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Walking down the streets of my neighborhood in the early morning and making my way towards the ‘taxi stop’ (Muslim-majority country :)), I expected to routinely make it to my class. I soon found out that there was an enlightening twist awaiting me today.

I entered the taxi, which would usually be filled with passengers later on in the day, and it was just me and the driver. Taking a look at the driver, he just seemed like a ‘regular’ old man, cigarette in hand, and the effects of poverty were quite apparent in his attire and his facial expressions. I tried to block those digressive thoughts out of my mind and tried to focus on the Qur’an I was preparing for my class. To my surprise, the man somberly told me: “Read Qur’an for me ya Shaikh”. To me, this was a bit awkward. I was never accustomed to having conversations with taxi drivers, let alone recite Qur’an for them. But Allah blessed me to accept his request, and I only asked him if he could please put out the cigarette.  Continue reading

My River Test: Brooklyn :)

The MAS Monthly Meeting

As a member of MAS, I have to participate in many activities that helps me develop and grow. MAS Tarbiya is a unique and essential value in MAS. Although tarbiya happens as one moves in life, MAS requires its members to participate in several programs that help them develop. One of these programs is the monthly meeting or monthly Revive as MAS Youth calls it. In this meeting, members from one area get together for a full or a half night for an extended spiritual, social, and, often times, educational program. During this program, people will have the chance to meet one another, increase brotherhood, strengthen their relationship with Allah, etc.

My challenge: Brooklyn

At one point of time, most of MAS members were concentrated in Brooklyn, NY, over an hour drive from where I live. I used to go there every month for this meeting since it was only carried out in Brooklyn. Now, and as MAS grows out of the city into other areas, we were able to conduct such a meeting in areas closer to where I live. However, since NY metro area and its surrounding is part of one organizational unit in MAS, all of MAS members in this area decided to meet once every quarter.

I have to say it was always very difficult for me to make the trip to Brooklyn for the monthly meeting. It is even more difficult now as I moved farther away from the city Continue reading

Making a covenant in a moment of sincerity – TAM thought #3

More lessons to learn and more thoughts hit, TAM south was another place for a lot of thoughts and inspirations. At the end of the TAM, we had a session where we all renewed our intention, charged our energy, and showed our commitment to Allah, to Islam, and to MAS and its mission, the LASER-beam session as known by people who attended. In a similar session last year in Dallas, one of the brothers was very excited and he emotionally took the microphone and said, you will see how many people will come from my city to TAM next year. He comes from a small chapter where only three people were attending TAM at that year. He was relatively new to MAS and to be honest I told myself at the time, “A nice excited brother,” taking his promise a little lightly.

After the TAM of last year was over and a whole year passed by and we started approaching TAM 09 in Dallas, his idea hit me again. He wasn’t one of the attendees in this year’s TAM and I even forgot his name. I was shocked to see 20 people from this city coming to TAM 09, fifteen of which were very young energetic brothers and sisters who were so engaged in the TAM. You can’t feel how I felt about the original thought I had when this brother made the promise. What on earth made me take his promise lightly? I felt very small yet very happy. I was extremely happy to hear one of the young sisters from this very city who shared her thoughts, aspirations, and experience with the audience who kept applauding her many times.

I am sure these 20 committed and excited young people did not come together alone. As a matter of fact, I am aware of the effort put to make this happen. I am also sure that it wasn’t the mere work of this brother who made the promise. However, what I am sure of is that the sincerity and the passion he had while making this promise contributed a lot to the success of this chapter in this very short time.

Let us leverage moments of pure intention. Let us get our positive thoughts out and let us transform them to real actions. Let us renew our covenant in front of Allah and in front of each other. If Allah, who knows deeply what is in the heart, finds sincerity and purity in these hearts, he will bless the little effort and make our promises become true.

A Well-Deserved Trophy

As I was coming back from the MAS soccer tournament in Yonkers last night, I was thinking of what happened is this tournament. The last time I was in Yonkers playing this tournament, we went home with the trophy. There was a team that we hardly allowed in due to their age. These were the MAS Youth team from Yonkers. They insisted in playing and we insisted that they may get hurt. We also said that there is so many programs and events for the youth and we, adults, deserve some peaceful adults-only event.

I have to be proud to say I have lobbied the organizers to allow these guys in (as I was the youth director at the time and these guys were my favorites). The organizers were those whom we call “MAS Youth Uncles” who were probably as caring for those youth as I was and they approved them in. This youth team really lost badly (if I remember correctly, all the games and they had no chance to win). I, as well as others, was teasing them and making fun of them not to play again with the “big boys” 🙂

In the second tournament they joined, they were an impressive team who did not really make it to a high rank in the finals but impressed everyone by how organized and zealous to win they were.

In the past tournament of yesterday’s, they surprised everyone. They defeated most of the teams* and they transformed their defeat into victory in all the games. They won the trophy after going through the best two teams in the tournament. From a complete defeat in the first tournament, to impressive looking team with high potential in the second, to the trophy winners in one the of the toughest tournaments yesterday, they really deserve the victory and they deserve enjoying the trophy.

As we, the adults, know how much bragging they will make in front of us and how much hard time they will give us making fun of us, we were all cheering for them even against our own teams. Poor fathers who have some of these in their household will have to suffer from this until the next tournament. 🙂

Read this reflection of mine again but read it while replacing the word “soccer” with “life.” We really need to give a chance to these young people. They will have to mingle with us and take serious responsibilities. They will have to organize themselves and come forward to prove themselves as the leaders of their communities. If you happen to be in a position of interacting with young people, know that the potential in front of you is tremendous and it is you who will empower these people to show their skills, talent, and effort. Do not deprive them or yourself from the chance.

I wish this team that I am proud of  use this analogy to show leadership in life as they did in soccer.

