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Washington Post: Young Russians in search of faith are turning to Islam

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Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 9:28 PM

ALMETYEVSK, RUSSIA Rustam Sarachev should have had a hangover the first time he set foot in the central mosque here. He had wanted to throw a raucous party the night before, a send-off for himself on his way to Islam. But the guys he was with had mocked him for even thinking about the mosque, and had gone off drinking on their own.

So here he was, regretfully clearheaded in the daylight, 500 rubles unspent on vodka and still in his pocket, heading up the steps of the big salmon-colored mosque that dominates one end of this minor oil city east of the Volga.

It was late September 2006, the beginning of Ramadan. As he looks back on it now, he remembers that he wasn’t sure why he had decided to come, or what to expect. He was 17, at loose ends, a self-described hooligan, a troublemaker, starting to get hardened by a life that was heading for the verges of the law, yet still vulnerable to the insults and disdain that seek out young men with no future here.

When he walked through the great double door of the mosque, he was taking his first steps toward joining an intense Islamic revival here in the Muslim heartland of Russia that is drawing particular strength from its young people.

Sarachev was 2 years old when the Soviet Union collapsed, 5 when the first war in Chechnya broke out, 12 on 9/11. His whole life has been an era of cataclysms, of an old world being torn apart, of war against Muslims, at home and abroad. Old identities, old certainties, have proved empty. And now he was joining others here of his own generation who are finding, in religion, an alternate authority. They are joining a global community, and at a time when great passions are stirring that community.

They learn at the mosque that Allah is punishing Iraqis for their heresies. They learn that 9/11 was carried out by American agents, or maybe agents from somewhere else, to provoke a war against Muslims. But they learn, too, that those who want to go and join the fight in Afghanistan, or Pakistan – and young men who aimed to do precisely that have passed through Almetyevsk – are in error. This is not the time. Islam needs them here, in Russia.

Their faith, in any case, is not ignited by politics. If it were, the Russian authorities would have cracked down on the mosque long ago. Sarachev came up those steps, on that day four years ago, not out of anger but in search of a way out of the pointlessness of his own life.

Built in the 1990s with Saudi backing, the mosque makes a strong physical statement. Inside, it features intricate woodwork, handsome red and green carpets and painstakingly assembled blue tile mosaics. On holidays, believers pack its services. During afternoon prayers, as they face to the southwest, toward Mecca, a window to their right might give them glimpses of a glorious pearly pink sky, otherworldly almost, even as the setting sun glints off the five golden domes of the Orthodox church across the way.

“I was shocked,” remembers Sarachev. “I couldn’t understand where I was. There were only young people, all around. They treated me so well. I’d never been welcomed like that before.”

He saw familiar faces. Almas Tikhonov, who had been a big partier and a roughneck, and then had dropped from sight, was there, praying. Sarachev was impressed by the way Almas looked; there was a compelling serenity about him.

In the days that followed, that picture lingered in Sarachev’s mind. He decided to go back to the mosque, and then again, and again. He had to endure the jibes of his old friends, and that was hard – but maybe it stiffened his resolve, too. As he began to see them in a new light, it made it simpler to give up the drinking, the hanging out on street corners, the sneaking off to a village where they could party all night, away from parents’ eyes. Sarachev eventually came to understand that the world is full of devils, and that the duty of a good Muslim is to overcome those devils.

And somewhere here, he knows, though he’s still working it through in his own mind, lies the meaning of jihad. “It’s a struggle against those who don’t believe,” he says. “It’s not a test. Jihad is a war.”

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Formerly Mujahideen Ryder (now retired), I'm a Muslim American born in Brooklyn, NY with Guyanese parents currently living in Maryland working full-time as a web developer.

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#Current Affairs

My Heart Shook In New Zealand

Mohsin Ansari

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One would imagine that a person would be dead-tired and ready to crash in his bed after a grueling, 36-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington, DC. And I will admit, that was the way I felt. Yet somehow, all my somnolence vanished as soon as my head rested on my pillow and I closed my eyes to rest. A wave of recollections fell over me: memories of the survivors, the emotions they expressed, and their feelings of an uncertain future as they planned their lives after the loss of their family members. These feelings instantly took away all the desire to get rest and sleep. I sit upright now and begin writing this reflection of a once in a lifetime experience- a voyage of grief and hope to Aotearoa- land of the white cloud as the indigenous people call New Zealand.

With lost baggage, long flights and too many connections, at times it seemed unlikely that my eldest son Moaz and I would make it to Jumm’ah and Janazah prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepted our prayers so that we could fulfill the guidelines set by our beloved, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). We were able to fulfill one of the rights of a Muslim over the others; that when he is sick visit him, and when she dies, offer her funeral and be part of her burial.

Hagley Cricket Ground was supposed to have a cricket test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand that Friday. Commentators reckon that it would have been the final day of that test match. But the 22nd of March 2019, brought a much bigger crowd to this world-famous cricket ground than what anyone would have seen on the final day of that test match.

Officials and security directed us towards the VIP area as they wanted to pay respect to the guests who traveled all the way from the USA, Canada, and Australia. The environment of love, solidarity, and respect, coupled with the hijab-clad women standing in solidarity with Muslims in that enormous crowd, created an impact which cannot be articulated by mere words. Every single uniformed female officer was carrying their firearm while donning a hijab; creating a welcoming gesture in a rather somber and gloomy atmosphere.

I do not have the words to thank the leadership of Charity Australia and the Islamic Forum of Australian Muslims (IFAM) for providing us with logistics, facilitating meeting the families of the “shuhudaa” (martyrs) and arranging to visit those injured in the tragedy. ICNA, Helping Hand, and Charity Australia banners highlighting the slogans of “American Muslims stand in solidarity with Victims of Christchurch New Zealand” were the center of attention for thousands of local New Zealanders gathered in solidarity that day. Their hugs, sincere prayers and tearful eyes were the greatest gift that I want to share with everyone reading these reflections.

