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Islamic Studies and India: Is This the Right Place for You? | The Motherland – VI

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Prelude | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

The “The Motherland” series will go over the benefits and challenges of studying Islam overseas in India, institutions of learning there in, and Nihal Khan’s journey of studying at Nadwatul ‘Ulama in the 2014-2015 academic calendar year. The subsequent articles in this series will detail his experiences and reflections from his travels and studies in India.

. . .

Conclusion: Is India the Right Place for You?

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Students present at a seminar at Darul Uloom Deoband.

Traveling India as an American is awesome. Regardless of your background, I think everyone should see India to understand how a seventh of the world’s population lives, learns, and teaches. Especially if you are of Indian origin, you should be connected to your roots to give you a better perception of yourself and where you are going.

As for students seeking to study the traditional Islamic sciences, studying Islam in India requires much sacrifice and is no walk in the park.

With so many potential countries and institutions to study Islam from, the question arises if India is the right place for you. Personally, I view this is to be a very loaded question which has many nuances to be unpacked, so for now the few points below will suffice for this discussion.

The Necessity of Clear-Cut, Quantifiable, Practical, and Functional Intentions

If I could add more adverbs above, I would. Regardless of location, so many students end up enrolling at an Islamic university without a solid individual understanding of why they want to study Islam overseas. You need to ask yourself: what are you looking for? Why are you looking for it? Can you get it in the west? If not, then why not? What will you gain from traveling overseas? Are you ready to sacrifice regular comforts such as hot water, clean food, an air conditioner in a heat, a heater in the cold, etc? What do you plan to practically do with whatever you gain from traveling overseas? (Don’t use the old “Allah will provide” card, because part of relying upon Allah is making preparations yourself). This is a partial list obviously. A serious seeker must learn to ask the right questions before looking for right answers.

 

Efficacy and Precision in Hadith Studies, Fiqh, and Arabic Literature

If you are looking for a place that is rigorous in the study, memorization, understanding, and dissection of hadith literature, fiqh studies, and Arabic literature, then India is the right place to study. Though learning Urdu beforehand, having a previous background in Islamic studies and stipulating the first point above may prove to be very high barriers of entry. An individual seeking to expand their knowledge in this science will find the larger institutions in northern India to be a delightful experience—specifically Darul ‘Uloom Deoband (for fiqh), Mazahir al-’Uloom (for hadith), and Nadwatul ‘Ulama (for Arabic). You can navigate around the Urdu if your Arabic is up to par, but the other two points I mentioned are non-negotiables for obvious reasons.

05 - Delhi, Gujarat, and Mumbai (44)

Minaret of a masjid in Gujarat


The Need to Know Where you Came From

Though Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal thinks having a connection to your heritage in any way at all by hyphenating your ethnicity makes you less of an American, the truth is that if you are not a Native American, you came from some country over the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

Ethnic groups take pride in where they came from within the United States. Be it Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, England, Ireland, France, Japan, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bosnia, Albania, Turkey, etc. If your parents immigrated from another country, then make it a goal to visit their ancestral places to learn about your ancestors that lived and prospered in those areas for over a thousand years. Not to mention that emigration out of a certain culture was not common at a grandiose level up until a few hundreds years ago. So returning back to revisit those places may connect you to a history and culture which you may be an undiscovered part of your identity.

. . .

This completes the summary of my first year in India. I look forward to sharing more of my experiences, travels, and reflections with you.

If you would like to follow me throughout my journeys in India, feel free to “Like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter.

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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Waleed

    December 2, 2015 at 1:02 PM

    Salam Nihal bhai
    I believe you are in your final year of Aaliya. You planning on doing dawrah in mazahir?

  2. Avatar

    Naz

    December 3, 2015 at 12:42 AM

    Assalamalaikum brother,

    You mentioned in your article about keeping in touch with your roots and knowing where you came from.

    But in light of the current situation of muslims in India, do you think its safe?

    What I mean to say is while you studied there, do you feel there is great oppression upon muslims?

