A Life Changing Experience: A Youth’s Reflection on the Winter Clothing Drive

Muslims across the Maryland and DC area united to collect clothing for folks experiencing homelessness. Items were then distributed to shelters in Baltimore, Annapolis, Virginia and the DC streets. Below is a youth’s reflection on her experience distributing winter clothing in the streets of DC

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A Life Changing Experience

by Luwaila Babiker

As I hear my phone ring, I see that I get a text from one of my fellow sisters reminding me about the clothing drive the following day in DC. Subhanallah, group texts were formed and sent out within seconds; the youth was really looking forward to getting together and seeing what we could do to help those in need.

Subhanallah, as we all saw each other the next morning we were disappointed about the weather but, Allahamdulilah, that didn’t stop us. After getting to DC we split into four groups (half guys’ half girls). In each group we had individuals dedicated to helping and motivated to make change. Allahu Akbar!

As I started to walk downtown with my group one of the brothers walked up under a staircase; at that moment I was very confused as to where he was going. Then I noticed that there was a homeless man in the corner covered with a cardboard box. In the rain! In the cold!! The brother went up and asked the gentleman if he needed any winter wear; after long pauses the brother asked if he needed a coat, or socks, hats, gloves, etc. The man responded “A coat please”. A man who had almost nothing responded with such humbleness and gratitude. Allahu Akbar! Subhanallah, I hear so much about homeless people, but when I saw it with my own eyes I got goose bumps, my eyes widened as I stood still and pondered for a while as to how they manage to live in such conditions every day. Subhanallah! We continued to walk around the city. As we walked the sisters and I were still reacting to what we just witnessed. We walked in silence for a while and reflected to understand what everyday life is for some folks.

The next group of people we went to were in front of a library. They were in corners, on the floor, and leaning against the wall. We all went to each of them to see what we could help them with. The old man I went to was so amazing. He was blessed with happiness. I asked if he needed anything for the winter and he said “Socks would be great”. As I asked if he needed a jacket, gloves, or even a scarf; he said no thank you I have plenty. This man was so grateful and thankful and his face gleamed with smiles of appreciation. Even though we constantly offered them more, they constantly thanked us and emphasized that they had enough. Subhanallah! Look at this beauty; we who have more than anything complain that we have nothing and those who seem to have nothing prove they have everything. Allahu Akbar!! The more we were with the needy the more we realized how blessed we were. “You can never say Allahamdulilah, enough” tweeted by a youth member that night. Subhanallah just by having simple conversations with these people put the biggest smile on our faces. Some of the people just wanted a pair of socks! We had bags of coats, sweaters, gloves, hats…but SOCKS that’s all that they asked for. Subhanallah! They were so happy and thanked us repetitively. They only took what they needed.

As we continued to walk even more we stopped by a group of women and offered them some winter clothes and they said “No thanks, there are plenty of others who need more help”. Subhanallah it brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart. It was clear that she was in a state of help but she insisted we move on to help others. Allahu Akbar! With each person we came across the more we began to realize the presence of such humbleness and gratitude. The more we walked the more we realized. The more we saw the more we understood. With each person we experienced something unique.

Overall I observed that they used the word God a lot. As we talked to them I noticed that with every phrase or so you’d here “God bless you” or “God protect your soul”. It’s quite interesting to observe that God is the only hope they have; and that’s exactly what we as youth need to understand. The fact that when we have God in our lives, that’s all we need. As another youth member tweets: “At the end of the day its just Allah that matters” .Subhanallah although it was pouring rain we didn’t even notice it; it didn’t even get in the way. It actually made the experience become more unforgettable. An amazing feeling was instilled into our hearts that motivated us to help the needy. But truly none other than Allah, Al-Wahab, can give. Subhanallah to be honest the way I saw it, they helped us more than we helped them. As a youth we all experienced something with our own eyes that was life changing. We realized how grateful we should be.

As we gathered at the end and reflected upon the experience we agreed that it’s definitely something we’d like to do more often. I feel like it purifies our hearts and more so our intentions. The sad part is that these conditions are a part of everyday life for some people, yet many of us usually just walk past them.. I asked myself if it weren’t for this event; would I have been one of those people who would’ve just walked past? Astagfurallah, May Allah forgive us if we have ever ignored our own brothers and sisters who are in need. Alhamdulillah for all that Allah has blessed us with. Subhanallah for the patience Allah instilled in these individuals.And may Allah also bless us too with strength and patience.

