One of the rewarding things about this trip is seeing the true beauty of Islam. Rich or poor, black or white, big or little, it doesn’t matter, Islam prevails. I get excited to see Muslims regardless of ethnicity. I get a little more excited when I see African Americans because I am one.
Stripped of ancestry, culture, identity and belonging through slavery, we as a people seemed lost. It amazes me how people can talk about Islam being in their family for over seven hundred years while its only been in mine for thirty-three. The majority of African Americans went through a mental emancipation during the civil rights movement. The Nation of Islam is not Islam. It is not the way of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). But, it is a vehicle that many, including my parents, have used to ﬁnd the religion of Allah (SWT). Without having much knowledge we all know the gems that came into the folds of Islam via the Nation. Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Imam Siraj Wihaj. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This is why I am amazed to see African American Muslims. The Muslims at Masjid Quba in Philadelphia were not Nation based. They were not reverts (with minimal knowledge) teaching reverts. Instead they were being lead by two brothers, Imam Anwar and Imam Anas, two learned men who studied at the prestigious Islamic University of Madinah. Imam Anwar is widely regarded as the ﬁrst African American Haﬁz of Qur’an in America. I was blown away. Honored to be sitting amongst living history, I couldn’t help but feel amazed by these two men. Not only did they educate themselves, they returned and educated the inhabitants of the area.
We had a good time speaking and answering questions. A sister asked, how do Hamza and I get along? I responded to her with words our mother instilled in us: We can argue, we can disagree, we can ﬁght but, when we walk out that door, nobody should know what happened. No family is perfect. In fact, these differences of opinion can and will make a family stronger. As long as you come to a common understanding.
We had a chance to spend some extended time with my brother in Islam Adnan Zulﬁqar. He’s well-versed in Islamic studies having studied all over the world. His stories are second to none. As we ate Suhoor in the hotel lobby he gave us humorous and enlightening stories about Islam in America, the Philadelphia area in particular. Islam is so heavily rooted in this city, he said it sometimes reminds him of a Muslim country. I believe there are over eighty Masjids in Philadelphia alone. We were only able to visit one. Insha’allah we can see what others have to offer when we get back.
California is huge. You can drive for eight hours and still be within the boundaries of the state. So, when we passed through the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area I was amazed how close everything was. Not to mention we passed through Delaware as well.
MCA in Santa Clara, CA put the rest of America on notice with their enthusiastic and involved youth group. We have found a challenger to the throne. The ADAMS center in Virginia was on point, well-behaved and well-run. They also had some very knowledgeable youngsters walking around. Almost every other person’s hand I shook was a Haﬁz of Qur’an. Or they ONLY had twenty Juz under their belt. I’m talking young too—they weren’t even ﬁfteen! I love seeing Islamically educated youth. They inspire me to get on my Deen. Speaking of Deen, The Native Deen are heavily involved with this community.
Native Deen helped me out on so many different levels. Raised in the greater Los Angeles area, Hip-Hop was a part of life. Unfortunately, we had West Coast gangster rap as the heavy inﬂuence. I remember being in College when Hazma said, “You HAVE to check this out!” It was their song “Intentions.” It stayed in heavy rotation in my car. People will argue and debate on whether or not Music is Halal or Haram. This same question was asked to a Shaykh while I was attending an Al-Maghrib class and he simply said, “Just listen to the lyrics.” “Are my intentions alright? Am I doing it for Allah? When I’m looking deep deep down inside, Do I have the right Niyaa?” These are the lyrics in the Native Deen songs. Positive messages infused with the Qur’an and Sunnah. A Halal alternative.
The variety of things they talk about are astonishing. I started listening to them so much it not only helped me weed out the trash I was pouring into my ears, they became a part of my pre-game routine. I would make sure I listened to these three songs to get ready for my football games. “Test,” “M-U-S-L-I-M,” and one of my favorites, “My Faith My Voice.” After listening to their music I not only felt pumped up to play football, I was even more pumped up to be a Muslim.
We sat in a tent ﬁlled with chairs and smiling faces. Packed would be an understatement. Want for your brother what you want for yourself. The universal message continued to spread. Purifying your intentions and respecting your parents. The elders and the youth soaked up the talk. One of the best questions was asked during the Q&A: “Is it Haram to play for the Dallas Cowboys?” The crowd roared with laughter and cheers. I had to remember I was amongst Washington Redskin Fans.
As I write these blog entries, I do so with the intention of doing good and the reader getting good out of it. So I make du`a’ that Allah blesses us all with good.