    How do madrasahs operate in these conditions of harsh oppression much less regular practicing muslims?

    What is the climate for muslims there? Do they have to renounce their faith to live normally? Is it like that only in rural areas or large metropolitan areas as well

  3. Avatar

    Abubakar sadiq usman

    December 3, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    Muslim can seek anywhere they whish

  4. Avatar

    Abubakar sadiq usman

    December 3, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    Muslim can seek knowlage anywhere they whish

  5. Avatar

    Umm hadi

    December 12, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    Asalam a laikum wrwb,
    Mabrook on your pursuit for knowledge. Barak Allahu Feek.

    Initially, I happened to read your series vi, which for my own reasons persuaded me to read the other 5. But unfortunately I didn’t get the answer to it.
    I was eager to know about your core subjects, the teachers, the hold over the subject once one passes out and more of your experiences within the institute as a student. How many years is the course, how many levels are for each of em? Hope you add them to form another series. May Allah keep your passion for gaining knowledge forever.
    As Allama Iqbaal said, “Ya Rab! Dil-e-Muslim Ko Woh Zinda Tamana De
    Jo Qalb Ko Garma De, Jo Rooh Ko Tarpa De”

    And Yes, Br Nihal
    “tundi-e-baad e mukhalif say na ghabra aey uqaab….
    ya tau chalti hai tujhay oncha uranay k leya”

    WaSalaam,

    Taqabbal Allahu minna wa minkum.

  6. Avatar

    MH

    April 18, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    Assalamu’Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh!

    Am I the first to comment in 2016? Has this post been abandoned? Anyway, I must say that you got me hooked onto this series, Nihal bhai. I’ve had my own experiences with India and can relate to a lot of what you have written so far. Truly it is a different type of experience for those of us born and bred in the west – perhaps more so for you since you’re American. I hope that didn’t come out as discriminatory (sincere apologies if it did). I am African btw :)

    There are just two issues I’d like to tackle. One is just my own point of digression which anyone is free to follow or forsake. The other is a question.

    1. What experiences have you had with Tabligh Jamaat? Some of your pictures are from Delhi so I’m wondering if you were fortunate enough to visit Nizamuddeen Markaz. Are the students and teachers in Nadwa attached to the effort? Have you decided to do a khurooj once you are done with your studies?

    2. My point of digression may come out as a bit of a rant – I apologise in advance. I would like to tackle your point on ‘connecting with your roots’. I have no problems if someone wishes to pursue this point in their life. However, I cannot brush away the pain that personally stings me everytime this topic is brought up. Like you and many others, my parents also immigrated to my current country of residence. I am happy here and obviously I bear no ill will to any of my relatives from my parents’ country of origin. My problem lies with the fact that throughout my childhood (even now) I have been denied my right to be different. I don’t mind speaking a language. I do mind the fact that you have to shove it down my throat as my “mother tongue”. My dreams are in English, isn’t that enough to show that English is my mother language? Plus, why am I shoved away when I try to speak the native language of my current country (not English)? I have been constantly pushed into “loving my motherland” – a place which is still foreign to me. Love should be voluntary, right? Since when is love forced? Most people from my “motherland” find it repulsive that I am patriotic towards my current country. These are often the same people who are critical of me growing a beard, donning a thobe and frequenting masaajid. Of course, it is completely unwise to paint everyone with the same brush. However, it is extremely difficult and painful for me to simply disregard all that has happened to me. It’s gotten to the point where saying that I hate my “motherland” and “mother language” is no longer taboo or something that strikes me as sinful. For reasons of decency I try not to vocalise this too much.

    It is worth noting that I have visited my parents’ home many times in my life – perhaps too many times for comfort. Perhaps you guys in the West don’t visit that often, if at all (once again apologies for the sweeping statement). Had I been in that situation, I cannot deny that the prospect of visiting a place to which you have never been to yet share a connection with sounds utterly magical.

    P.S. Cool fact – my Dad’s family is originally from a different part of the subcontinent. They no longer have any ties to that place seeing that my Dad, the youngest of his siblings, grew up in my Mum’s country.

