bottle for your fellow human being. Or even planting a seed to grow. Done selflessly, a small gesture can have a powerful rippling effect.

So during my time in Denver, while I was discovering the power of generosity, a fellow Wellesley sister was flying down to Costa Rica. She was volunteering her time farming, to help the local community. Now she’s not going to be awarded for spending her free time toiling outdoors under the hot sun, planting seeds she will most likely never see the fruits of.  She did what we all should do, offering to lend a helping hand to those in need of support, to our fellow human beings, to make a difference in any way possible.

Let us ask ourselves, as we embark into the real world, how happy can we be if all we do is work for our own ambitions and our own goals, and don’t notice anyone around us? Is this a life worth living? Do you want to grow older and remember that you only concentrated on your own interests? Or do you want to remember that you have helped our fellow human beings, and reaped the harvests of seeds that have been planted not only for our own success, but for the success of others? Among my quotes that have inspired me throughout my time here at Wellesley has been a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It’s been actually in my signature, part of FirstClass for the past four years. This is how it goes:  “Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.”

Now I hope we can all leave footprints on the sand of time, whether they be big or small. Yes, I bet one of us might find the cure for cancer, and that would be an amazing achievement. But I’ve come to realize, that’s not the only way to make a difference. Giving a helpful hand or even just a smile is, in my faith, an act of charity.  Take it from me, it matters. An act of kindness or generosity goes a long way. And these are the acts that brought me here today. And for that I thank all of you, Class of 2009. Congratulations, Class of 2009! Thank you! Thank you, Momma and Papa! Thank you, Pam, Katie….thank you professors! (More shout outs).

I have something for the President. Where’s my President Bottomly? I have a water bottle. I have it for the symbolism. I hope you enjoy the water.

Part One:

Part Two:

We ask Allah ta’ala to bless sister Mona in this life and the next and grant her success in all of her endeavors. Ameen.

If you would like to share a positive story of a Muslim in the west, please email us at info (at) muslimmatters (dot) org.

Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    halalbuzz

    July 13, 2009 at 4:09 AM

    mashaAllah

    May Allah bless her and guide her

  2. Avatar

    vindicated

    July 13, 2009 at 5:06 AM

    masha’Allah, what an inspiring personality and an equally inspiring speech!

  3. Avatar

    midatlantic

    July 13, 2009 at 6:07 AM

    Lovely, inspiring article mashaAllah. And a great idea for a monthly feature.

  4. Avatar

    Nazihah

    July 13, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    I was reminded today: dawah is not just telling people about islam. the fact that a our muslim sister was chosen to address a commencement and she is role model for all to follow speaks 10,000 times stronger than just “talking” about Islam.

  5. Pingback: Muslim Matters debuts what is intended t… « Talk Islam

  6. Avatar

    usman

    July 13, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    Mashallah it is really nice seeing a sister accomplishing so much and being in a role model position. However, i would like to say i dont agree with the “be who you are” that is a very unislamic idea. Sisters wear hijab for Allah, and they and all of us for that matter should not strive to be who we are, but strive to be proper Muslims. Again very nice to see Muslims in good situations. Salaam

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      July 13, 2009 at 11:50 PM

      I spoke with Mona on the phone and she did not mean “be who you are” in the context that you leave the obligations of the Deen. She meant that, for example, if a sister wants to be an engineer and is thinking how her fellow students will perceive her with a hijaab, that she should be who she is without worrying about their opinions. She should be herself, a good Muslimah working to please Allah azza wa jal, and not worry about pleasing the creation over Him.

