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8 Things I Came to Realize by Saad Tasleem

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By Shaykh Saad Tasleem

“I knew him when he was a punk kid!”

Those are the words Sh. Muhammad AlShareef said while introducing me as “AlMaghrib Institute’s newest instructor” at Ilmfest 2012 in Toronto. It’s been over a year now since that day, and in that time, I’ve taught in over a dozen cities around the world and met thousands of students. I’ve not only gotten a lot of insight into AMI (AlMaghrib Institute), but into myself and the people around AMI as well. So here are 8 of the many realizations (in no particular order) that I have come to in my journey as an AMI instructor thus far:

1. Each AMI instructor is different

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This seems quite obvious, right? Well, for many people it’s not. There are many who conveniently lump all of the AMI instructors under certain views and ideas. When they see or hear something from an instructor, they assume that all the other instructors share the same stance, or that it’s the official AMI stance. This simply is not true. I’m not saying that we don’t all share a core set of beliefs and morals, but there are issues that we differ on. This is actually one of the very first realizations that I came to in my AMI career. It was at that same Ilmfest last year that I spent time with 9 or 10 of the instructors from the AMI lineup (some of whom I already knew, some I met for the first time). It was then that I realized we are all quite different. Not only do we come from vastly different backgrounds and life experiences, we also disagree on a variety of issues. But that is one of the things I love about AMI – the diversity of the instructors. And I think this is something that the students appreciate as well.

2. The traveling life is not as glamorous as it looks

I know how it looks from the outside. You see the instructors flying in, teaching, and then flying off to another part of the world. It seemed so wondrous to travel the world, go somewhere different every week, and experience new things. The reality is that even though it is pretty cool, it is also incredibly challenging. What you may not know is that most of our transit time (which is a large amount of time) is spent waiting. Most of this waiting takes place in airports: security lines, flight delays (or cancellations), waiting for rides, etc. The reality is that flying is immensely tiring, especially when one is flying so much. What you also may not know is that we don’t really do much on our travels besides teach. I usually fly into a city, teach, and leave as soon as I’m done. Could I stay longer and sight-see? I suppose I could, but for me when it’s between sight-seeing and spending time with my family, choosing the latter is a no-brainer. What some may not realize is that each time an instructor teaches a seminar they are leaving behind their families, and that certainly is not easy, especially for the families. I can clearly see now why the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

“Traveling is a kind of torment, it deprives you of food, drink and sleep. So when one of you has accomplished the purpose of their travel, they should return quickly to their family.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

3. Every American city looks the same

Almost every city I’ve been to has a Walmart, a Target, a Best Buy, a Starbucks at every corner, a McDonalds beside it, shopping malls, strip malls, etc.; it all feels the same. Our consumerist society has made every city look identical… with the exception of maybe the weather and a monument/statue/building/park/whatever that the city is known for! Some days, I’ll be in the car being driven to or from my hotel and I’ll close my eyes, clear my mind, and rest my thoughts. Once I open my eyes again and look out the window, for a moment I’ll forget which city I’m in! Crazy isn’t it?

4. Haters gonna hate

The first time I sat down with Sh. Yaser Birjas after being hired by AMI (and the first time I had seen him in a long time), he drew a bell curve for me and said, “As a da‘ī, this is your audience.” He went on to explain: if one looks at a bell curve they’ll notice how the two ends of it are small, and the middle is large, i.e. the ends contain a minority of people from my audience and the middle contains the majority. One end represents the people who will love me no matter what, and the other end will represent the people who hate me no matter what. “Pay no attention to either,” he said, “just worry about the middle, the majority, those who will judge you by what you actually do.”

bell curve

Over the last year, I’ve seen his words come true. I’ve learned to accept that there is a group of people who will hate me no matter what I do, and it really is a waste of time to worry about them. I’ll give you one of many examples I have to illustrate this point: every once in awhile, someone will approach me and tell me of an individual who has been criticizing the class I teach, called “The Fiqh of Chillin’”. Hearing what is being said, I always ask if this person has even taken the class, since it’s so far from what the class actually is. The answer is always no. It used to bother me. Now, I just smile and say, “Tell them to take the class, and then we’ll talk.” So there you have it, haters gonna hate.