Right after Jumm’ah, the majority of the crowd attended the collective Janazah prayer of 27 of the martyrs. In those emotional moments, I met with the most courageous woman on earth, the wife of 51-year-old Shaheed Naeem and the mother of 21-year-old Talha Naeem, the two spirited souls who gave their lives to save others in the mosque that day. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She mentioned that her husband, Naeem, was a person who lived the life of a man of service, always ready to help others. She described Talha as an angel who was too pious and too noble to be away from Jannah too long. We heard similar feelings from Naeem’s mother (grandmother of Talha) the next day when we visited their home.

The visit to the home of New Zealand’s national soccer team player, Atta Elayyan (33), was not only emotional but also deeply inspiring. Atta lost his life and his father (the founder of Al-Noor Masjid) was severely injured during this brutal and hateful attack. There were several scholars from the United States, including Sheikh Omer Suleiman, in the visit to Atta’s home. We could offer nothing to console the brave mother of this shaheed, who greeted us with words of courage and wisdom. We had no words to accompany the tears in our eyes, except prayers for the most noble young man who helped so many in coming close to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Our visits to Al-Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Center were also filled with memories of love, harmony, and reverence. There was a continuous influx of hundreds of visitors, not only from New Zealand, but also from different countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Fiji, and Canada.  Thousands and thousands of flower bouquets and other items of love were left by these visitors. I was really thrilled to see that local Muslims left many Qur’ans and flyers with basic concepts of Islam and addressing the common misconceptions about Islam for those visiting. I witnessed many people visiting these mosques were taking those Qur’ans and other books with them in order to learn more about Islam.

We also met Mr. Aziz, the unsung hero who repeatedly attacked the killer with different objects including an empty gun —which the killer had discarded. The terrorist fired on Aziz multiple times, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) not only saved him, but he also forced the killer to flee from the Linwood Islamic Center. Mr. Aziz was one of the reasons why the number of casualties in this mosque was only seven, compared to the 43 martyrs in Masjid Al-Noor. We also met certain individuals whom Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) saved miraculously. A young man showed his trousers fenestrated with holes of bullets but had no signs of injury. The husband and wife who entered the premises of the mosque and only to be showered with a burst of 26 bullets while in their car, leaving it completely destroyed. Yet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) saved both of them while they took shelter in their vehicle.

The visit to the hospital’s ICU was simply heartbreaking but at the same time increased our resolve and commitment to help these families as much as possible. We encountered a Turkish brother who was in a coma for nine days and met his elderly parents, who spoke to us in the very little English they knew. The only thing which we could understand from their hushed voices was the request for du’a and tears of helplessness in their eyes. The 71-year-old father of a local Pakistani from Hafizabad, who had arrived two weeks ago to visit his son, was now on a ventilator fighting for his life. As a physician who has worked in ICU settings for a long time, I simply did not have enough medical reasoning which could have provided him any words of hope!! Similarly, I was not able to provide any glimmer of hope to a brother from Bangladesh whose wife will never be able to walk again and will be paralyzed for the rest of her life.

While I saw hope and felt resilience from every victim in that hospital, this hospital visit was brutally heartbreaking.

Lastly, I cannot imagine the pain, agony, and helplessness that the father of Mucad Ibrahim must feel after losing his 3-year-old son in his own arms. I gave him the longest hug possible, as he taught the whole world the meaning of Beautiful Sabr (Patience).

After seeing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack, and the work that must still be done to heal the community, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief Canada, and Charity Australia have formed an organization called the “Christchurch Family Support Network”. The operations have already begun, and our team is on the ground. The first group of mental health professionals with a background in Islamic Integrated counseling are set to leave to provide victims and their families immediate psychological assistance.

We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to accept our work, bring healing to the community, protect our brothers and sisters, and accept the shuhadaa’ in the highest level of Paradise.

Dr. Mohsin Ansari is the Vice President Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Chairman of Helping Hand USA (HHRD)

 

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Because Muslims Matter | Honoring The Martyrs Of #Christchurch

Hena Zuberi

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As the days go by, it is easy to forget the names and faces of the people who passed away. The horror of the act eclipses their memories. We do not want that to happen to our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.

اللهُـمِّ اغْفِـرْ لِحَيِّـنا وَمَيِّتِـنا وَشـاهِدِنا ، وَغائِبِـنا ، وَصَغيـرِنا وَكَبيـرِنا ، وَذَكَـرِنا وَأُنْثـانا. اللهُـمِّ مَنْ أَحْيَيْـتَهُ مِنّا فَأَحْيِـهِ عَلى الإِسْلام ،وَمَنْ تَوَفَّـيْتَهُ مِنّا فَتَوَفَّـهُ عَلى الإِيـمان ، اللهُـمِّ لا تَحْـرِمْنـا أَجْـرَه ، وَلا تُضِـلَّنا بَعْـدَه

Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa’ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa ‘unthaanaa..

O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk… [7]

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Shaykh Yahya Adel Ibrahim’s Message in the Wake of the #ChristChurchMosqueShooting

Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim

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We offer our condolences to our Muslim brothers and sisters in New Zealand and to all Kiwis. We feel your pain. We see your tears. We hear your cries and we mourn with you. The Ummah is with you- Editor’s note

Live broadcast:

The Mosque Massacre today in #NewZealand – From Hate, Love may bloom

Posted by Yahya Adel Ibrahim on Friday, March 15, 2019

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