      I hope that is clear inshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        usman

        July 14, 2009 at 12:12 AM

        Alhumdulilah, that is great to kno. Jazakhallah Khair

  7. Pingback: amazing muslimah! « monkeynurseMD => sum of me

  8. Avatar

    Shabana

    July 14, 2009 at 12:45 AM

    I was truly impressed with this young lady. Obtaining a college education while not being able to see well is an incredible accomplishment. May Allah SWT always preserve her vision. I definitely think her story is worthy of a book and a movie. :)

  9. Pingback: Positively Muslim in the West (July 2009): Mona Minkara « Thoughts from a Muslimah

  10. Avatar

    Amatullah

    July 14, 2009 at 9:51 PM

    As-Salaamu alaikum,

    Jazak-Allah khair for posting this. This sister reminds me of Asma Mirza. May Allah bless and preserve all of our diligent, hijabi sisters. How much would we pay for one eye? We can never thank Allah the way he deserves to be thanked.

    Amatullah
    http://sisterswithpower.blogspot.com
    EMANcipate yourself

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#Society

Obituary of (Mawlana) Yusuf Sulayman Motala (1366/1946 – 1441/2019)

Monday, September 9, turned out to be a day of profound anguish and sorrow for many around the world. In the early morning hours, news of the death of Mawlana* Yusuf Sulayman Motala, fondly known as “Hazrat” (his eminence) to those who were acquainted with him, spread. He had passed away on Sunday at 8:20 pm EST in Toronto, after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier.

Dr. Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera

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Dar Al Uloom Bury, Yusuf Sulayman Motala
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

A master of hadith and Qur’an. A sufi, spiritual guide and teacher to thousands. A pioneer in the establishment of a religious education system. His death reverberated through hearts and across oceans. We are all mourning the loss of a luminary who guided us through increasingly difficult times.

Monday, September 9, turned out to be a day of profound anguish and sorrow for many around the world. In the early morning hours, news of the death of Mawlana* Yusuf Sulayman Motala, fondly known as “Hazrat” (his eminence) to those who were acquainted with him, spread. He had passed away on Sunday at 8:20 pm EST in Toronto, after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier. (May the Almighty envelope him in His mercy)

His journey in this world had begun more than 70 years ago in the small village of Nani Naroli in Gujarat, India, where he was born on November 25, 1946 (1 Muharram 1366) into a family known for their piety.

His early studies were largely completed at Jami’a Husayniyya, one of the early seminaries of Gujarat, after which he travelled to Mazahir Ulum, the second oldest seminary of the Indian Sub-Continent, in Saharanpur, India, to complete his ‘alimiyya studies. What drew him to this seminary was the presence of one of the most influential and well-known contemporary spiritual guides, Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (d. 1402/1982), better known as “Hazrat Shaykh.” He had seen Mawlana Zakariyya only briefly at a train stop, but it was enough for him to understand the magnitude of his presence.

Mawlana Yusuf remained in Saharanpur for two years. Despite being younger than many of the other students of Shaykh Zakariya, the shaykh took a great liking to him. Shaykh Zakariya showered him with great attention and even deferred his retirement from teaching Sahih al-Bukhari so that Mawlana Yusuf could study it under his instruction. While in Saharanpur, Mawlana Yusuf also studied under a number of other great scholars, such as Mawlana Muhammad ‘Aqil (author of Al-Durr al-Mandud, an Urdu commentary of Sunan Abi Dawud and current head lecturer of Hadith at the same seminary), Shaykh Yunus Jownpuri (d. 1438/2017) the previous head lecturer of Hadith there), Mawlana As‘adullah Rampuri (d. 1399/1979) and Mufti Muzaffar Husayn (d. 1424/2003).

Upon completion of his studies, Mawlana Yusuf’s marriage was arranged to marry a young woman from the Limbada family that had migrated to the United Kingdom from Gujarat. In 1968, he relocated to the UK and accepted the position of imam at Masjid Zakariya, in Bolton. Although he longed to be in the company of his shaykh, he had explicit instructions to remain in the UK and focus his efforts on establishing a seminary for memorization of Qur’an and teaching of the ‘alimiyya program. The vision being set in motion was to train a generation of Muslims scholars that would educate and guide the growing Muslim community.