Driving through West Virginia is not pleasant, especially at night. Good thing it was my turn to sleep and not man the wheel. Uphills, downhills, winding roads, deer, speeding diesels and the darkness of the night all posed challenges. As the drive became smoother the sun began to rise. We arrived in Lexington, KY and were ready for an eventful day. At the start of our trip the University of Kentucky was not on our radar. A young brother named Muhammad Saifullah changed that in a hurry.
The beauty of social media is you can talk to whomever you want, whenever you want, however you want. Of course we should always display good manners at all times. I was being consistently contacted by a brother with the twitter handle @TheUKrudy. I was skeptical about responding to Muhammad’s tweets at ﬁrst simply because I didn’t know him. Slowly but surely I began checking him out from a distance. He wrote good meaningful things, encouraged people around him to be better, and helped me wake up for Fajr a few times. So I started to get excited after he encouraged the MSA (Muslim Student Association) of UK to tweet us and even start a petition for us to visit their school. We knew they were going to put on a big event, we just didn’t know how big.
At 4:30 we headed for the Jacobs Hope Cafeteria. Part of the MSA was already there serving the less fortunate. We hopped right in and served ﬁrst, then bussed trays and cleaned tables. Good times to say the least. We headed back to the room and freshened up and took off for the nearby High School. I knew it was going to be big when I observed the parking lot. This was a community affair. Everyone was welcome, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike. To my amazement the auditorium was so packed it was standing room only. The talk was very interactive. Typically we allow people to ask us questions but, this time we had some Q&A for the crowd as well. Right answers won a T-shirt. The gathering quickly shifted rooms as the Adhan was called. Iftar, Taraweeh at Masjid Bilal, and some late night hoops with the brothers from the MSA.
As fatigue set in around two AM we decided to go for an all-nighter. We sat down and had intimate discussions about life. A non-muslim named Wesley was hanging with us the whole night. He had some very interesting takes on religion. It was agreed upon that everyone should study and know their religion for themselves. Many a time people believe in what they believe in because of what their parents believed or because of the location (land) in which they were born. Using myself as an example, I told him in order to learn Islam, I had to learn about other religions as well. It helped me understand why the Qur’an was revealed.
We headed to the Qureshi household for Suhoor and Umm Qureshi cooked the best suhoor we had this Ramadan. There had to be at least 10-20 of us who came by. With a smile on her face she had scrambled eggs, mixed fruit, bagels & cream cheese, cereal, oatmeal, toast, mango juice and tea waiting for us. May Allah reward her and grant her peace. Abu Qureshi sat with us and said some very kind and inspiring words. May Allah reward him and grant him peace as well. A well put together household from top to bottom. Their son Humza is the president of the MSA; an involved and decorated youngster, Humza is growing into his own. They also have four daughters, all either graduated or currently attending the University of Kentucky. Beautiful family, MashAllah!
“Hello. Oh, I thought you were checked out by now.” This is what we woke up to on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The housekeeper came in and was ready to do her job. It was one PM. After staying up until seven AM with the brothers in Kentucky we overslept. The alarm clocks set for ten AM blared in our ears, but the exhaustion of our bodies made us deaf. Upon waking up, we quickly gathered our belongings, packed up the van and began to head out. We experienced some heavy rainfall during our drive through Tennessee. Other than that the drive was long but smooth. I listened to the recitation of the Qur’an by Imam Faisal. After praying behind him for Taraweeh in Chicago, I had to get a copy. It shortened the drive tremendously.
Atlanta is the only place on the tour that we decided to explore for two days. A bit of a selﬁsh stop because our sister, Hajirah, lives out here. She has a small family with two young girls Anika (1yr old) & Fajr (3yrs old) and her husband Amir. Excited to see them, we went directly to their house. The little ladies were bouncing off the walls when we arrived. “Uncle Husain, look!” They did cartwheels, made imaginary food, counted numbers, said the alphabet, and ran around us in circles. Being around youth makes you youthful. The energy in the house was amazing. After a delicious home cooked meal from Hajirah, we headed to the Atlanta Masjid for Taraweeh.
Upon entering the Masjid, a brother named Shaheed Abdul Azeez came up to me and said, “Your Sa’eeda’s son, aren’t you?” I was frozen. Normally people say “Where are you from?” “Are you the NFL players?” “Are you the guys doing the Masjid tour?” This brother went far and above by mentioning my mother’s name. He was part of the same community in Los Angeles, CA that we were in early on in life. His sons actually babysat Abbas, my oldest brother, when he was little. I was probably in diapers or the comfort of my Ummie’s womb back in those days. He talked to us a little about LA and then said, “Word got down here before you did. Welcome to Atlanta.” Southern Hospitality was on display. We prayed the remainder of Taraweeh and headed back to Hajirah’s house to catch up on sleep and prepare ourselves for the remainder of the trip.