Tag Archives: woc2014

Changing the World Through Imaan

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Guest writer Jawwad Ahmed sums up what he gleaned from Hamza Tzortzis’ eye-opening workshop ‘Changing the World through Imaan’ at PC Hotel Rawalpindi.

In 2003, poverty claimed the lives of a good part of 10.6 million children under the age of 5 [1]. That is more than the children populations of France, Germany and Italy, combined. The figures have somewhat improved in the last decade, but the statistics are still staggering. 7.6 million children below the age of 5 died in 2010. This is around 21,000 per day, 870 per hour, or 14 children dying every minute [2]. Numbers simply fail to convey emotion.

No wonder, then, at what we are told about there being too many needs, and not enough resources. This is lesson number one in all economics textbooks. God, it appears, is pretty cruel.

And yet, the poorest 40% of the world’s population account for just 5% of the world’s income; the richest 20% for 75% [3]. The problem of resources, it appears, is not that of insufficient production, but of unequal distribution. The fundamental premise of contemporary economics is nothing more than the delusion of capitalism.

It was an eye-opening experience listening to Hamza Tzortzis on the topic ‘Changing the world through Imaan’ at PC hotel Islamabad. Faith is as relevant to modern socio-economics, as five sets of daily prayers. When Allah repeatedly says,

“We provide sustenance for you and for them (your children)”,

He means it [4] [5]. The world already produces more than 1½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet [6].

Step number 1 of the solution is to realize that this is indeed the great delusion of capitalism. One amongst many that convinces us that we are free, whereas in reality, as individuals, nothing of our own context is our choosing – a vivid example being how the media, and those in power, dictate the social norm, which in turn dictates our preferences. What is required is to emancipate ourselves by servitude to the One whose enforced context upon us – our DNA, the social class we are born into, etc – we can never possibly elude.

In our creation – that of the universe – has Allah left a big question for us to ponder over:

“Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain” [7].

There can be four possibilities on how the universe came about:

i) The universe was created by nothing.

ii) The universe created itself.

iii) The universe was created by something which was itself created.

iv) The universe was created by something uncreated.

Hamza Tzortzis addressed each possibility – and the impossibility of each save that of the last case. There are serious logical issues in accepting in any of these contentions: the inability of nothing to create nothing for the first case, the inability of nothing to create itself while it doesn’t exist in the first place for the second case, and the problem of infinite regress for the third case. The only remaining possibility is that uncreated God created everything else. The idea is to convince ourselves that if this is the Creator, He also made the operation manual for the creation to work. When He tells you something, He is telling based on prior knowledge what will work. In comparison, human idea of what is good for humans continues to change as human thought evolves.

So, how does this solve the global economic crisis?

1400 years ago, Allah implemented through His Messenger the solution of the problem of distribution: keep the wealth in continuous circulation – by encouraging spending and charity, paying Zakaat and chastising interest (which stops wealth circulation by enhancing savings) and hoarding. This is just one example of how the gears are set in motion. Allah provides detailed guidelines for all aspects of life, but the central argument here is to know that Allah knows what really works. When you know Him to be THE ONLY God by irrefutable rationale, you know also that you have got to do what He tells you to do.

References:

[1] – Shah, Anup. “Poverty Facts and Stats.” Global Issues. 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>.

[2] – 2011 UNICEF Report. Levels & Trends in Child Mortality. UNICEF, 2011, p.8.

[3] – 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p.25.

[4] – Surah An’am 6:151

[5] – Surah Isra 17:31

[6] – Gimenez, Eric. H., “We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People — and Still Can’t End Hunger”. Huffington Post. 05 Feb 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-holt-gimenez/world-hunger_b_1463429.html>.

[7] – Surah Toor 52:35-36

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From Timothy to Yusuf

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Guest writer Sara Ahmed pens down the quest of Yusuf Chambers, as heard from him at the WOC 2014 event:’Story Night with the Stars’.

A Disturbed Childhood

The long-winding tale of Yusuf (previously known as Timothy) Chambers began, when at 4 years of age, he yelled at his Irish father, “You need to go away because my mother does not like you anymore!”