Establishing the first Muslim seminary, in the absence of any precedent, was a daunting task. The lack of support from the Muslim community, the lack of integration into the wider British community, and the lack of funds made it seem an impossible endeavour. And yet, Mawlana Yusuf never wavered in his commitment and diligently worked to make the dream of his teacher a reality. In 1973 he purchased the derelict Aitken Sanatorium in the village of Holcombe, near Bury, Lancashire. What had once been a hospice for people suffering from tuberculosis, would become one of the first fully-fledged higher-education Islamic institutes outside of the Indian-Subcontinent teaching the adapted-Nizami syllabus.

The years of struggle by Maulana Yusuf to fulfil this vision paid off handsomely. Today, after four decades, Darul Uloom Al Arabiyya Al Islamiyya, along with its several sister institutes, also founded by Mawlana Yusuf, such as the Jamiatul Imam Muhammad Zakariya seminary in Bradford for girls, have produced well over 2,000 British born (and other international students) male and female ‘alimiyya graduates – many of whom are working as scholars and serving communities across the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, the US, Canada, Barbados, Trinidad, Panama, Saudi Arabia, India and New Zealand. Besides these graduates, a countless number of individuals have memorized the Qur’an at these institutes. Moreover, many of the graduates of the Darul Uloom and its sister institutes have set up their own institutes, such as Jamiatul Ilm Wal Huda in Blackburn, Islamic Dawah Academy in Leicester, Jami’ah al-Kawthar in Lancaster, UK, and Darul Uloom Palmela in Portugal, to just mention a few of the larger ones. Within his lifetime, Mawlana Yusuf saw first-hand the fruit of his labours – witnessing his grand students (graduates from his students’ institutes) providing religious instruction and services to communities around the world in their local languages. What started as a relationship of love between a student and teacher, manifested into the transmission of knowledge across continents. In some countries, such as the UK and Portugal, one would be hard-pressed to find a Muslim who had not directly or indirectly benefited from him.

Mawlana Yusuf was a man with deep insights into the needs of Western contemporary society, one that was very different from the one he had grown up and trained in. With a view to contributing to mainstream society, Mawlana Yusuf encouraged his graduates to enter into further education both in post-graduate Islamic courses and western academia, and to diversify their fields of learning through courses at mainstream UK universities. As a result, many ‘alimiyya graduates of his institutes are trained in law, mainstream medicine, natural medicine and homeopathy, mental health, child protection, finance, IT, education, chaplaincy, psychology, philosophy, pharmacy, physics, journalism, engineering, architecture, calligraphy, typography, graphic design, optometry, social services, public health, even British Sign Language. His students also include several who have completed PhDs and lecture at universities. His vision was to train British-born (or other) Muslim scholars who would be well versed in contemporary thought and discipline along with their advanced Islamic learning, equipping them to better contribute to society.

Despite his commitment to the establishment of a public good, the shaykh was an immensely private person and avoided seeking accolade or attention. For many decades he refused invitations to attend conferences or talks around the country, choosing to focus on his students and his family, teaching the academic syllabus and infusing the hearts of many aspirants with the love of Allah through regular gatherings of remembrance (dhikr) and spiritual retreats (i’tikaf) in the way of his shaykh’s Chishti Sufi order.

During my entire stay with him at Darul Uloom (1985–1997), I can say with honesty that I did not come across a single student who spoke ill of him. He commanded such awe and respect that people would find it difficult to speak with him casually. And yet, for those who had the opportunity to converse with him, knew that he was the most compassionate, humble, and loving individual.

He was full of affection for his students and colleagues and had immense concern for the Muslim Ummah, especially in the West. He possessed unparalleled forbearance and self-composure. When he taught or gave a talk, he spoke in a subdued and measured tone, as though he was weighing every word, knowing the import it carried. He would sit, barely moving and without shifting his posture. Even after a surgical procedure for piles, he sat gracefully teaching us Sahih al-Bukhari. Despite the obvious pain, he never made an unpleasant expression or winced from the pain.