One last message that I cannot close the post without (that is me I am sorry), I would like you guys (MAS Youth Yonkers) to enjoy the victory as much as you can because the next lesson for you will be “how to overcome defeat” when I am done with you in the next tournament. But for now, enjoy the well-deserved trophy

Ummo Wael

* the only team they have not defeated was the team which has the dad of three of them which makes me thing of sending a complaint to the FIFA 🙂

The Making of the LASER beam – TAM 09 thought #2

The TAM mission torture

Discover the mission was the theme of TAM 09. The organizers wanted to make sure MAS members leave the weekend with full understanding of the mission and its implications on MAS work and on our life. All sessions were geared towards that. Introducing the mission statement, the role of tarbiya in the mission, the obstacles in getting involved of such a mission, the obstacles in front of achieving the mission, the outreach component in our mission, the tarbiya effort required for this outreach effort (to achieve our mission), mission, mission, mission! Morning sessions are about the mission and evening sessions are about the mission, mission on Saturday and mission on sunday. 200 MAS members were put in one room going back and forth around this one very concept, MAS mission.

This is how you make a LASER beam

Every Muslim, MAS members included, is a particle of light. Let us think that those few MAS members are photons. You put them together in small or big numbers they will become some form of light. Those photons are getting together somehow to create some good light that are illuminating the way for many people around. TAM 09 brought these people together and kept pushing them back and forth back and forth in a very condensed time (and space) talking about one thing, their mission. They hit each other with ideas and they quickly synchronize. Sometimes it is a noisy disagreement and sometimes is a quite time of reflection and thinking. Sometimes, it is the speaker collecting ideas and sometimes it is the speaker pushing ideas back. It is a little amount of raw knowledge but very dense and sharp. Those photons kept going back and forth until something started to happen towards the end of the TAM. Those photons (MAS members in the TAM) developed a few yet very interesting qualities: 1) there developed a huge passion (energy), 2) they developed a very strong focus on one thing (the mission), and 3) they developed a mutual coherence, same wavelength and same phase. I can see them coming out of the room in the last session as a strong LASER beam coming out of its tube. They will travel thousands of miles while being focused on one thing, MAS mission! This is exactly how you create a LASER beam. This idea brought some creative juice to several of us. TAM 09 in DC was really the making of the LASER beam of MAS members that needs to be guided, channeled, and leveraged by MAS local and national leadership.

You do not have to be a speaker – TAM 09 thought #1

I just got mentally conscious after the amazing weekend in DC with more than 200 MAS members gathering to discover MAS mission. For the past 48 hours since I left the meeting heading home*, I was living under the strong emotional and intellectual impact this TAM left on me and I am sure on many of those who were there. Every time I receive an email regarding this event, I read it with my heart and start tearing while remembering the huge blessings we went through especially towards the end when we all renewed our commitment to MAS, its mission, to each other, to America, to Islam, and to Allah (swt).

Now that I am a little back to my mental normality, I started reading the emails again. I found there are many lessons to learn. I also thought of sharing these thoughts for the blessings to spread and for all of us to learn. I was a speaker. That was my only role. At the times when I wasn’t speaking, I was inside the meeting room listening, sharing my thoughts and posing my questions. I realized that the program is smooth, no parents are upset as they usually are because of their kids, and no kids are “escaping” from the children program trying to be around in the hotel hallways and meeting rooms. I realized that many things are falling together and many things are happening. I was so encouraged by this and I felt Allah’s barakah surrounding us.

The hidden soldiers

As an attendee, I received an email from the local TAM chair thanking us for coming and asking us to evaluate. He used the opportunity to thank his team who helped in organizing and making this event successful. My name appeared of course as one of the speakers but I realized that my name was a one out of many many people whom I do not know, I did not see, and did not even felt they existed in this event. They are so many clustered around committees and playing different roles. I looked over the email again and I saw my name once and I was happy to be listed in such a group.

I then thought that I was enjoying my speech, probably felt a little content when people liked my presentations or when they laughed on a joke I made. I enjoyed listening and learning discussing and asking questions. Those other people did not even attend the program nor did they interacted with anyone. I felt that I got back some of my reward while Allah kept their reward intact. One of these hidden soldiers said, “I am not attending the TAM this year. I will put all my energy in making the TAM successful for everyone, for it won’t be successful unless the children program is successful.

After reading the TAM evaluation results, talking to some parents, meeting some the kids, and listening to my wife getting news from her friends who attended the TAM, I realized how small my role was and how great these people are. Our mission is very heavy. Many roles need to be played and it is not only about public speaking or teaching. There are many many roles we can play and we can have the same or even bigger effect. I will end by saying that when a report came to Omar Ibn Al-Khattab listing the names of those who died in the battle field it was concluded by, ” … and many others you do not know Ya Amir Al-Mo’mineen.” Omar responded, tearing, “What harm would go to them if Omar does not them; Allah does!”

The Tarbiya Mosaic – Two

“To move people to strive for God-consciousness …” is a choice by MAS leadership to start its mission statement. Only God-conscious people can move people to be God-conscious. The famous Arabic adage says what can be rephrased as “You cannot give what you do not have.”

A few questions come to mind.
What do we really mean by the word God-consciousness? What is the Qur’anic term for it? Why is it so important? What are the qualities of those God-conscious people? How can one attain those qualities? How can I measure my God-consciousness? Can I lose it after attaining it? Why would someone lose this very important quality? What do people really do to lose it? How can I get it back, or not lose it in the first place?
Many questions, right? It is a mosaic. With an answer to each question, a small little tile will be put and the picture will become clearer. Do not try to guess the picture, just keep drawing. It is after midnight now and too late to draw but maybe someone from the West Coast is up and wants to add a couple of tiles. 🙂 How? use the comments section