Saturday, May 23, 2009


This is a fictional piece I wrote at 17 in my last year of high school that got published in a small Muslim youth magazine called "Illumination Magazine." 

Ebadur Rahman
Fall ’04. Illumination Magazine. (used to be)

I looked at him closely. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in two years, but still, this guy I was speaking with on a sidewalk in Manhattan, was he really my Zaid? But his face did resemble that of the friend I had always looked up to for doing the right thing. The Zaid that could explain Islam to classmates and teachers so beautifully…the Zaid that was my role model…

My family and I had come to New York City to visit our cousins, but I had completely forgotten that Zaid and his family had moved here. I was coming back from ‘Asr prayer when someone started calling out my name…

But could this really be Zaid?

“So where are you going?” I asked.

“Oh, I was going to hang out with my friends for a little while, until it’s time to go the airport. My uncle and aunt are coming from Pakistan today…I hope she isn’t wearing a full hijaab, you know, I don’t want to walk around with her like that with everyone looking at us.”

What was Zaid saying? He had definitely changed, I thought, looking at his clothes. I remembered him criticizing the kids at our junior high school, who he described as “So caught up with brand names, and showing everyone how rich they are, trying to be cool with their pants falling off their rears, and their chains and backward caps.”

His clothes now reflected those who he had criticized before. But the change in appearance didn’t startle me as much as the change I saw in Zaid’s thinking.

“But even if she is wearing hijaab on the first day here,” he continued, “it’ll only be two weeks max before that changes. That’s what happens with most people.” 

“Only to some…Faith actually becomes stronger for others when they come here.” I contended.

“Dude, people can be mad strong in faith and you won’t even know it. They don’t need to be wearing hijaabs, having beards, or even praying. It’s only what’s in the heart that counts, man.”

“You’re saying faith alone is enough? ” I couldn’t believe I was hearing this from Zaid.

Changing the subject uncomfortably, he said, “So you’re entering high school, ninth grade?”

“Yeah. You’re going to tenth right?”

“Actually, after seeing how smart and above everyone else I was, they had to let me skip a grade, man. I’m a junior now.”

“Wow, that’s cool.” I said. What was this arrogance coming from Zaid? He used to be the humblest person I knew.

“Hey man, I gotta go, but let me tell you dude – high school is a time and place for change. Everything opens up and you’re bound to change man. And it’s probably best too.”

A shiny red car had pulled over. “Hey man, I got to go. You’re gonna love high school, even if you don’t think so now, trust me.” He said with a wink before getting in the back of the car. The boy in the driver’s seat and the two girls were apparently his friends that he said he was going to hang out with…

I started walking back to my cousin’s house. “A time and place to change…everything opens up,” his words echoed in my head. Are we supposed to be Muslims only when it’s easy? And then when “everything opens up,” we loosen up?

After Magrib, I read a half Juz from the Qur’an. First just the Arabic, and then the English translation. Wasn’t this yet another thing I had learned from Zaid? “Among the people there is one who worships Allah right on the edge. If good befalls him, he is content with it, but if a trial befalls him, he reverts to his former ways, losing both the dunya and the akhira. That is indeed sheer loss.” (Al-Hajj: 11)

We need to be Muslims regardless of time, place or situation. Following Zaid I had certainly improved my ways from being Muslim only in name…but had I changed for his sake? Or was it for Allah? Because if it was for Zaid, he had changed completely… But if it was for Allah, then Allah is, was, and always will be there.

That night in my cousin’s house, I picked up "The Letter" by Dawud Wharnsby-Ali. It was an audio compilation of letters written by Canadian Muslim students to the people of Kosovo in the midst of the devastating ethnic cleansing.

"Dear people of Kosova,
May Allah bless you.
How are you? Are you fine or are you bad?
I wish you could see us. We’re trying to help you.
-From Bilal”

I felt my eyes become heavy with tears. They began to slip down my cheeks. One, then many.

“Dear people of Kosova,
Assalamu alikum, how are you?
We’re trying to help you by getting some food.
May Allah take you to Jannah and make you happy.
-From Naazia.”

The tears started flowing. I wrote in my journal:

The kids who wrote the letters - according to the cassette cover, students of an Islamic school in Ontario; were they still students there now?

Have they already been exposed to the aimlessness of the Ummah; how they are always talking about doing things, but never actually doing them?

I wonder how this group of spirited Muslim youths reacted when the hypocrisy in their parents and communities became clear to them, unveiling a world of grown-up Muslims where Islam comes second, and enjoying life first. 

There are so many youngsters, so many that I know, who grew up loving the Ummah. Loving the stories we heard about people who sacrifice their own needs for each other…

People like Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umayr, who the Prophet stood by the corpse of, and, reflected on the wealthy and luxurious life he used to have before Islam, and how he now lay on the battlefield in the only garment he possessed. “Among the believers are men who have been true to what they have pledged to God,” the Prophet recited with his eyes flowing with tears.

We grew up dreaming about being these kinds of peoples ourselves. People who love Allah and whom Allah loves.

Why is it that we youngsters, when confronted with what we see, just let go of our dreams and never look back, pretending to be able to go on with life?

We have new dreams now, right? Fueled with our parents’ enthusiastic encouragement, we’re out to be the best doctors and engineers. Our dream now, is to go to Harvard and make a lot of money. Our dream now, is to have a big house and live in luxurious comfort. Our dream now, is to keep Islam on the bottom of our list.

Maybe it’s time for us to go back and embrace our childhood dreams. Time to realize that we need to wake up, to realize that there’s work to be done. Time to remember that Allah said about the best role model ever to live, “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger, many were the Messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels?”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Islamic College in Berkeley?

Courtesy of Aaron Sellars who posted this on his facebook profile!

May 20, 2009

The proposed Zaytuna College would be a first: a four-year, accredited, Islamic college in the United States.

"Part of the process of indigenizing Islam in America is for the community to begin to develop its own leadership from inside the country, develop its own scholars," said Hatem Bazian, chair of the management board for Zaytuna College and a senior lecturer of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

"There is a growing need in the Muslim community to provide a variety of trained specialists to fulfill a growing and diverse community infrastructure and institutional framework," Bazian said -- to work as imams, as chaplains, or within the growing network of Islamic non-profit organizations. Currently, Bazian said, American students who seek a high-level Islamic education must study in the Muslim world.

Read the rest of this artlcle from Inside Higher Ed

Sunday, May 17, 2009

AHM Quote: "The believer's greatest argument is his face..."

I just love this quote from Abdal Hakim Murad (TJ Winter)

"The believer's greatest argument is his face. True religion lights up the face; false religion fills it with insecurity, rage and suspicion. This is perceptible not only to insiders, but to anyone who maintains some connection with unsullied primordial human nature in his heart. The early conversions to Islam often took place among populations that had no access to the language of the Muslims who now lived among them; but they were no less profound in consequence. Religion is ultimately a matter of personal transformation, and no amount of missionary work will persuade people - with the occasional exception of the disturbed and the desperate - unless our own transformation is complete enough to be able to transform others."

AP: US scholars planning Islamic college

A group of American Muslims, led by two prominent scholars, is moving closer to fulfilling a vision of founding the first four-year accredited Islamic college in the United States, what some are calling a ''Muslim Georgetown.''
Read the rest here