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Point Blank: Interview with Raja Zia ul Haq

Point Blank: Interview with Raja Zia ul Haq

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Youth Club Blog presents to you some very candid Q & A with our CEO Raja Zia ul Haq. These questions were asked at the WOC 2014 event ‘Around the Bonfire’. Raja Zia ul Haq talks about his relationship with his car, his family and his wife, and his inspiration behind the popular workshops ‘Lovestruck’ and ‘Qabool Hai’.


YOUTH CLUB: A lot of us have seen the video about the change in your lifestyle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4cdc7Hpirk).  Sky diving, theatre, partying, fancy cars- it seems you had it all. Do you sometimes miss the lifestyle that you left behind? Don’t you ever feel tempted to go back?

RAJA ZIA UL HAQ: I don’t miss the bad bits but I do miss my car. I really, really, really miss my car. I had a Dodge-Charger, an American Muscle car and I lost it in an accident. She was my baby; we had a very good relationship alhamdolillah!

My wife can tell you how much I miss it. Sometimes when she says: “Where have you kept the charger?”

My response is: “Ohhh! Don’t say ‘The Charger’. It just breaks my heart every time I hear that name.”

However, I don’t miss those things which were taking me away from Allah. I flee from anything that would reconnect me to things from the past that were displeasing to Allah. I would rather be boiled in oil or shot in the head three times than go back to that lifestyle. Wallahi, I’m not even kidding. So I have absolutely zero regrets for the things I left behind.

There’s nothing wrong in enjoying life and having a nice car or good clothes. But, if your wealth or luxuries or entertainment take you away from Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, then this is a massive problem.

Alhamdolillah, I still have a lot of fun with sports activities or games. Allah loves the strong believer. Practicing Islam does not mean you stop having fun. You can have fun; you can enjoy life; you can chill out with righteous friends; you can entertain yourself. Just don’t indulge in haram things. You can eat and drink whatever you like, except for the very few things that are haram. If you want to have fun, you can do it in a halal way. You want to have a relationship, you can have four as a brother, but it has to be halal!

I make dua for Allah to increase His love in me, because that makes you enjoy a very fruitful, wholesome and holistic lifestyle.

YOUTH CLUB: Your workshop ‘Lovestruck’ is a super hit. What was your inspiration for choosing this topic? How did you put together the content?

RAJA ZIA UL HAQ: The people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad were my inspiration behind the ‘LoveStruck’ workshop. Visiting different schools, colleges and universities, I realized that a very common problem the youth are facing is: love affairs. This is a recurrent issue everywhere. When we ask young boys and girls what is the hindrance between them and Allah, it turns out that many of them are deeply entangled in haram relationships. They get really motivated and buzzed up by talks and lectures, but these relationship issues become a barrier between them and Allah.

So, I met one of the top scholars in Lahore, and I discussed this problem with him. He recommended the book Dawae Shafi by Ibn al Qayyim. I went straight to the bookstore and bought it the same evening. Little did I know that this book was written in very difficult Urdu. I made it a mission to understand and absorb its content, because the Sheikh had convinced me that this book contains the solution to the problem. I tried reading it twice, I kept on going back and forth, reflecting over it. In the end, I had developed three workshops out of it: Sinless, Lovestruck and Qabool Hai.

I realized that our classical scholars have done a lot of work in terms of tazkiyyah (spiritual purification). We don’t need to look anywhere else. I was surprised at the gems I was extracting from this book. It contains things that are relevant even today; it contains some very deep philosophical stuff that people can benefit from. That book really changed it for me.

YOUTH CLUB: People who start practicing often face opposition from their families. How is one supposed to deal with his/her family and make Dawah to them? Tell us about your own experience in this regard.

RAJA ZIA UL HAQ: When someone doesn’t know your past, it’s easy to give Dawah to them. But your family knows your past; they know you inside out. It’s very tough to make Dawah to them but it has to be done- it has to be done with wisdom, love and patience. Initially, I made a lot of mistakes. I would be quite aggressive with my family. When they would challenge my Deen, I would sometimes shout back at them. When they saw me attending a lot of halaqahs (study circles), they expressed the fear that I would become an extremist. It got to the point where I wondered if I had told them I was a homosexual, that would have been easier for them to accept than to know that I was becoming a practicing Muslim.