Anyone who has listened to his talks or read his books can bear testimony to two things: his immense love for the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his love for Shaykh Mawlana Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi (may Allah have mercy on him). It is probably hard to find a talk in which he did not speak of the two. His shaykh was no doubt his link to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) in both his hadith and spiritual transmissions.

Over the last decade, he had retired from most of his teaching commitments (except Sahih al-Bukhari) and had reduced meeting with people other than his weekly dhikr gatherings. His time was spent with his family and young children and writing books. His written legacy comprises over 20 titles, mostly in Urdu but also a partial tafsir of the Qur’an in classical Arabic.

After the news of his heart attack on Sunday, August 25, and the subsequent effects to his brain, his well-wishers around the world completed hundreds of recitals of the Qur’an, several readings of the entire Sahih al-Bukhari, thousands of litanies and wirds of the formula of faith (kalima tayyiba), and gave charity in his name. However, Allah Most High willed otherwise and intended for him to depart this lowly abode to begin his journey to the next. He passed away two weeks later and reports state that approximately 4,000 people attended his funeral. Had his funeral been in the UK, the number of attendees would have multiplied several folds. But he had always shied away from large crowds and gatherings and maybe this was Allah Most High’s gift to him after his death. He was 75 (in Hijra years, and 72 in Gregorian) at the time of his death and leaves behind eight children and several grandchildren.

Mawlana Yusuf educated, inspired and nourished the minds and hearts of countless across the UK and beyond. May Allah Almighty bless him with the loftiest of abodes in the Gardens of Firdaws in the company of Allah’s beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) and grant all his family, students, and cherishers around the world beautiful patience.

Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera
Whitethread Institute, London
(A fortunate graduate of Darul Uloom Bury, 1996–97)

*a learned Muslim scholar especially in India often used as a form of address
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#Life

Reflection On The Legacy of Mufti Umer Esmail | Imam Azhar Subedar

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“An ocean of knowledge which once resided on the seabed of humbleness has now submerged below it, forever.”

Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

“Why didn’t you tell me!! You call me your younger brother, but you couldn’t even tell me you were ailing?!”

I could’ve called you or visited you so I could apologize for all the pain I caused you; thank you for all the good you did for me throughout my life despite all that pain. if nothing else, just so I could say goodbye to you.”

(My selfish mind continued to cry out as I stood in front of his grave— praying.)

As I sat down to compile my thoughts, upon returning home, I put my feelings of loss aside and tried to analyze your decision of not informing me about your illness from a different perspective.

Possibly, your own.

Why would you tell me?

This was just like you. You never wanted to hurt a soul; forget about making them worry about you, augmenting their own worries. For you were the sponge for our worries, the shock absorber of our concerns, and the solid wall that shouldered the pain of those around him.

You weren’t just a big brother, my big brother, you were a true human. A lesson on humanity.

You were always there for me.

“I GOT A QUESTION” sent at 2 AM.

“Sure” was your response.

We spoke for over 40 min.

That night.

Your strength reflected my weakness- always urging me to do better, be more like you.

I was told you were in hospital by a close family member early Friday morning before Jummah prayers. I was supposed to call you. That was my responsibility. However, the preparation of the Friday Sermon was my excuse not to do so.

As I exited from delivering the Friday services, I received a message from you, the one who was spending the last days of his life in a hospital, never to be seen outside of the confines of those walls ever again.

That message you wrote- you knew me so well.

“As-salaam alaikum, I thought you were already American?”

(You were catching up with me as I had become an American citizen the day before. You wanted to congratulate me, without complaining to me.)

“I heard you are in the hospital?! How are you? What’s going on?” I asked immediately.

“Getting some treatment done. Mubarak on your American citizenship” was your response.

Diversion. A stubborn man with a heart of gold. You wanted to celebrate people even at the cost of your own life.