5. Privacy is important

A year ago, a well-known Islamic speaker told me that he had a stalker. I thought it was a joke, so I laughed. I’ll tell you what though, I ain’t laughin’ no more! When it happened to me, I couldn’t believe it. I immediately thought: So-and-so wasn’t joking! We can thank the internet and social media for facilitating a lot of this stalking. It’s become so easy to stalk someone these days that I doubt whether the stalkers even realize that they are doing it. You may be thinking to yourself right now, “What’s the line that separates following someone on their social media pages and actually stalking them?” I’ll tell you. Suppose someone has become so obsessed with an individual that they start looking for information about them that isn’t public. They start trying to gain access to their private life. They start trying to be a part of their private life. At this point, they’ve crossed the line. They’ve crossed the line when they go from simply admiring someone to becoming obsessed with them. I know that at times it may seem like we are encouraging this type of behavior by how much of our lives we share online. This is why I’ve learned to be very careful about how much I share. It’s easy for someone to get carried away; it’s easy to start posting things simply for the attention rather than any real benefit. This is why I offer this advice to my peers as well: Certain aspects of our lives have to be kept private; things that we share only with our families and close ones. If someone is special to us, we will share our lives with them in a way in which we don’t share our lives with others. This is how we make them feel special. We owe it to our family and close ones to differentiate between our public lives and our private lives.

6. The AMI volunteers are the real superstars

They may not be in the spotlight, they may not even be known, but they really are the backbone of AMI. I’m not sure most people understand how dedicated the volunteers actually are. Every time I visit a new city, I am truly in awe at how tirelessly the volunteers work and how above and beyond they go with everything. What’s interesting to note though is that their hard work has paid off. I don’t mean for AMI, I mean it’s paid off for themselves. It’s paid off in the sense that you can see the impact their AMI work has had on their characters, social skills, and lives as a whole. Honestly, I have no qualms in saying that the AMI volunteers inspire and humble me.

7. People’s lives are complex

When you’re disconnected from people, it’s easy to over simplify their problems or even their lives. You will never realize what people are dealing with and going through until you are among them. It’s convenient to divide people into groups of religious and non-religious, or practicing and non-practicing, but people’s lives have a lot more to them then how religious they appear on the outside. After talking to so many people in the last year I have learned to focus on the goodness in people and encourage that instead of focusing on everything that is wrong with them and just criticizing it. I’ve also come to the realization that we simply must be grateful no matter how bad we think we have it, for there is someone going through worse, much worse…

8. I’m not doing enough

Every time I begin to feel like I’m doing enough for the sake of this dīn, or begin to feel good about the work that I’m doing, all I have to do is look at others who are working for this dīn as well. There are some real gems among our scholars, teachers, da‘īs, imāms, social workers, students, volunteers (see no. 6), and even just average, unknown Muslims. When I look at how much they are doing, how much they are sacrificing, and how much they care, it is remarkably humbling. So to all of you I say: may Allāh reward you for everything that you are doing. May Allah grant us all sincerity in our work, and raise us among the ranks of those whom Allah has bestowed His favor upon from of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous, how excellent are those as companions. Ameen.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Zaheer

    September 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Salaam,

    Nice article – I especially agree with points 2. and 3. It’s almost a cliche, but to those who have not travelled frequently, or have not done a lot of travelling in a short space of time, it’s not that obvious that travelling around the globe at the speeds we do is exhausting, utterly. I have only travelled for leisure thus far, and I can’t imagine how much more tiring it must be to travel to far-off places and then have to muster the energy to call towards the Din with structured lectures, halaqas, etc. Doing this with those in your local community is hard enough as it is, let-alone the extra stress/exhaustion of travel and all that goes along with it.

    I have never been to America, and yet point 3. rings very true, somehow. Again, we could say it’s a stereotype, one which many “patriotic” Americans (anyone?) will do their best to falsify, but the major American cities tend to blur into one another when considered for their chief features: consumerism and entertainment, as your rightly point out.

    There are some small things regarding points 4. and 4. which I think could have been portrayed from a more balanced (or, “objective” shall we say) view, but I won’t nitpick since you’re sharing what you’ve personally learnt on your AMI journey thus far.

    May Allah keep you on the path and increase your love for Deen, and your ability to guide others towards it.

  2. Avatar

    Jawad Rasul

    September 10, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Points about traveling are indeed very true. I have traveled significantly for work and found out that at end of the day, the city where your family and friends live and the city you know best and grew up in is the best no matter what city it is.

  3. Avatar

    tarannum

    September 10, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Very well written. I am an AMI volunteer with Banu Rihla where you just had a seminar a few months ago. This article helped me understand what our Instructors go through. May Allah reward you and your families. May Allah protect you all and the valuable knowledge you provide us with. I wish we could have a lot of the books translated so it could be required reading for the exam. JAK

  4. Avatar

    Fatima Ariadne

    September 20, 2013 at 4:11 AM

    Salaam. Thank you for this honest eye-opening article. I really agree with the point 4 and especially 7. I never understand the fuss with some people categorizing others “practicing” “non-practicing” and sort. Especially with those who use Umar’s “we’re only judging by the apparent” as an excuse to stereotype people. Human beings are not single-side creature.

