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21 Things I Learned at 21


18. Travel Often.


Standing in front of the Burj Khalifah in Dubai. Taken in March 2012.


If you want to travel then this is the time. Exhaust your breaks to the fullest extent by getting around the world. Travelling opens up your mind and helps you relax when you get back and see things in a different light. Taking long trips during breaks is the only thing which probably motivates me to keep going with school. The places you will go, the people you will meet, and the experiences you will have will prove to be a learning experience which a university education cannot compete with. Go places, anywhere and everywhere!

19. When You Move, Call Home.

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19One thing which I have learned is to never underestimate the power of a phone call to your family if you are away. Since I was fourteen years old I have been living away from home on and off due to school. I spent the first two and a half years of high school in New York City where I stayed at a dormitory for two weeks at a time. Then after my freshman year at college I took a year off and moved to Dallas for the Bayyinah Dream program, and then last year my family moved from New Jersey to Atlanta. So I have basically spent the last five years of my life living away from my family.

Always call. Every day if you can. If not every day then every other day. Your mother wants to hear your voice and tell you that she loves you while your father wants to speak to the human being he put his effort into maturing into a man/woman. When you don’t call home, you hurt your parents. Simple as that. It means you don’t want to talk to them…there’s no other way around it.

20. Plan. But Be Ready For Change.

20If truth be told, no matter how much you plan, Allah is the best of planners. Go ahead and plan your career out on a timeline; plan for the next five, ten, twenty, and even thirty years. Know what you want to study, where you want to go to grad school, how much you want to make, and everything else that is associated with the previous points; but do leave some wiggle room in case things don’t go as planned. Perhaps the main bread winner of the family passes away and you are put in a position where you need to provide for your family (God forbid). Maybe you were admitted into medical school, but the first year proved so difficult that you had a change of heart as to what you want to do in life. Whatever the case may be, leave wiggle room and accept that change is sometimes fate.

21. When It All Goes South, Look Around to See Who Still Enjoys Your Company. Those Are the People that Matter.

21Family matters. Doesn’t matter what goes down, they matter. Your parents matter. Your siblings matter. Even if one of your family members screwed up somewhere down the line, they still matter. A good friend and mentor of mine once told me, “Nihal, ignore the idiots in your life. People will threaten you, hurt you, and defame you. What’s important to note are the people who want to be around you even after things go south. If all else fails, know that just by that token you are on the right path.”


This article would not have been possible without my parents, Chaplain Omer Bajwa, Mayor Zubair Hameeduddin, Sameer Sarmast, and Salim Patel. These are some of the main people who have helped me grow and mature as an individual these last few years through intimately working with me throughout various facets of my life. May Allah bless them all.

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Nihal Ahmad Khan is currently a student of Islamic Law and Theology at Nadwatul 'Ulama in Lucknow, India. He was born and raised in New Jersey and holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business from Montclair State University and a diploma in Arabic from Bayyinah Institute's Dream Program. He began memorizing the Qur’an at Darul Uloom New York and finished at the age of seventeen at the Saut al-Furqan Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went on to lead taraweeh every year since then. Along with his education, Nihal has worked in various capacities in the Muslim community as an assistant Imam, youth director, and a Muslim Chaplain at correctional facilities and social service organizations. Nihal is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.



  1. Asif Balouch (@PhilAsify101)

    November 4, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Excellent post. A good reminder to all those young folks out there and even the older ones.

  2. Mohammad

    November 4, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Really nice article bro!

    • Nihal Khan

      November 8, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Thanks Mohammad!

  3. Haleema

    November 4, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    So much relate-able! Amazing post. Jazak’Allah Khayr.

    • Nihal Khan

      November 8, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Thanks Haleema!

  4. Usamah

    November 5, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    You’ve listed your 18th point as “travel often.” You also mentioned that you took “long trips during breaks.” How do you recommend a 21-year-old (or a 22-year-old such as myself) fund such extensive travel? How do you manage to pay for all the trips you take? It’s not easy for a student (or a recent grad with student loans) to just fly to Dubai during Spring Break.

    • Nihal Khan

      November 8, 2013 at 1:51 AM

      Salam Usamah,

      I usually travel nationally. I go see family and friends usually and try to see places where I’ve never been. Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, skiing in Pennsylvania are all very affordable trips. If you’re working then putting aside $200-$500 every 4-6 months shouldn’t be too much of a hassle in my opinion.