    P.P.S. My Chacha migrated to YET ANOTHER part of the subcontinent very early in his life and has been there since. He has adjusted well. Like me he is also not the greatest when it comes to my Dad’s language.

    Keeping both these points in mind it irks me that no one wields the mentality which is used to attack me against any of my Dad’s family or my Chacha (not that I want them to, I just find it bothersome that only I am being targeted when the same has been done by others before me). Sometimes I wonder if my young age is what others are exploiting. Personally I have decided to tank it all and focus my efforts on becoming a better Muslim, serving Allah and his deen first, followed by my (current) country.

    In any event, reading your articles leads me carelessly assume that you do a better job at handling Desi problems than myself. I am more than open to discussion on my views – perhaps you could even advise me as a brother. :)

    Maaf for my neo-bakwaas
    WaSalaam

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#Islam

Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir Verses 72-81

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. InshAllah, we’ll try our best to cover the meanings of verse 71-82. As we learned in the last session, this passage of the Surah deals with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). It’s the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. We reached the point in the story where Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) sincerity in seeking knowledge, his lack of pride and his willingness to humble himself in front of Khidr despite his own status as a Prophet.

But Khidr initially declined his request telling him, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?” Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was sent as a Prophet of Divine Law, while Khidr had been entrusted with some unique knowledge and actions that seemed to be contradictory to that law. So he explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was extremely eager to learn. He resolved to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ.

He tells Khidr, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” Khidr finally gave in and both of them set off on their way. This is where we’ll pick up the story again. Allah ﷻ says,

Verse 71: So they both went on till, when they had embarked upon a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.”

They set out walking together along the shore looking for a ship to ride. As they were walking a ship of sailors passed by them and Khidr asked for a ride. The sailors knew Khidr so they let both him and Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) come on board without any charge. After traveling for a while Khidr got up and pulled out one of the planks from the bottom of the ship using an ax making a hole in it. This placed everyone on the ship in danger of drowning. Obviously, this seemingly absurd and cruel behavior surprised Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He was literally in shock. He couldn’t understand why Khidr would do such a thing to someone who helped him out. This went against his moral compass of what’s right and wrong. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) forgot about the conditions of his teacher and objected. These people gave us a free ride and you’re pulling a plank to drown their ship. You’ve done something bad. “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.” Khidr then reminded him gently with patience.

Verse 72: He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to be patient with me and my actions? The way he says this shows that he was willing to overlook and tolerate Musa’s (as) impatience. Musa (as) felt a sense of regret and apologized to Khidr telling him that he completely forgot about his deal.

Verse 73: He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me responsible for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.”

Basically he apologized. He said please don’t hold me responsible for what I forgot and allow me to continue travelling in your company. While telling the story the Prophet ﷺ says, “the first (question) was out of forgetfulness. While this conversation was taking place a bird came and sat on the side of the boat and took a sip of water from the ocean. Khidr said to Musa, ‘my knowledge and yours combined in comparison to the knowledge of Allah is like the sip of water compared to the ocean.’” Khidr accepting his apology and they continued travelling on their way.

Verse 74: So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.”

“So they continued…” They both got off the ship and started walking along the shore until they came across a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr went up to this young boy and killed him by either strangling him to death or striking him on his head. This was too much for Musa (as) to handle. He objected even more vehemently. How can he kill an innocent young boy for no reason whatsoever? To Musa (as) this seemed absolutely absurd, cruel and unjustified. It was too much for him to tolerate patiently despite his promise not to question anything that he saw. So he said, How can you kill a pure innocent child for no reason whatsoever? You have done something unjustified and have committed a heinous act. Once again Khidr reminds him of the condition that he made and the promise that Musa (as) had given.