  5. Avatar

    BerserkHijabi

    September 25, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    My sister’s a volunteer at Banu Rahmah where we had the Fiqh of Chilling almost a year ago here in Seattle. Just felt like including that. A beneficial article MashaAllah :)

  6. Avatar

    rmirza

    February 25, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    eye opening stuff. I can really relate to ustadh saad. i really liked the curve that shaikh yasir drew…really nice. so true…

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

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Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 18: When the Angels Surround Us

Now that we have learnt about Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and her sa’i, let’s now talk about when the angels surround us.

Do you know that every time we sit together and remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we are not alone in our meeting? We have very special visitors, and these visitors love to hear us praising Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)and thanking Him. 

Question: Who can tell me who these visitors are?

Yes! They are angels! Can anyone name some angels for me?

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We have Angel Jibril 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) who has delivered every message to every Prophet since the beginning of time. We also have our angels on our left and right who write down our deeds.

Question: Does anyone know the name of the angel that is in control of the weather? 

His name is Angel Mikai’l. 

There are so many gifts that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grants us when we gather together and remember him. Four things happen every single time! I want you to pay close attention to this hadith, because I’m going to ask you what those four things are after I read it. 

Are you ready?

‏لا يقعد قوم يذكرون الله عز وجل إلا حفتهم الملائكة، وغشيتهم الرحمة ونزلت عليهم السكينة، وذكرهم الله فيمن عنده‏

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the angels surround them (with their wings), (Allah’s) mercy envelops them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes a mention of them before those who are near Him.”

Question: Can you believe that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes mention of your name when you make mention of His? What do you think it means when “tranquility descends upon us?” Do you feel how calm your heart is? 

That is a gift from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and He tells us that our hearts find rest in His remembrance:

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“…Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured” [Surah Ar-Ra’d; 28] 

 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 17: Hajar and her Sa’i

Now that we have learnt about the best of you, let’s now talk about Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and her sa’i.

Question: Can anyone tell me the common steps we have to take when we perform the Umrah or Hajj in Mecca? 

Yes! We have to make tawaaf around the Ka’bah, and walk/jog between the hills of Marwa and Safa, drink zam zam, and then shave or cut our hair. 

Question: Do you know who we’re emulating when we walk/jog between Marwa and Safa?

Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)was a noble woman, who was also the wife of Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and the mother of Prophet Isma’il 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). One day, Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was instructed by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to leave his wife and baby in the barren desert. There were no people there, no water, no animals; it was completely deserted. Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) asked Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him): “Did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) command you to do this?”

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Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) replied “Yes,” to which she said: “Then certainly, He will not abandon us.”

After a while, Hajar’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) milk started to run out and so did her food. Baby Ismai’l 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was crying and crying out of thirst and hunger. Out of desperation, Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) then starts running between the hills of Marwa and Safa, climbing to the very top of each hill and looking to see if anyone is there to help her and her baby.

After Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) runss between the two hills seven times, the angel Jibril  appears and strikes the ground where baby Ismai’l 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is crying, and out gushes zam zam water that is still quenching the thirst of and healing Muslims until today! 

Question: Do you know the Arabic word for what Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was doing? 

It’s called sa’i (to pursue, endeavor, to strive). When we are putting in our utmost effort, sometimes, we won’t see the fruits of our labor directly. Hajar  raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) did not see the zam zam gush out on the hilltop. Rather, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) told Angel Jibril to strike the ground near Prophet Ismail’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) body. However, Hajar’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) effort is not lost with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). She had firm faith that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would not abandon them, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) rewarded and protected them. They were now in charge of the zam zam water; birds soon came to drink from it, and people soon followed. This once barren desert is now where millions of people go to perform Hajj and Umrah every single year. 

Question: I want you all to think of what your sa’i for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) looks like. Do you feel like you are striving to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? When we look back at our family’s sa’i, will we be proud of it? 

Sometimes, we find ourselves only focusing on getting the zam zam, but we don’t want to put in the hard work that it takes to get there. So, every time you are struggling with a new idea, or doing a chore you don’t really want to do, or getting into the habit of learning how to read Qur’an and pray those extra prayers, remember that this is all a part of your sa’i and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will actually thank you for it.  Can you believe it?

 

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