Your last words to me were digital, even though your connection with me spans a lifetime. As much as I wish I had heard your voice one last time, I try to find the beauty in that communication too as I can save and cherish those last words.

We grew up together in Canada in the ’80s- Mufti Umer and I. Our fathers were tight- childhood buddies. He ended up becoming the inspiration for my family to trek towards a path devoted to Islam, beginning with my brother and then myself.

He was my support from the time when I came to England to study at the Dar Al Uloom and wanted to call it quits and go home, to when he hosted me when I visited him in Austin in 2002, all the way till 2019, after I was married and settled with kids he loved like his own.

He visited us here in Dallas and had met them in his unique way of showering them with love. And why wouldn’t he? My wife and I are here under one roof all because of his earnest desire to help people.

He introduced us to each other.

“I want you to marry my younger brother.” A message he sent to my wife over 17 years ago.

She was his student. He was her mentor, support beam, confidante, and best friend. (Well, we all feel like he was our best friend, only because he truly was.)

I am sharing my life story not only because he was an integral part of it, but throughout (he was also a major part of my wife’s life when she really needed him) but because that final text message wrapped it all up- the gift that he was to me and my family. It showed how much he was invested in us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

That message wrote:

“I thought you’ve been a citizen since marriage.”

(FRIDAY, AUGUST 30TH @ 3: 07 PM)

This is just my story featuring Mufti Umer Ismail.

I am confident that there are thousands more out there without exaggeration.

I’ll conclude with a word he corrected for me as I misspelled it on my Facebook page a few months ago when Molana Haaris Mirza, a dear colleague, passed away in New York. He didn’t do it publicly, he did it through that same Facebook text messenger that kept us in touch- with love and sincere care for me in his heart.

“As-salaam alaikum the word is Godspeed. Sorry for being [a] grammar freak.”

(MARCH 28TH, 2019 @6: 04 PM)

Godspeed, my dear brother. Godspeed.

Azhar Subedar

imamAzhar.com

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#Life

The Passing Of A Mentor: Shaykh Mufti Mohamed Umer Esmail

Shaykh Hasib Noor

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

The past couple days I haven’t been able to write, thinking and reflecting over the passing of a great man, a mentor, someone I consider among the people that helped me become who I am. He was the Imam of Austin, a man who dedicated 18 years of his life to the community I grew up in and spent a good portion of my young adult life, Austin, Texas.

It’s an understatement to say that his passing was a shock to us all. A young 45-year-old, who left behind a loving wife and three daughters. It sent a powerful moment of reflection to us all. God loves those who work for His Sake and as our Beloved Prophet (peace be on him) has said that God said,

“… I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about taking the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.” (Bukhari)

There is no doubt that Sh Umer Esmail was one of those faithful servants of God. A pillar in the community in his work. Someone that worked at every level and left a mark in the lives of people. He was involved in all aspects of our lives; he was there for the baby showers (aqiqahs) celebrating life, gatherings where one of our young finish reading the Quran for the first time (khatm), he was there for when we married; he conducted the nikah (wedding ceremony) of my own sister, he welcomed us to faith when one of us accepted Islam, he was the counselor when there were marital problems, he listened to the struggles of thousands and imparted the blessing of Prophetic wisdom to all walks of life, and he was there in sickness & in passing of the members of our community in their final moments and prayed over them in their funeral.

Now we have prayed over his. Thousands came to his janazah.

Mufti Umer Islamil Janazah

Moments of loss allow us all to really reflect over the impact we have left in life. Everyone remembers in sadness the person who we lost and the impact they made in their life. For me it was no different. I remember Shaykh Umer’s soft voice and calm tone. He had a soothing presence that would render you calm no matter what you were going through. His advice had helped countless university students and others going through things from crisis of faith to personal struggle or in need of advice. He taught with compassion.