His father complied.

With such family issues, it is hardly surprising that Tim grew up as a disturbed child – Catholic just by name, least interested in school, never having read a library book. At 15, he ran away from his home.

Why are we here?

During his new vagabond life, he changed seventeen addresses in the quest to find out the purpose of his yet aimless life, freaking people out with his profound and incessant questions.

He claims to have flipped through every -ism and -schism ever founded- the first being ‘social activism’ with its manifestos of ‘love for humanity’. It had not been long since he joined that a member remarked, “Someday we will have to pick up guns”.

Tim was ‘vegetarian’, he couldn’t stand the thought of blood so he deserted the group.

Brush with Buddhism

He then came across Buddhism and started meditating under the guidance of a monk. He enjoyed the practice, but was not totally satisfied. After a while, he finally asked the monk, “Why are we doing this?”

He was expecting that this guy here, who had given up everything one would hold dear in life in order to ‘meditate’, would have some epic answers to the mystery of life.

The monk declared with mighty flourish: “to contemplate and be supreme”. Awesome, thought Tim, this answers so much.

Seeing that he wasn’t convinced, the monk gave him a book about Buddhism to read. Tim could not get past the first chapter of the incomprehensible conversation between Buddha and his disciple! The purpose of life could surely not be this hard to understand!

Since he didn’t know what else to do, he continued meditation, all the while shut up in a room under a pile of astronomy books. The sky fascinated him a lot; every night he would look at the stars and would cry: “Why don’t I know? Why don’t I know?”

By now it had been 11 years on this quest of life and still he didn’t know what he was living for…!!! He merely had an ‘existence’, but he didn’t have a ‘life’. He even started to think of ending his purposeless existence.

Crossing Out Christianity

Before he took his suicidal thoughts too seriously, he thought he would give one more chance to the obvious way: Christianity. He went up straight to the priest in church and asked him, “What’s the purpose of life?”

The priest replied, “I don’t have time to answer you right now. Come back on Monday.”

When he did, the priest thoughtfully said, “Have you ever thought of getting a theology degree?”

Tim said, “No!” and thought to himself, “I’ve already wasted 11 years, make me wait 4 years more!”

The priest promptly replied, “In that case, I can’t help you!”

After storming out of the church, he came back to the Buddhist way of life by becoming an extreme vegetarian. With severe stomach problems starting to bother him, he could not continue for long. Eventually, he gave up veganism too.

The Lost Father

He then thought, “I’ll hitchhike to Ireland to meet my father, maybe he has an answer!”

On reaching the fields of Ireland, he was ushered to a ragged old man with a dirty face in a wooden cart who refused to accept him as his son.

Alhumdulillah (praise be to Allah), it was a misunderstanding. It wasn’t his actual father.

Even Tim would have known more about the purpose of life than that old fellow!

Fortunately, he found his uncle who he told him his father was in UK, living the life of a drunkard. The trip to Ireland, thus, turned out to be futile and all hopes that his father would know the answers went down the drain. But at least, he was able to check off one more item on his search-list.

The Ramadan Muslim

Around that time, however, he met a girl whom he became very intimate with. Then one fine day, she said, “Don’t come to my house tomorrow!”

He asked why and she said, “You won’t understand, it’s something to do with my religion..”

(She was trying to be a Ramadan Muslim- Muslims who seem not to know Allah and their religion except in Ramadan)

He was so devastated, he snapped back, “Either you are wrong or your religion is wrong!”

He loved that girl! He just couldn’t leave her, so he knocked on door of the Islamic Society hoping to find out what was up with her religion that was making her resist meeting him.

When he told the long bearded group leader what was wrong, he bluntly stated, “This girl is not right for you. Go away!”

He waved him off with a pile of books and told him to read. Tim read all of them. They had all those answers that he had been looking for!

He went back to the girl’s house and said, “Assalam Alaikum!! Why didn’t you just tell me the truth? I would have understood!”