Verse 75: He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I warn you that you wouldn’t be able to handle what I would do? Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to remain silent when I do certain things? In this reminder, Khidr added the word “laka” to show that this time his reminder is more severe and clearer. The first time someone forgets and makes a mistake it’s overlooked. The second time it’s also overlooked but with a sense of hesitation. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) again feels a sense of regret for breaking his word and not sticking to the conditions of Khidr. He’s now done this twice so he apologizes by saying,

Verse 76: He said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not keep me in your company. You have had enough excuses from me.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)(as) again apologizes but this time gives himself one last chance. He said if he questions Khidr one more time then Khidr can choose to part ways with him. Once again Khidr accepts his apology and they set off on their way. After commenting on this part ibn Kathīr narrates a hadīth from the Prophet ﷺ. He writes, “Ibn Jarir narrated from Ibn `Abbas that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: “Whenever the Prophet ﷺ mentioned anyone, he would pray for himself first. One day he said:

  • «رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى مُوسَى لَوْ لَبِثَ مَعَ صَاحِبِهِ لَأَبْصَرَ الْعَجَبَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ قَالَ:
  • ﴿إِن سَأَلْتُكَ عَن شَىْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلاَ تُصَاحِبْنِى قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذْراً﴾»

May the mercy of Allah be upon us and upon Musa. If he had stayed with his companion he would have seen wonders, but he said, (`If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.’))” That brings us to the third and last adventure they had together.

Verse 77: Then, they moved on until they came to the people of a town and sought food from them. But they refused to show them any hospitality. Then, they found there a wall that was about to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Khidr continued traveling until they came upon the people of a town that most commentators identify as the ancient city of Antioch. Being tired and hungry they asked them for some food but they refused to give them any or show them any hospitality whatsoever. As they were leaving the city they came across a wall that was about to fall down. Khidr stopped by it and repaired it. Now, this situation is also bizarre; Khidr is a complete stranger in a town that refused to give them food or host them yet he still stops and fixes their wall for nothing in return. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finds the situation full of irony. Why should a stranger exert so much effort in rebuilding a wall in a town where they were denied even a little food and all hospitality? He should have at least demanded some money for his labor and then they could have bought some food to eat.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) couldn’t hold himself so he objected, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” And that was the end of their relationship. Khidr responded,

Verse 78: He said, “This is the parting between me and you. I shall inform you of the meaning of that which you were unable to bear with patiently.”

Meaning, this is the end of our relationship and this is where we’ll part ways. But before we go our separate ways I’ll explain to you the wisdom and hidden meaning behind everything I did. Up till this point in the story, we’ve probably been just as impatient as Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); we have no clue why Khidr did the things he did. But he then explains everything is detail; why he pulled a plank out of the bottom the ship, why he killed an innocent child and why he rebuilt the wall without taking anything in return.

Verse 79: As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it, for just beyond them was a king who was seizing every ship by force.

Khidr is explained that his act of damaging the ship was, in reality, a means of saving it. It comes in a narration that these poor people were ten brothers, 5 of them were handicapped while the other five worked. The ship was their only source of income. The king was a cruel, tyrannical oppressor who would take ships by force. The damage done to the ship made it undesirable for the king and ultimately saved it for its owners. Had it been seaworthy, it would certainly have been confiscated by the tyrannical king. Perpetrating some small damage to the boat saved it from the greater harm and ruinous injustice which was certain to take place without it. Hence, causing such damage was a good and kindly action. So damaging the ship actually turned out to be a good thing.

Verses 80-81: And as for the young boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would make them suffer much through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange one who is better than him in purity, and nearer to mercy.

Although the young child seemed to be pure and innocent in reality the seeds of disbelief and wickedness were entrenched in his heart. If he had grown up he would have been a source of grief and sorrow for his parents who were believers. Their love for this child would have led them towards evil and wickedness as well. They would suffer because of the rebellion and disbelief. So Allah told Khidr to kill this boy to spare them that grief and to replace him with a child that would be better and more dutiful. Now obviously the parents weren’t aware of this at this time so to them this was a huge loss and tragedy. They weren’t aware of the future difficulties that they were saved from by his death.