      International travel is a little tough. I went to Umrah VIA Dubai (shoutout to Waleed Jameel) and basically saw a good amount of the area in 8 hours. It’s all about the resources you have and using them to your max.

      I hope that helps :)

  5. Mel

    November 6, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I like the Author’s bio, nice…Usamah if you cannot afford to travel socialize with people from many different cultures.Easy to do at the Masjid !!!

  6. Said Hasan

    November 8, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    Beautiful lessons. JazakAllah Khayr for sharing.

  7. Khadija

    November 9, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    Is point #19 an E.T. reference?

    • Nihal Khan

      November 11, 2013 at 7:47 PM

      I don’t think so lol.

  8. Mahmud

    November 10, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    JazzakAllahu khair, this was a good article, especially the first page, and especially the bit about working hard. I really learned my lesson here, inshaa Allah.

    By the way-your a Psych major….how hard could that be? Pshhhhh. Try an engineering major. You have no time for anything but Salah and Study. And making fun of humanities majors with your stressed out Physics/Mathematics/Natural Science buddies.

    Joking, joking.

    • Nihal Khan

      November 11, 2013 at 7:46 PM

      Lol. Try taking the four credit courses which let you into the major. Your brain will be fried!

  9. Farah

    November 11, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Very nice and well thought out article, mashaAllah. I forwarded it to my 22 year old brother. I definitely feel that everyone learns these lessons at different points in their life and not only at just 21 although the years around 21 are definitely critical. Keep writing!

    • Nihal Khan

      November 11, 2013 at 7:44 PM

      Thanks a lot Farah!

  10. Abdul-Azeez Muhammad

    November 12, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    This article really helped. Jazaakallaah khairan

  11. Salman Hossain

    November 12, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    nice,interesting post brother.keep on bro.we are inspiring.

  12. Harf

    November 13, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Here is something I learned: don’t listen to what atheists have to say about free will

  13. Halima

    November 20, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Very glad I stumbled upon this article. It’s a really great piece. I hope I can put this all into action before I hit 21 next year. Thanks for sharing!

  14. DS

    December 1, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    Regards to number 19 – I’ve found this to be a major dilemma in my own life. I dorm in a city right near the city that my parents & family live in so I come home on the weekends, every weekend. However, being at school for 4 days a week, doing nothing but school and not having any time for anything – no personal time, no friends/hangout time, no Islamic events time, and practically no time to do anything that I love doing while I’m in school. So when I go home on the weekend, I have three days of time to split between family, friends, myself, events/camps/classes. I’ve cut back tremendously on events – where I used to go to one every weekend, I now only go at most, 1X/mth. Even though I’ve cut back so much, my family still feels like I spend the majority of the weekend outside of the house and not with family. If my weekend consists of 3 days, I spend 2 of them with family (sometimes all 3 if I have nothing planned for that weekend such as a meeting or event that I’m involved with planning(which is not often) and I have to be at). How much more time of my weekend can I spend with them? I know they miss me, so do I, but it’s literally impossible for me to be able to be everywhere and do everything at the same time to the max. I used to have many weekend out of town meetings for organizations I’m a part of (which meant I didn’t see family for weeks at a time) however, I cut back on that tremendously. This semester, for instance, I went to only one weekend long meeting out-of-town and was still able to spend at least one night with my fam but somehow its still not enough. I know it’s not enough time but given the time that I have to split up everything, it’s all that I really have and the best that I can do it. I don’t know if any of this made sense, I guess I might just be ranting but I really need help because I’m tired of being told/being made to feel that I dont care about family because I do care – it’s just that the circumstances of life/school has put me into this situation and I can’t do anything about it until I graduate. Maybe I’m just giving myself too many excuses and I should give my excuses the black eye but I don’t know. PS – I’m a girl and the oldest child, I’m sure this has a lot to do with it. Help on what I can do to make my family feel like I’m still a part of the family and that I do care and that I’m doing my best to spend time with them?

    • Nihal Khan

      December 7, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      Assalamu ‘Alaikum DS,

      In my opinion you should spend time with your family over anyone. Friends will understand if you guys can’t meet up, but family won’t as it is their right. The same rule with campus events. Once you graduate college you never know where you’ll end up, so make sure to maximize family time.

      Family is one of those things you need to give your 100% to in my opinion. That shows they really matter over everything.

  15. Rasul

    January 31, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Outstanding article! Keep up the good work

  16. Pingback: » Navigating the College Experience: Nihal’s Narrative

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