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Journey to the Holy Land: Reflections on Palestine | Part 3 of 4

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By Zainab Chaudry

To travel to the Palestinian city of Hebron is to glimpse the grit, resilience and tenacity of the human spirit under extreme duress. 

Located about twenty miles south of Jerusalem, it is the largest city in the occupied West Bank and the second largest Palestinian city after Gaza.

It is home to Masjid Ibrahimi – a centuries-old mosque constructed above the tombs of four of the most beloved Prophets in Islam: Ibrahim (Abraham), Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob), and Yusuf (Joseph). 

Recognized by Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, a growing presence of Zionist settlers in the area has escalated tensions to boiling point. During Ramadan in February 1994, in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the city, an American-Israeli settler named Baruch Goldstein entered the mosque during the morning prayer service and opened fire, murdering 24 worshippers and wounding dozens of others.

Palestine

In the aftermath of the massacre, the Israeli government seized control of the city, set up multiple checkpoints, and divided the mosque – restricting Muslims to 40 percent of the space, and allocating 60 percent exclusively for Jews.

One survivor of the massacre, Hosni Rajeba described it as the Israeli government “rewarding the murderers.”  

He and others still struggle with the psychological trauma – reliving it every time settlers harass them, or when Israeli soldiers unjustly bar entry at whim. 

The day we visit Hebron coincides with the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal on the Islamic calendar – a day many Muslims observe as Mawlid, the date of birth of the beloved Prophet Muhammad. 

Our guide announces that since it’s a special religious occasion, both the “Muslim” and “Jewish” sides of Masjid Ibrahimi will be open to us to visit.

Everyone is excited at the prospect of praying at the mosque constructed at the gravesite of the Prophet known as the “Friend of God” for his devotion to Him.

But entering into Hebron, our enthusiasm diminishes at the sight of a large, ominous sign declaring the entrance illegal for Israeli citizens, and warning visitors it is “dangerous to their lives.”

The messaging scapegoats the oppressed as the oppressor, deliberately disregarding the existential threat Israeli settlers pose to Palestinians. 

In some ways, its reminiscent of World War II-era signs in the United States that once read “Japs Keep Moving, This is a White Man’s Neighborhood.” 

Although those signs targeted immigrants, they were also used to alienate and marginalize an oppressed minority community. 

We drive by Palestinian homes cloaked in netting to shield them from garbage thrown by settlers. 

Many doors and windows have been welded shut by Israeli soldiers, so families that have not abandoned their property have to enter and exit through the roof. 

Our bus driver pulls in to a parking lot that once used to be crowded with tour buses. On this day, it is vacant.

Boys as young as 3 and 4 nimbly race down the slope and eagerly gather around to sell colorful trinkets, postcards, chewing gum.

Tourists are good for business, but too few and far between. I quickly discover that my willpower and wallet are no match for their vending skills. 

After making our purchases, we make our way to Shuhada Road – the sealed-off street that is named after the martyrs murdered in the 1994 massacre.

Even in broad daylight, it is bleak and desolate – resembling a ghost town, except for the handful of Palestinian children defiantly playing in the streets under the hawkish glare of Israeli soldiers nearby. 

It wasn’t always this way. 

Hebron was once a thriving city, home to many shops and businesses that have long been forced to shut down – effectively choking off the source of income for many families.

Now, the H2 area around the mosque is a closed military zone with Israeli guards stationed every 100 meters. 

Zionist forces impose strict curfews, restrict prayers at whim, and randomly body search residents including women.  

At the base of the hill leading up to the mosque, soldiers scrutinize our tour group – demanding to see passports, interrogating us on the purpose of our visit.    

Curbing my anger at this intrusive, unjustified questioning, I break from the group and move to continue to walk. 

A soldier steps forward and blocks my path, his hand resting on the rifle at his side. 

He appears to be about 25 years old. His standard-issue military helmet casts shadows over most of his face but does not conceal the steely glint in his eyes. 

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to come face-to-face this way with an Israeli soldier. To discern any sign of regret or conscience in their demeanor. 

To demand to know why loyalty to state mandates oppressing God’s people, and what part of their faith permits them to lie, harass, steal and commit crimes against humanity.

As our unwavering gazes meet, I feel curious, as one would when meeting a distant relative – or a cousin – for the first time. 

I also feel repulsed, as one would when confronting an instigator or bully who preys on the powerless. 

I can’t forget that is among the soldiers who routinely fire sound grenades and tear gas canisters to terrorize Palestinian youth struggling for liberation. 

He knows I – an American tourist – pose no threat. 

And yet, I am absolutely certain that if I do not stop, he would not hesitate to draw the trigger and kill me in an instant.  