Qatādah said, “His parents rejoiced when he was born and grieved for him when he was killed. If he had stayed alive, he would have been the cause of their doom. So let a man be content with the decree of Allah, for the decree of Allah for the believer, if he dislikes it, is better for him than if He were to decree something that he likes for him.” That’s why in connection to these verses ibn Kathīr رحمهم الله quotes the hadīth, “Allah does not decree anything for a believer, save that it is better for him.”

  • «لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ قَضَاءٍ إِلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»

It is mentioned in a narration that the parents were blessed with a pious daughter who gave birth to a Prophet. So the murder of this child actually turned out to be something good in the long run.

Verse 82: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was righteous, and your Lord desired that they should reach their maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I didn’t do this upon my own command. This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.

Khidr explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that the wall that was about to fall that he rebuilt was covering a treasure that belonged to two orphan boys. If the wall had fallen down the treasure would be exposed and the orphan children would’ve been deprived of their wealth. By rebuilding the wall Khidr made it possible for them to access their treasure when they grew up. This was done partially because their father was a righteous and pious man. Khidr then explains to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he didn’t do any of these things based on his own accord or understanding. Rather he did them according to the Divine command, decree, and will of Allah ﷻ. “And I didn’t do this upon my own command.” He concludes by saying, “This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.” Meaning, this is the explanation of my actions that you didn’t understand and weren’t able to be patient with.

Lessons:

1) One of the most powerful and profound lessons we learn from this entire episode is that oftentimes a tragedy is a blessing in disguise. Everything that happens in this world, whether good or bad, happens according to the Divine will and decree of Allah ﷻ. There’s some deep divine wisdom behind every single thing that happens in this world. When something good happens we recognize it as a blessing. For example, if we get a good job, get a raise at work, purchase a new car or are blessed with the birth of a child. All of recognize this as something positive. On the other hand whenever we face setbacks, difficulties, hardships and tragedies we tend to lose patience.

This incident is teaching us that difficulties, tests, trials, and hardships are oftentimes blessing in disguise. The first thing to understand is that Allah isn’t sending these difficulties our way to break us or destroy us. Rather he’s sending them our way to test our patience and faith, as a source of mercy and a reminder. As a way of nurturing and training us. He’s reminding us to turn back to Him, to hold on to our faith, to be steadfast, patient, strong, and to persevere. When we’re struggling and going through difficult times we shouldn’t assume that somehow Allah is displeased with us. Similarly, when we’re comfortable and enjoying life we shouldn’t assume that Allah is pleased with us. The opposite can be true. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

  • « إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الْخَيْرَ عَجَّلَ لَهُالْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الشَّرَّأَمْسَكَ عَنْهُ بِذَنْبِهِ حَتَّى يُوَفَّى بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

“If Allah wants good for his servant, He hurries on His punishment in this world, and if He wills ill for a servant, he holds back punishing him for his sin so He can give it to him in full on the Day of Resurrection.”

Everything we face in this world is actually a source of blessing for us. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

  • «مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ،وَلاَ وَصَبٍ، وَلاَ هَمِّ، وَلاَ حُزْنٍ، وَلاَ أَذًى، وَلاَ غَمِّ، حَتَّىالشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا؛ إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ الله بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ»

“No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that the main tool, the key to deal with the world and all the problems it contains is through patience and turning towards Him. When we’re dealing with our problems we should turn to Allah. We should make dhikr, read Quran, spend time in prayer and reflection and try to be around good company. We should try to focus our attention, our spiritual and emotional energy on our relationship with Allah instead of our problem. By doing so we’ll find peace and comfort. True contentment. Part of patience is recognizing that whatever we’re going through is something that we can handle. Whatever we’re going through will not last forever. That’s why throughout the Quran whenever Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) consoles and comforts the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) He reminds him to be patient and to turn to him. “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord.” (20:130) “So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.” (30:60) “So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting.” (50:39)

2) Being content with the Divine decree of Allah ﷻ.

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#Life

Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.

A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.

So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!

I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need  – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!

Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.

Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.

I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.

To catch Laylatul Qadr with MyTenNights, visit their website MyTenNights.com

Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.

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