I soon realized that my hostile approach with my family was totally wrong and it was not working. In Islam, it is not permissible to say ‘uff’ (the slightest word of irritation or contempt) to your parents. You have to be patient and kind with them. You have to show them through your actions that following Islam has made you a better person, a better son and brother. Before you give Dawah to your family or to anyone else, you need to smash your ego. Do it purely for the sake of Allah. And you will find a million and one ways to do it inshaAllah. Just don’t give up on them.

YOUTH CLUB: Your workshop ‘Qabool Hai’ (which is a sequel to ‘Lovestruck’) is also a very popular one and lots of couples have benefitted from it. It seems like you are some kind of a relationship guru. How is your relationship with your wife?

RAJA ZIA UL HAQ: No, I’m not a relationship guru and I don’t have perfect relationships. I married in my days of jahiliyah (ignorance). Ours was a love marriage, though I don’t endorse love marriages. From the beginning, I had a very good chemistry with my wife. We had mutual respect. The thing that I laid down from the start was that we would always address each other with words of respect, even in fights and arguments. Even in those situations, we would never lose our dignity. Whoever lost it, the other person had the right to remain quiet and walk away. Otherwise, we wouldn’t walk away until the problem was resolved.

So even in our fights, we would say, “Aap aisay hain, aap aisay hain”. It actually seems very polite and courteous when you’re using the “Aap” word in an argument. Because of this attitude, we overcame a lot of hurdles and obstacles.

When I started to research Islam, properly and come towards it, that respect, love and mutual agreement made it easy for me to talk to my wife about Islam, and for her to talk to me. Alhamdolillah, I’m very blessed that both of us entered Islam together. We learnt from each other and we gave each other good advice. Being on the Dawah scene, sometimes I would also lecture my wife a bit more than was required and my wife would say: “This is a lecture, isn’t it?”  And I would say: “No its Naseehah, its good advice.”

A lot of my Dawah techniques were honed by giving Dawah to my wife. I would always be gentle and convince her that the only reason I was giving her Dawah was because I cared about her and wanted the best for her- there was no other perspective. That love and mercy became part of my Dawah style.

Dare to Ask – Q & A with the Dawah Man

Dare to Ask – Q & A with the Dawah Man

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‘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?”

“Yes.”

“Did the girl make you happy?”

“Yes.”

“Did the friends make you happy?”

“Yes.”

‘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.”

“What’s that?”

“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.

Exclusive Interview with ex-actress Sarah Chaudhry

Exclusive Interview with ex-actress Sarah Chaudhry

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Sara Chaudhry, the ex-model and actress who studied Islam and said goodbye to her showbiz career, discusses with us the challenges she faced in her journey, and how her life has changed for the better.  These days, she conducts workshops on Islam and continues to inspire many.

YC Blog: What was the reaction of your family and friends when you left showbiz and when you started Hijab? How did you handle it?

Sara Chaudhry: It came as a surprise for them to see this sudden change in me.  They had lots of confusions and questions.  But when a person is firm and confident about his/her decision, Allah helps him/her to answer all the ifs and buts.  With Allah’s help, it was, and still is, easy for me to face all their questions and objections calmly and reply to them.

As Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala says in Surah al-Maidah, verse no 54:

“O you who believe! Whoever from among you turns back from his religion, Allah will bring a people whom He will love and they will love Him; humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers, fighting in the Way of Allah, and never afraid of the blame of the blamers.  That is the Grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He wills.  And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.”

YCB: What role does the Quran have in your everyday life?

SC: The Quran and Hadith are a complete manual on how to live your life peacefully.

I was a very emotional and sensitive person when the Quran was not a part of my life.  My decisions used to be based on what people would think; but now I have a simple formula: I just check if a particular act will benefit me in the Hereafter or not, and I make a firm decision accordingly.  Alhamdolillah, it works out perfectly.

Even in early days of my marriage i was a totally different wife, but now Alhamdolillah I have a better relationship with my husband and I understand him more.  I am stronger and I see things in a totally different perspective.  Now, I understand my true values and responsibilities as a Muslim woman.

 YCB: Has the Hijab, and particularly the Niqab, restricted your activities in any way? Do you find it a burden?

