‘Around the Bonfire’ was a very unique and memorable event of Winds of Change 2014. It was an opportunity for us to get to know the speakers better, to hear their personal stories never heard before, and to ask the questions we always wanted to ask them. Here we present some of the questions that were posed to our superhero Dawah Man Imran ibn Mansur. (Watch this space for interviews of other WOC 2014 speakers- Coming soon inshaAllah.)
YOUTH CLUB: It has come to our knowledge that you were a famous rap artist. Tell us more about your journey and what made you distance yourself from something that is so addictive?
IMRAN IBN MANSUR: In my rap days, I had everything from this world that I ever wanted: friends, money, power, respect. I had it all. I thought that these things make people happy. I had exhausted myself in acquiring all these things, but when I got them, they actually did not make me happy. They worked only for a very short period of time. And then I would think: what else can I possibly do to put a smile on my face?
At this stage: You’re lost. You’re genuinely lost. That’s why you hear about so many celebrities who are on anti-depressants, alcohol and drugs. They lead very sad and empty lives. The only way to fill that emptiness is to just drink, smoke, drug yourself up and take tablets. And when they realize that doesn’t work either, in the worst case scenario, they commit suicide.
Alhamdolillah, I didn’t get into drugs and alcohol but I got to the stage where I realized that my work wasn’t bringing me happiness. It was just bringing me more stress and more problems. Allah put it in my heart to just leave behind that life. I didn’t start practicing Islam but all I knew was that that life wasn’t bringing me happiness. I just wanted to be happy. I just wanted to smile. I just wanted to wake up and not be sad.
So, one day I walked into the studio with my colleague. The moment I walked in, I got this splitting migraine. I just looked at my friend and I said: “This place is evil, man.”
He looked at me and nodded. Then, at the exact same moment, we both said, “Let’s shut this place down.”
And we did. It was maybe 3-6 months after that I actually started practicing Islam.
The moment that really changed the dynamics for me was when I was in university one day and I had left everything behind. I used to have a haram relationship with a girl that I wanted to marry, I had ended that. I had left all my friends; I had left behind the only source of income that I had. So, I was a broke, lonely, sad guy. And I was walking around, thinking: “What else would possibly make me happy?” Suddenly, Allah put something in my heart to go to the Masjid on campus. So I went there. I was sitting, just staring at the walls and ceiling. I didn’t even know how to pray properly.
A brother walked in and asked me: “Why’re you looking so down, bro?”
So I told him my story- the full version. The hour and a half epic version. He listened patiently. At the end, he asked me a series of questions. The conversation went like this:
“Did the money make you happy?”
“Did the girl make you happy?”
“Did the friends make you happy?”
‘If that’s the case I have some news for you.”
“What is it?”
“The news is that you will live a very sad life, because if you put your happiness in these things, know that when these things disappear, your happiness will disappear along with them. And know that every single one of these things within the dunya will disappear. Because they are temporary. Nothing is forever. So you are guaranteed to lead a very sad and depressed life. But there is a way that you can be happy.”
“If you put your happiness in The One that will never disappear, your happiness will always be there. And that is Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. Because no matter where you go, what you do, Allah SWT will be there.”
These words penetrated my heart like no other. I’ll never get tired of repeating them. I realized that the key to happiness was to fall in love with Allah. And I made it my mission from that day on that I was going to base my happiness around the love of Allah. Today, I say this in all seriousness and I challenge you: “I am the happiest man in the world.”
Say MashaAllah. You don’t want to give me the nazar (evil eye)!
YOUTH CLUB: How do you balance between personal worship and dawah?
IMRAN IBN MANSUR: I was with Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda (Nouman Ali Khan’s teacher) this Ramadan and I asked him the exact same question and he told me that his Shaykh was a prolific public speaker. He was such a good speaker that his regular halaqah (study circle) in Karachi would have 5000 women. When he saw that his student Abdul Nasir Jangda was becoming a good speaker, he gave him the following advice: “As your time with the people increases, (lectures, youtube, dawah table), your private time with Allah should also increase in the same way.”
So if you gave a lecture for an hour, you need to make sure that you’re speaking to Allah, engaging in private worship for at least the same amount of time. We do fall short, especially when we’re travelling to other places. But you should continue with your Azkaar and the minimum Quran that you should read is one Juzz. On an average day, I try to read the bulk of it at Fajr time and finish the rest throughout the day, as and when I get time.
YOUTH CLUB: People often criticize your videos in which you give targeted Dawah to celebrities. How do you respond to that?
IMRAN IBN MANSUR: Criticism can be a huge fitna and impediment in your work. People like to criticize all the time. If I would listen to even 5% of the criticism I get, I wouldn’t be able to continue with my Dawah. I filter the criticism. I only listen to and value quality criticism from experienced people. As for every Tom, Dick and Harry, I tell them very respectfully that: Nobody cares! Just stay at home and talk to the walls.
It is from the Seerah of Rasulullah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) to make Dawah to the tribal leaders and influential people. He used to take Abu Bakr with him, and Abu Bakr was an expert in genealogy. This is because when the shepherd comes to you, the sheep follow. The celebrities of today are very influential, they have huge followings. I’ve made Dawah to Atif Aslam, Veena Malik, Shoaib Akhtar in person. Its high-impact Dawah. So, for example, when I make Dawah to Eminem, even if he doesn’t come, his followers sit up and listen.
YOUTH CLUB: What do you enjoy about Dawah work? And is it okay to enjoy Dawah?
IMRAN IBN MANSUR: The best feeling for me is when you say something and you can actually see that it has penetrated the other person’s heart. I was at a school in Islamabad, and when I started talking about death, I could see the facial expressions of the students change. I could see it in their eyes. There was this row of girls who all put their dupattas on. So that’s the thing I love and cherish the most. The whole energy around Dawah work actually does make it fun. I really enjoyed Dawah for the initial 6 months. Then I read the Seerah in depth and I read about the difficulties faced by the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) in his Dawah work. So, I started to think to myself: “Why am I enjoying? Maybe I’m insincere.”
Because you see, the negative things are supposed to happen. That’s the Sunnah with every Prophet who delivered the message. But, with a deeper understanding, you realize that even with the difficulties, you have fun. I think its okay because some of the Sahabah never saw Rasulullah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) except that he was smiling. So I think its okay. And I’m having a whole lot of fun. Allah knows best.
YOUTH CLUB: How can females find practicing Muslim life partners in Pakistan?
IMRAN IBN MANSUR: I actually asked Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda this sort of question. We have the same problem in UK. He said that this problem will not be resolved until the Imams stand on top of the minbar and address it in the Jumuah Khutbah. This is a real problem in the community. Our generation is suffering from it. To be honest, there’s not much you can do about it. The least you can do is to make sure that when you have kids, you don’t put them through the same fitna. Marry them early.
Also, I’ve seen that a lot of the times, in order to get married, all you have to do is to go and speak to your parents. The fitna is so grand, so dangerous that you need to do everything within your capacity to try and speak to your parents. If they say no, keep trying and carry on. You can just do the Nikah now and leave the Rukhsati for later when you complete your degree and get a job.