Ya Allah you are the most merciful, we ask you to shower us with your mercy and love. Ya Allah we ask you to grant us patience and strength. Ya Allah purify our intentions. Ya Allah allow us to do that which pleases You, and allows us to gain Your love. Ya Allah guide us all to doing good and abstaining from that which is bad. Ya Allah allow the Ummah to come together, in order to achieve greatness and spread good.

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Quran Stories – Just give up: A boy’s lesson on perseverance

Please follow the link below to catch up on Part One:

http://meccastars.com/2013/08/15/quran-stories-just-give-up-a-boys-lesson-on-perseverance/

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Part Two:

“This book was meant to be committed to memory and this is overtly reinforced in Surah Qamar”, encouragingly said my Ustadh.

Wow, that’s pretty cool,  I thought.

I had always thought I wanted to become a Hafiz (one who committed the Holy Qur’an to memory). I was like Forrest Gump running with no obvious understanding of why or where. Pursuit proposed the perception of clarity and depth.

Do I really want to be a Hafiz? I pondered.

This question teleported me back to the origins of my journey. My quest began upon my mother’s return from Hajj (Pilgrimage). Hajj had revitalized her soul, which lead to her spiritual growth. The following hadith – “(the) parents (of one who memorizes the Quran) will be dressed in two garments that the world can never equal. Thereupon, they will question, ‘For what reason are we dressed in these garments?’ lt will be said, ‘This is by virtue of your child who memorized the Qur’an (Mustradak).” –  had produced a burning desire in her to make one of her sons a hafiz. She really embodied the phrase, “by any means necessary”. Hence, at the tender age of 11, I began my journey.

“Do you understand son?”, asked my Ustadh.

Then he quoted from the Quran saying, “And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?”

History also explicitly reminds us, that this Quran was inscribed in heart of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Only after it’s revelation to the prophet (Peach be upon him) was it inscribed with ink.” he calmly reminded me.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and drew me near.

He reduced his voice to almost a whisper and said emphatically, “There is a condition… you must believe it!  It’s imperative that you know, in your heart of hearts, that you can memorize it.”

He continued his sagacious advice, “Allah is musarriful quloob (changer of the hearts). Inspiring change within the hearts is under His purview. However, He only amends the condition if we are sincerely yearning for it. Allah mentions in the Quran:

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves 13:11

Forget about what anyone has said to you in the past or will say to you, in the future, to deter you from your goal.  That noise will be constant. Keep believing in you and striving for it… I believe in you and I certainly believe you have the intestinal fortitude to accomplish anything you set your mind to!”

His compassion and conviction overwhelmed me; tears began to trickle down my cheek.  His resolve and desire to see me succeed was contagious and I felt it envelope me. His words cocooned around my caterpillar like soul forming a spiritual chrysalis; releasing me morphed with impregnable determination and irrepressible passion.  Those kind and loving words fueled me in accomplishing the first leg of my journey expeditiously.  What I wasn’t aware of is how the wisdom of those words would parlay into my daily life and every opportunity I face. We can never justly measure the impacts our acts of kindness have.

“Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they almost always will impress you.” ~ Randy Pausch

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Enabling Minds: Educating Children with Intellectual Disabilities

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As a supporter of non-profits and community outreach programs, I wanted to highlight a very dynamic and unique grassroots start-up that is raising awareness and focusing on educating those with intellectual challenges

Enabling Minds (EM) began with a group of friends who shared a common interest in helping the less fortunate around the world. Many of the friends in this group were involved in providing on-the-ground medical assistance to those affected by the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and had developed an affinity for the people and the culture of Haiti. After much thought and deliberation, many in the group realized that they shared a common passion for working with those with intellectual disabilities, and the group explored opportunities to work with this population.