SC: (Laughing) Ahhhh, this is a very common thinking of those who don’t observe the Niqab: “Poor girl, I wonder how she survives inside!” Trust me, I feel much more comfortable and confident with the Niqab than without it.  On top of that, when I have to go out shopping or anywhere else, I don’t need to worry: “Does my dress look old fashioned?  Does this colour suit me etc etc”

I know that I have covered myself for my Allah, and In sha Allah He will reward me for it.

Besides, I obviously don’t observe Niqab in female gatherings.  In such gatherings, we do dress up well and enjoy ourselves while staying within the limits Alhamdolillah.

YCB: Has your life become dull and boring since you started practicing Islam properly?

SC: (Laughing) Dull and boring?  What’s that?  I’ve never experienced it.  Alhamdolillah, I am leading a busy and productive life.  There’s so much of work to do that I literally feel as excited as a child when I get a holiday.  Nowadays, my baby son keeps me busy most of the time.

YCB: What do you do to chill out and entertain yourself?

SC: I like to try out new and unique recipes.

YCB: Do you watch dramas?

SC: Is there anything worth watching in dramas?  Seriously, you tell me.  I don’t watch dramas because it’s a pure wastage of time, and a believer’s time is too precious to be wasted in useless stuff.

YCB: Are you in contact with your showbiz friends, or have you changed your company?

SC: I am still in contact with a few of them.  But of course with time, I’ve gotten busy with my life, and they are busy with their lives, so we don’t get to meet each other often.

But they are all always in my duas.  May Allah guide them all.  Aameen.

YCB: How supportive is your husband?

SC: Alhamdolillah, whatever I am today is because of Allah’s Mercy, and after that because of my husband’s support.  If he wouldn’t have supported me and stood by me in my decision, I might not have reached here today.

He is not just my husband.  He is also my teacher and my friend.  He always guides me and advises me in matters my worldly as well as religious matters.

YCB: Tell us about your baby son.

SC: Alhamdolillah, Allah blessed me with a baby son three years after my marriage.  At times, I think how perfectly Allah plans things, because if I would have become a mother in the initial years of my marriage, I might have been a confused mother, not knowing how to bring up my child.  But now that I know the purpose of life through Quran and Sunnah, I have a clear vision.  During my pregnancy, I have been listening to the Quran, staying busy in Dawah work and studying Hadith.  Even now, I spend a lot of time with my son, and make him listen to Quranic recitation.  I know why my child has come in this world.  I know he is an Amanah (trust) from Allah to me and that I have to make him grow up and spend his life the way Allah wants in sha Allah.  It is my dream that my son grows up to become a scholar and a Sadqa Jariyah for me.  May Allah help me and ease this matter for me.  Aameen.

 YCB: What is your advice to youth who want to join showbiz? Is it really an enjoyable and glamorous career choice?

SC: I find it funny at times how the media people themselves make such movies and dramas which depict the real truth of the showbiz world, yet some naïve people just don’t get it.

Yes, it seems an easy route to money and fame, but that’s just one side of the coin.  All the politics, hard work, health issues, mental torture and insecurities of this world never let you enjoy peace.  Plus, many people who enter showbiz don’t end up as success stories.

It is just a fake world; nothing is real in it.  At times, you might be really sad or anxious, someone close might have died, but you have to act and fulfill the demands of your role.  When you keep on acting against your nature, it kind of kills you inside.  The glamour of this world is a Satanic deception.  It looks good on screen, but it is ugly in reality.  Try living your life the way Allah wants you to live it.  That is surely the safe route for us in this life and the next.

YCB: What is your advice to youth who want to change something in their lives but feel reluctant and afraid of social pressures and family opposition?

SC: Don’t live for others; live for yourself.  You are a great asset of this Ummah.  You need to lead the others by your example.  Keep away from forbidden matters and become a Sadqah Jariyah for your parents.

YCB: What are your plans for the future?

SC: On top of the list is to take care of my family and look after their needs and be there for them when they need me.  Then, to study the Deen as much as possible and do Dawah work and strive for a bright and prosperous hereafter In sha Allah.

 YCB: Thankyou for your time.  May Allah keep you steadfast and fulfill your dreams.

Does Sara Chaudhry’s U-turn inspire you?  Would you like to see more interviews and real-life stories featured on the blog?  Let us know in the comments below.

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