One thing that struck me almost immediately, how dedicated he was to his family and his community. He taught that true impact was being in the service of people in what is tangible. Shaykh Umer was an embodiment of that.

He wasn’t involved in the non-issues of social media or the issues of matters that come and go. He was a hallmark of positivity in people’s lives and lived the Prophetic calling, servitude to God and service to creation.

I was reading over our exchanges in messages over the years remembering fondly moments with him. I remembered his soft tone in his sermons, and sometimes his humor where he literally enacted in an Eid khutbah the impact of superheroes but left us with powerful wisdom at the end. The lesson of empowering and being superheroes for others. I remembered when I went to Madinah to study, how happy he was for me. He would always remind me of the responsibility to the community. Knowledge must be imparted to those closest to you first, he would say. He would keep in contact with me and in his humility would ask me questions to ask my teachers for him.

Dec 4, 2011 he said, “As salam Alaikum, I make dua your studies are doing fine. I was wondering if you could ask your (teachers) …”

He kept a secret once when my wife and I planned to come to town to completely surprise my mother and father for my sister’s marriage nikah ceremony.

He wrote “I’ll keep hush about it. Mubarak to your and your family… let me know if you want to perform the marriage. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did his daughter’s nikah, big bro doing little sis’s nikah.”

I responded, “I think [the] best thing to ask my family iA once I see them, I’ll talk to them about it. You are our Imam, after all, Sh Umer : )”

Every time I visited Austin, he would always insist and invite me to give the sermon and conduct classes. He was a scholar who understood that we all work together in one service to the community.

He was a silent giant that many did not know. He had not only memorized the Quran but taught the different recitations of the Quran (the qira’at) for over a decade. On Seekers Guidance, he was a specialist in financial transactions in Islam and studied with some of the most prolific scholars of our time, ie. Mufti Taqi Usmani and others.

All in all, that one lesson just rings in my heart and soul: his mark and legacy was in the lives he touched and in his dedication to a community. In an increasingly digital world where our relationships are even increasingly becoming digital, he lived and imparted that the real, lived experiences we have are what matter the most. With your family first, your community, and those around you. Shaykh Umer touched our lives because he was present and invested in these relationships.

If one can summarize his life’s work it was the example of our Beloved Prophet peace be on him lived by, a mercy to mankind, and as he said,

“Indeed, God did not send me to be harsh or to turn people away, rather he sent me to teach and bring ease.” (Muslim). The gentle and humble teacher, whose presence gave ease.

He wrote to me last month informing me that he would be coming on the minor pilgrimage (Umrah) this December. We consider this an honor and invitation from God to walk in the footsteps of the prophets and Prophet Abraham to the Sacred House that is a mark of the servitude of God. As a friend said, little did we know that “he went to meet Allah in a different way.”

Imam Al Ghazali quotes in his Ihya, Imam Ali (may God be pleased with him) said once,

“The collectors and keepers of wealth have died even though they’re alive, but the scholars live on and remain so long as time is in existence.”

Shaykh Umer will forever live in our hearts and Insha Allah, God willing, in our prayers. It is no surprise that our Prophet said that scholars are the inheritors of Prophets and that the best of people are those that teach good to others, the best that we can leave behind is the knowledge that carries on.

Shaykh Umer remains in our lives because of all of this. May his legacy remain and may we live up to that legacy to carry it on. May God have mercy on him. May his family be blessed, protected, and reunite with him in the highest levels of Paradise.

I could not help as I read his messages except to respond. I know he won’t be able to read it in this life, but we believe that our actions in this life make a mark in the next. I hope I can tell him when I see him what I wrote to him after he had passed, “I love you Shaykh Umer. May these exchanges witness for us on the Day of Judgment. May we be united with our beloved Prophet peace be on him with our families hoping to be gathered as having served Allah’s faith.”

Please donate to the fund for his family:
https://www.facebook.com/donate/1016962988662732/10219028206712024/

Hasib
Muharram 1441/September 2019

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