In May 2012 representatives from EM (Enabling Minds) embarked on a trip to Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti to do a fact-finding mission on the status of people with intellectual disabilities. The group traveled to the Scalabrini mission where one of the members had previously stayed to work on a humanitarian project. During the trip, the group learned first-hand about the harsh realities for people with intellectual disabilities in Haiti. These hardships included higher rates of malnutrition, abuse, and discrimination. After some research, the representatives learned that these conditions, unfortunately, are not unique to Haiti. Many children with intellectual disabilities across the world are not in school for many reasons including a lack of resources and stigmas associated with disabilities. EM believes that everyone has a right to an education, and has developed a plan to enroll 11 children with intellectual disabilities into a wonderful private school on October 1, 2013! As part of this effort, EM is teaming up with the Special Olympics Haiti to coach these children in a sports program two days a week. The school has never previously hosted children with intellectual disabilities, and the children EM has identified have never previously been in school. This will be a new and exciting experience for everyone involved, and hope it will be a constructive and positive learning experience for students, teachers, staff, and administration. The cost to fully fund an academic year for our 11 students is $8,500. This will include educational expenses, as well as transportation, meals for our project, which will fully fund these children’s education, and will cover transportation, meals, and the salary for their teachers and Special Olympic coach.

To ensure EM can realize their goal, they will be hosting their first ever fundraising dinner on Thursday September 26th 2013 at Camden Roosevelt in Washington DC. I encourage you to come out and join us on this momentous occasion. The tickets for the fundraising dinner are only $20. If you cannot make it, please support us as a virtual participant. Secure your tickets to the event by clicking the link below:

https://enablingminds.eventbrite.com/

Follow the link below if you would like to read more about EM’s project:

http://www.gofundme.com/enablingminds

Like EM on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/enablingminds

And follow them on Twitter: @EnablingMinds

Please assist EM as they begin to change the status quo for the intellectually disabled population in Haiti!

And spend [in the way of Allah] from what We have provided you before death approaches one of you and he says, “My Lord, if only You would delay me for a brief term so I would give charity and be among the righteous.” But never will Allah delay a soul when its time has come. And Allah is acquainted with what you do. (63:10-11)

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Quran Stories – Just give up: A boy’s lesson on perseverance

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Part One:

“Just give up!” roared my Ustaad (Arabic for Teacher).

Silence overcame the classroom, which usually hummed with the recitation of the Quran.  He continued berating me as I sat there – in front of him – in the qa’da position (on my haunches) staring at the floor.

He was frustrated but who could blame him. He had exhausted all his efforts trying to help me memorize the Quran. I showed little signs of progression, as any “duffer” would; at least that was what I was led to believe.

 “You gave it your best; don’t waste anymore of your valuable time. It’s not an obligation to be a Hafiz (one who memorizes the entire Quran)”, he explained.

“I have also communicated this to your parents as well” he further added.

 I have had a fair share of unilateral pejorative dialogues with many teachers in the past. These were real truths that eventually struck a chord.

Is he right? Am I simply wasting my time? Am I really a duffer? I thought.

I had been on this quest to memorize the Quran since I was 11 and I was half a year away from 15. I had traveled many miles in this pursuit and churned through many Asatidha (plural for ustaad) along the way.  Every one of them embraced me initially and reassured my parents that I would become a Hafiz. However, over time each of those assurances began wavering. Like anybody trying to rid themselves of a bad asset, they eventually pawned me off to another teacher. With every baton pass, the first few months would be spent reviewing previous lessons before proceeding to new material. This cycle stagnated my learning, decreased my output and allowed me to coast.

“This kid is like imam Bukhari (sans the knowledge) for having numerous teachers”, joked a teacher while introducing me to another.

I still vividly remember one teacher saying, “So many people have tried to help this kid memorize the Quran, one teacher even died trying.”

“Go, just leave!” ordered my Ustaad.

I gathered myself and walked to my seat. Avoiding eye contact with fellow students I kept my eyes glued to the floor. As I rocked back and forth reciting the Quran, my mind began to wander. Maybe I’m not cut out for it, I thought. Most of the teacher I had didn’t think so. I too, began to come to terms with it as well. This toxic energy began to envelope me,

Over the next few days I continued to wrestle with that reality up until a new teacher arrived.  The new ustaad’s arrival provided my teacher the out he was looking for. To populate the new class, teachers were to offer up students from their current roster. Just as any new expansion team gets stuck with every other team’s spare parts, this teacher was offered up the under achievers and I was included in that lot. The intelligent teacher picked up on their ploy but accepted us happily. In an attempt to build a rapport he invited each of us for a one on one.

