By Zainab Ghwari
I still remember my first usra. Though I had no idea it was an usra (halaqa + class x sisterhood=usra, which literally translates to ‘family’ in Arabic), I was so comfortable and satisfied with every week’s gathering. Some say the warm, thick, & cheesy pizza kept them coming, but for me, something beside cheese stuffed my crust. (Actually, the crust was unstuffed; Pizza Hut introduced the good stuff later).
Our usra leader was a 17 year old at a time when most of us were 12-14. Her older sister, then married with 4 children, encouraged her to start it up for us bored Islamic school kids, and our Friday usra became my weekly event. For the most part, we followed a traditional MAS curriculum, and each member felt like an owner. Like our emotions, the gathering morphed into round-table discussions, vent sessions, episodes of “Crossfire,” and most notably, adventures in which 7-8 girls piled into a tiny Camry and headed to our leaders crib for a movie night.
You get the picture.
Of course, we suffered down times, and for a long while, I was disconnected from this dynamic source of sisterhood I had once thrived upon. My youth usra is long gone, and my usra leader is now her older sister. The past has passed, yet it came back around. I didn’t know what it was, who was behind it, and that it was a movement I would strive to champion and grow to love wholeheartedly.
Today, I know that after Allah SWT’s love, it is human love I owe my thanks, for twas the stories of the Beloved PBUH’s unconditional love that moved me to strive for God-conciousness, and the love of my older sisters in Islam that led me to establish my vision & realize my mission. At such an age of naiveté, I hadn’t seen the fire to avoid it, and hadn’t yet observed the phenomena around me closely enough to label them. Why did these people care about me? Why did they drive so far and sacrifice so much to build a safe haven for girls and guys on the brink of cool? The answer is so simple, yet we complicate it. Allah SWT is “Al-Wadood”, the Most-Loving, and in a hadith, Prophet Muhammad SAWS said, “I swear by Him (Almighty Allah) who has sent me, surely, God is more loving to his servants than the mother to these young birds.” And to think: their love is instinctive and unwavering-not subject to their circumstances, unlike the human mother. Now imagine Allah SWT’s love for you & I!
My usra leader’s sincere LOVE for me kept me coming, but I wasn’t related to her… So why would she love me so much, almost unconditionally?
Simple: she sought the love of He who created her and me. She understood why every Prophet tended to sheep before people, and that if we as MAS hoped to worship Allah the way He deserves to be worshipped, we must LOVE our fellow Muslims, and humanity too! What else would lead us to care to help them steer clear of the abyss of eternal misery?
As the poet Boonaa Mohammed says, “Kill them with love!” Better yet, let us convey Islam with LOVE and utmost clarity!
I love my brothers and sisters in Islam, especially those who strive for excellence, or ihsan. Also, while I hate the sin, I love the human. Though he/she may seem farrrr away, I may see them above me in Jannah, or entering Jannah while I am being dragged into Jahannam (May Allah prohibit it from touching us). Allah SWT knows us better than we know ourselves; so we only fool ourselves when judging others. Beside devouring delicious, dead flesh, isn’t it foolish of us to compete with THE Judge?
Our cause is built on brother & sisterhood, but we can’t love each other if we don’t love our Creator, and then His final messenger. I ask Allah SWT to help us draw closer to Him so that He may cleanse from our hearts the filth that prevents us from sincerely loving others and wanting the best for them!