Seeing the Light

By the end of Ramadan, in his own words, “I finally had something tangible I could feel and touch! There is no way to explain the mercy of Allah!”

He started fasting and went to the masjid where a person asked him, “What are you doing here? You have to take the Shahadah (testimony of faith) in order to pray!”

He took his Shahadah and 300 people hugged him. Never in his lifetime had he been hugged by men before!

Yusuf Chambers ended his story by reminding us that a lot of people in Pakistan are contemplating, wondering, doubting the purpose of life because they have nothing to bring them to Quran! For him, being a non-Muslim and not knowing the truth was like being gagged and locked up in a dark room where some rays of light flicker and then go off. It was MISERABLE!

He urged us to love for people what we love for ourselves. We have to take the responsibility to create a renewal because we have that love and the capacity to bring change to the entire world.

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

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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.

Jazz, Jinns and Diamonds- John Fontain’s Story

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Guest writer Sara Ahmed pens down the inspiring story of John Fontain, as heard from him at the WOC 2014 event:’Story Night with the Stars’.

John Fontain was born in a working-class Christian family in Manchester.  As a young boy, he would always make an intention in Church that he was praying to God alone, proving the fact that children are born on the fitrah (sound nature). At seven, he was sure that there was something amiss in Christianity when the priest changed the chorus lyrics he had written from ‘Jesus and God’ to ‘Jesus is God’. At the age of fourteen, with a growing passion for music, he became a professional jazz singer, travelling to places and performing in sports stadiums, hotels etc. With a good income and the drive to become the most famous jazz singer in the country, he naturally did not feel the need to attend university!

When he was eighteen, he struck ‘diamond’ deals with some of the West African immigrants who had come to England, and thus, went to visit Sierra Leone in West Africa. On his way, he was stuck in Senegal, penniless. Seeing his plight, a Muslim hotel manager offered him shelter in his own home. During his stay, John marveled at the courteous mannerisms of his host, and recalls that when he first heard the Azan, it was as if ‘his heart was ripped out of chest’. He would watch his Muslim hosts offer their prayers; this brief period in Senegal was his first positive impression about Islam.

Back in London, he enrolled in a highly selective and competitive course related to the diamond industry. He then travelled to Sierra Leone multiple times, but even during times of bright business prospects, he felt something was missing. At this stage, he came across a ‘Muslim’ village in South Africa, which was notorious for witchcraft and communication with jinn. There, he actually saw women tying knots on strings in order to bring a person under the influence of jinn! Fortunately, one of his friends from Syria informed him that witchcraft actually went against Islamic injunctions and he handed him a copy of ‘Fortress of a Muslim’ (An authentic collection of Duas). When John started reading this book, he came across Surah al-Falaq:

‘Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak

From the evil of that which He created

And from the evil of darkness when it settles

And from the evil of the blowers in knots

And from the evil of an envier when he envies.’

Here was a verse mentioning the very same practices that he had seen with his own eyes! Finding some reality in the Quran, he started to take Islam more seriously and started to learn about it. Though not yet having converted, he would pray in his own way and he even fasted during Ramadan! One day, while in Egypt, he went to a Masjid in Cairo to pray. When he was about to do so, his friend told him he could not pray until he had taken the Shahadah (testimony to faith). John was stunned at this point because, all this time, even having hung around with Muslim friends in England, no one had ever told him about the Shahadah, the actual entry into Islam, the passage of safety in the Hereafter! (Do we, as Muslims, even realize the great responsibility that we have of conveying the message of Islam?)

On a side-note, John also reflects that until that time in Cairo, he had not actually wanted to leave his old life, but when he himself took the initiative to whole-heartedly accept the Islamic way of life, it was then that Allah introduced the Shahadah to him! For us, it is a reminder that Allah surely facilitates for us only that path which we really want to follow.

John Fontain, renowned jazz singer and successful diamond trader, finally took his Shahadah in a Hardees branch in Cairo! Now, with his enthusiasm to guide the people of West Africa to the true teachings of Islam, he heads a flourishing organization called ‘Volunteer Sierra Leone’ which is currently managing 65 Muslims schools in that region.

May Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala make him steadfast and bless him in his efforts. Ameen.

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25 things I learnt from Winds of Change 2014

By Umm Ibrahim
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February 2014 has been an exceptionally beautiful month so far- owing to the Winds of Change Tour which hit Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar.  I tried to attend as many events as I could- each one seemed to be better than the previous. So, the past 3 weeks were mostly spent waiting for one event after the other! This was the first time I was attending the events of Winds of Change, and it was also the first time I was actually listening to some of the international speakers: Imran ibn Mansur, Hamza Tzortzis, Yusuf Chambers, John Fontain, Adnan Rashid and Musa Adnan.

As I smile to myself, sifting through the photos and cherishing the memories made, reality hits me like a ton of bricks: the Winds of Change are over, but has the change begun? Can I declare with Imran Khan’s confidence level that “Tabdeeli aa gy hai?” Will I be able to cherish the newly-planted intentions and sustain the newly-replenished Imaan level?

 I have made notes upon notes of the lectures; I have saved video recordings, but I realize that it is actually the things which penetrate your being and engrave themselves on your heart that can actually change you. So for my own benefit and for that of the readers, I’m going to list in no particular order, the lessons that have stuck with me, which I heard, learnt and/or experienced during the Winds of Change events.

1-      The Azaan is a beautiful call.  Don’t take it for granted. Cherish it, listen and respond.

2-      Whatever Da’wah work you are doing, you must read a minimum of 1 juzz of the Quran (with understanding) every day. Don’t let your Islamic work fool you or harm your spirituality.

3-      There are no friends as awesome and cool as the ones you make for the sake of Allah.

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4-      You have to do Da’wah. You just have to. There is no other way around it.

5-      Every person you meet has problems on their plate. Every person is fighting battles you know nothing of. Be gentle.

6-      In matters of the Dunya, look towards those below you. In matters of the Deen, look towards those above you.

7-      The battles you fight for Deen are worth it, in this word and the next. Taking U-turns is difficult, but it is possible and it is worth it. Ask for Allah’s help.

8-      Don’t judge by appearances. There is so much goodness and softness in our people. Talk to them about the Deen. Empathize with them. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response.

9-   Marriott has the best gulab jaman in Islamabad.

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10-      Learn the rational foundations of your Deen seriously. You are facing an ideological onslaught.

11-   There is something heart-warming about a hall resounding with Takbeer. It makes the clap-clap-clap sound so abysmally pathetic.

12-   No matter how bad your situation is, no matter how broken or messed-up you are, Allah can still fix you. There are examples all around you. Don’t give up. If you are alive, you have a chance.

13-   Listening to music can facilitate Jinns entering your body. True Story.

14-   Jannah is beautiful. Meeting Allah is the best moment of your life. It is worth it all.

15-   Youth Club has the coolest badges in town.

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16-   Don’t mumble the Salam just to fulfill the routine obligation. It is a beautiful gift. Treat it that way. Give and receive it with love.

17-    Words are just words. You can talk the talk all your life. Nothing will change until you walk the WOC  walk.

18-   Humility is a beautiful quality. It makes you dignified. Slash your ego. Take it easy. Learn from the beautiful life of the beautiful Messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

19-   Tell your loved ones that you love them often.

20-   Youth Club also has the coolest cupcakes in town. (I’m not being paid to write this, I swear!)

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21-   Allah is the Best of Planners. Trust Him.

22-   Dua is such a powerful tool. Allah works miracles. Have faith in Him. Talk to Him as much as you can.

23-   If you don’t pray the obligatory prayers, you seem to be on a one-way road to Hellfire. There’s no way to put this lightly. Start praying. Just do it!

24- Our ultimate quest in this world is happiness. Even if you have everything in the world, you will still not be happy unless you have a true connection with Allah. The void in the heart can only be filled by knowing and loving the Creator of the heart.

25-   You have too many slave-masters- from your parents to your peers to the fashion industry. True liberation is only in accepting the honour of being a slave to Allah.

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