 After a few minutes of pleasantries he simply asked me, “Do you think you can memorize the whole Quran?”

His question caught me off guard. I hadn’t really pondered that question before. I mean, the thought had crossed my mind but I never pondered it. The journey of memorizing had been laced with many setbacks, I rarely thought of the finish line. My heart wanted it, but could the abundance of zeal make up for the lack of talent or intelligence? I questioned myself…

 

The conclusion of this story will be in part two. 

Despair

PAKISTAN-ASIA-QUAKE-MUSLIMS-PRAYER

Here I was, seated in a comfy brown leather chair in a doctor’s office. I was pacing mentally, in anticipation; as I stared at the degrees and certificates that decorated his walls. All of a sudden, the door opened. Finally he showed up, I thought, as the doctor took his seat.

The doctor looked up and asked, “Have you heard of Mario Lemieux?”

What Canadian hasn’t, I thought. He was only the greatest hockey player to wear a Pittsburg Penguins uniform.  “Of course I have, but what about him?” I replied.

“Do you know he had Hodgkin’s disease in the prime of his career?” the doctor said.

Tell me something I don’t know, I thought.

The doctor continued, “And he resumed his playing career after it, as well.”

Great, he was able to recover, wait, is this doctor trying to tell me something I thought. Was the surgery and series of scans amounting to this?

In that moment, time stood still and I couldn’t make sense of anything. Or perhaps, everything became so vividly clear. I felt something strong overcome me. I didn’t know what to do, what to think or who to turn to – a moment of despair. Was I approaching death?

Despair, Webster’s describes it as, to lose all hope or confidence. What the dictionary cannot describe is the feelings that envelopes a person in the state of despair. Let’s recall a moment where we lost all hope and our confidence shattered.

This state is usually accompanied with spurts of anger and perpetual frustration. It’s a moment when one feels at their wits end. “I’ve tried every viable alternative but the sum is consistently unfavourable” (or presumably so). Patience and hope for better days is what we’re hanging on to by when that grip is loosening. The toxic energy starts to course through the veins. It’s infectious, and the negativity begins to overwhelm us. One is at their most vulnerable state and feels all alone, left to our own devices.  The dictionary description cannot express that.

What makes matters worse is sometimes we lack the verbiage to communicate our suffering or simply choose not to. Compound that with: when you do articulate yourself your audience cannot comprehend. Worse, they may even judge you. This is the temporal abode of many, which is garnished with the outward façade of a fierce warrior. In this state, one’s mind, body and soul is fragile. This fragility of the mind can also lead us to reevaluating deeply rooted core beliefs. This sort of quest is truly encouraged. However, one should be cognizant of the sciences required.

As the English proverb goes, “there is a tool for every task.” What are these tools for life? Quran and Sunnah (tradition of the prophet Muhammad PBUH), Allah SWT tells us in the Quran that challenges/tribulations are a part of life.

We created death and life that He may try you; which of you is better in deeds. And he is the All Mighty the Most Forgiving. [Surah Mulk]

Allah (SWT) is reminding us that he will test us and there will be challenges, trials and tribulations.

We will surely test you by means of fear, hunger and loss of wealth, life, and fruits (of labour). [Surah Baqara]

In this verse Allah depicts 5 area in which man (proverbial) will be tested or tried: 1. Fear 2. Hunger 3. Loss of wealth 4. Life 5. Fruits (of labour)

Give glad tidings those who patiently persevere. Who when afflicted with calamity say, Truly to Allah we belong to Him we shall return.They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e., who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones. [Surah Baqara]

I want us to really ponder this verse, which comes right after. Take a minute and re-read this verse. The beauty of the Quran is, the more you let it “marinate” in your soul, the sweeter it gets. Anticipate challenges, embrace them (easier said than done) and put your trust in Allah.

Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.[Surah Baqara]

We have been provided the “swiss army knife” to life. We simply must explore the modern day usage and application. During this state of duress, enduring patiently and with dignity will provide spiritual growth and unimaginable benefits.  The proof is in the pudding.  To aide oneself in this journey, identify a sojourner. One who would listen to your grief, boost your confidence and lessen your hearts load. The prophetic tradition of Yaqoob (AS) – in this scenario – is mentioned as follows.

I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah. [Surah Yusuf]

Really think about that. Who better than our Lord?! The one who created us! Allah states in the Quran:

And your Lord says, call upon me, verily I shall respond. [Surah Ghafir]

These are opportunities for us to establish a relationship with our creator. Challenges are also an indication of Allah’s grace on his servant.

If Allah loves a people He tests them. [Tirmidhi]

Why would he test those who he loves? Allah says in the Quran:

Do people think that they will be left alone to simply allege,we believe and not be tested? We have tested those who preceded them in order that Allah will make evident which of them are truthful and which of them are liars. [Surah Ankaboot]

These Ayah (verses) are very explicit. We know challenges will convolute our path, but we must bear them accordingly. Allah is vetting us to see who amongst us the true believers are. Truly think about that. Are we not vetting for positions in our day to day life? This is a universal system. Those who are closer to Allah are challenged the most. As its mentioned in the Quran:

And when his Lord put Ibraheem to test. [Surah Baqara]

Ibraheem (AS) was put through many challenges. At a young age he confronted his father and his whole community about idolatry. His own people persecuted him and threw him into a blazing fire. He was ordered to leave his wife and young child in a barren land. He was ordered to sacrifice his own son Ismaeel. These are tall orders but examples of how Allah tries those he loves.

The verse carries on:

With his commandments and he completed them successfully. [Surah Baqara]

Ibraheem (AS) fulfilled all of the mandates in an exemplary fashion. Thus he was graced with the title Khaleel ullah (Friend of Allah).

Imagine a person who lost his father before birth. He then loses his mother at the age of six. Two years later his grandfather, who was rearing him passes away.  This child is now raised by his uncle. As a young man, once beloved to his own, now reviled by them.  They boycott him and humiliate him by any means.  His beloved wife and uncle pass away at a critical juncture in his life. He is forced to emigrate from his native land. All his male children die at a young age. These are just a few of the trials our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) faced. Aisha (RA) narrates:

I never saw anyone more tested with pain than the Messenger of Allah (SAW). [Bukhari]

This is our Syed (beloved), the Imam of the Prophets and he too, was tried in a fashion that would be unbearable to most. We must accept these challenges head on. We have the strength and come fully equipped to address these trials. We may not have those characteristics but they can be fostered. This will ensure we keep the feelings of despair at bay. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:

Do not despair from Allah’s mercy. [Surah Zumar]

When all else has failed we should be mindful that Allah’s mercy is far greater than one can imagine. We must learn to take precautionary measures, our due diligence, and leave the rest in the hands of Allah.

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates from the Prophet (SAW):

I am to my servant, as he perceives me to be. I am with him where remembers me. The Holy Prophet (SAW) continued saying; By Allah! He is more pleased with the repentance of a servant of his than one of you who finds something (camel) lost by him in the desert. Allah says: one who advances towards me by a hand’s length, I will advance towards him one arm’s length. He who advances towards me by an arms length, I advance towards him by two arms length. If a servant of mine comes towards me walking, I go towards him running. [Bukhari]

While this hadith has many beautiful points to ponder, I would like to reflect on two of them.

Allah is to us as we perceive him to be. If we expect that Allah will not assist us, then unfortunately, that may be the case. We should accept that Allah is our savior and our guardian. That whatever trials and tribulations befall us, Allah will give us the strength to navigate through it. An added blessing we’ll notice is spiritual growth and gifts from the treasures of Allah.

Secondly, Allah is inviting us to him. He is encouraging us as his servants to turn to him. That in the deepest darkest moments of ours, if we remember Allah he is with us. Any actions to please him are reciprocated exponentially. Let’s focus on establishing that connection with our creator.

All (SWT) encourages/invites us to seek his good fortune, as mentioned earlier:

And your Lord has said: Ask of me, I verily will respond. [Surah Ghafir}

Allah has given us such powerful tools to leverage his good fortune. Its upon us to illicit that connection. In doing so, one will notice that despair fades to hope

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