In my privilege, that imposed restriction on my movement under threat of violence is not something I have experienced often.

But experiencing it even once is enough for the memory to remain with you for a lifetime.

The Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was willing to sacrifice his most beloved to show his love and dedication to God. In fact, one of the two major Islamic holidays commemorates this abiding devotion. 

In the mere seconds that have passed, I wonder what I will be required to sacrifice to offer prayers in this sanctuary situated at his gravesite, with my dignity intact. 

Our tour guide intervenes- speaks with the soldiers, and our group is granted permission to pass. I think of countless others who are never admitted simply because they are Palestinian, and I feel no relief.  

The “Muslim” entrance to the mosque sits atop an incline, far less accessible than the “Jewish” entrance. An elderly uncle’s labored breathing upon exertion worries me.  

A group of Palestinian boys observes our ascent from a stone wall topped with iron bars flanking the hill.

The word “hope” is scrawled on the wall in large, black letters – a desperately needed beacon that attempts to illuminate a dark and dismal reality.  

As we enter the mosque, the fist of anger clutching my gut slowly unclenches at the sight of the cenotaph, or grave marker, of Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

It is richly decorated; its green tapestries embroidered with gold inscriptions. 

Words and pictures cannot adequately describe the experience of being in this sacred place. Of the serenity that encompasses the heart.

The opportunity to stand in this space is all the more meaningful for the obstacles and harassment that must be endured to arrive here. 

I offer my prayers, mindful of the Israeli cameras perched in every corner – an unwelcome intruder monitoring every movement, capturing every sound. 

seated at concealed monitors are reviewing the footage; they surveil our mosques not even barely comprehending the love and devotion that will continuously draw us here.

Despite the religious significance of the day, the Jewish side is not open for us to visit as we’d been told it would be. 

We learn that it’s common for the occupying forces to renege on granting full mosque access on Islamic holidays. 

One of our group members remarks how he’s “grateful we’re even allowed to enter” at all. His ingratiating comment doesn’t sit well with me. 

I feel a mixture of emotions while visiting one of the holiest Islamic sites in the world under these circumstances. 

“Gratitude” for “permission” from Israeli soldiers to enter it is not one of them.  

As we exit, I’m approached by a Palestinian vendor, Qasim*, who invites me to buy prayer beads. He is about 20 years old, a native of Hebron who speaks almost perfect English. 

Before settlers arrived, Qasim and his friends went to school every day. 

Those schools are now boarded up too. This helps explain why children are playing in the streets in the late morning hours. 

I want to know his story. I ask him if he could go to school, what would he study?

Matter of factly, he replies he wants to be a lawyer. He wants to work for justice because without justice there will never be peace.

I wonder if he’s read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

Wanting to hear his logic, I gesture around us, ask what compels him to stay when he has slim hopes of fulfilling his dream here. 

He shrugs. “Education is important. But if I leave, I won’t have a home to return to.” He points up Shuhada Road in the direction of Masjid Ibrahimi. “If we all leave, Muslims will lose our holy mosques.”

His story shakes me as reality hits home. Many of these youth have passed up opportunities for a better life in order to protect our Ummah’s legacy.

The painful irony is that in protecting their homes and these blessed holy sites from centuries past, they have been forced to sacrifice their own futures.

I ask him if he has a message for brothers and sisters in the United States.

He hesitates as if searching for the words. “I invite you to visit us, pray here. This belongs to you too.” Palestine belongs to all of us.

The machine guns and rifles Israeli soldiers carry are far more deadly than the rocks Palestinian children throw in acts of resistance.

But they are not more powerful than the willpower and courage these youth have in their hearts. 

One day, humankind will learn you cannot destroy a people’s dreams with guns and grenades. 

You cannot end their thirst for freedom and liberation with rockets and bullets. 

Qasim’s generation has only known life under occupation. They deserve access to resources and education. They represent our hope for the future. 

He didn’t choose to be born into his circumstances. But he deserves the opportunity to change them. 

We owe youth like him our gratitude and respect. We are indebted to them for the sacrifices they are making. 

Go visit the children of Hebron. Go tell them that the world has not turned its back on them. 

We are with them. We will uplift them. We will never stop advocating for their right to self-determination. 

To The Holy Land: Crossing The Border | Part 1 of 4

 

To The Holy Land: Jericho | Part 2 of 4

 

Zainab Chaudry sits on the Maryland State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and is the Director of Maryland Outreach at CAIR. She writes about her trip in her personal capacity.

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    DI

    January 13, 2019 at 11:32 PM

    Thanks for this article. Had a pleasant dream where I am in this masjid near Sayyidina Ibrahim because of this read. Allah bless you.

    di.

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#Current Affairs

The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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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.”

“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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