Posts filed under ‘Musings’

Adapting and Growing

We have been in Egypt for 17 days. I have gone through phases of travel: excitement, settling, homesickness, and adapting. Al7amdulilah.

 

 

Today Radwan and I start a new level at al-diwan. We had a written and oral test yesterday which we both passed. Guess what….We are not learning Fus7a!!!! Actually we are just learning lugha Faseeha. There are five levels of language. Three levels of 3amiyah (common language) and then there is Fus7a and Fasee7a. Fus7a is really hard to understand. Like no one can speak it. The Quran is in between Fus7a and Fasee7a. Even the sa7abah would ask the rasul saws about the meaning of words even though their Arabic was excellent.

 

Today is Thursday, our fasting day. Last night we began to implement a lights out rule at midnight. Moosa, May Allah Reward Him, woke us all up for suhoor at 3:30 am. We all ate cereal. Fajr at the local Masjid is the best breakfast. After Fajr, the six of us brothers read athkaar as-saba7 in our apartment. Each day we learn about the significance of one of the athkaar. Today we covered sayid Al-istighfaar. Its amazing how nicely it is worded. It helps us acknowledge Allah’s blessing and how dependant we are on Him for sustenance, protection, guidance and forgiveness. Al7amdulilah.

 

Jamal gave us a short talk about the biography of Abdullah ibn umm Maktoom, the blind sahabi mentioned in the beginning of surat 3abasa. Among the lessons from the story is the role of the caller to Islam is not guide but to convey the message, the authenticity of the prophethood of Muhammad pbuh because a mistake of the rasul is mentioned in what Muhammad pbuh brought. The story also warns against neglecting the sincere people in dawah to focus on rich, respected but stubborn people. Al7amdulilah.

 

Then we spent a few hours just chatting about different topics. We recited every story about we knew about Abu Bakr RA and Omar ibn Alkhatab RA on the authority of sheikh Anwar Alawlaki. Al7amdulilah.

 

The feeling of brotherhood is growing. We are a little family and I love each of the brothers. We help each other in our studies and in our deen. We divide responsibilities around the house between us. Hani is doing an excellent job shopping for us. Moosa is on top of our budget and finances. Yusuf and Ali cook it up for us. So far they made yummy French toast and macaroni. Al7amdulilah.

 

I7miding Allah,
Amr

 

ps. here are some pictures

 

holding hands in front of masjid alhussein RA

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masjid alazhar … we heard the khutbah there

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khan alkhalili food … fatta, kawari3, kofta wi fayrooz. we ran out of pepto bismo 🙂

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Hani hooking it up, gibna we bayd fe 3aysh feeno

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July 12, 2007 at 1:15 am 3 comments

^&*#*$%*^ BATHEEKH!!!

As I walked to class this morning there was a fruit seller… more specifically, a watermelon seller… Everyday, since I have made my walk to the learning center routine at 9:30 am or so, I have seen this guy and his donkey walking down the road as he screams something that I cant make out no matter hard I try…  Frustrated by my inability to understand him, I mad sure that today I was going to figure out this mystery so I got really close… It sounded like ‘yajafajabutneeeya!’  With his voice hoarse and his thawb soaked in ‘egypt sweat’ (i will write about this idea another day),  he repeated his one line lyric in a voice that simon cowell would be proud of… I inched ever nearer… BUT the closer I got the more I realized that he really said nothing… Just a sound that ended in a syllable that rhymed with batheekh… I tried to think if i could learn something meaningful about life from this experience and then realized something about communication… You really don’t have to say anything to be understood… every man, woman and child knew exactly what this man was selling when he shouted his inarticulate melody and as long as it was different from the teenshowki kid, the bbq corn man, the ‘used stuff’ people, the drycleaners and the gas guy and the vegetable seller: yafajafbutnee! would do just fine… At the end of the day, this watermelon man found his place in the world… He knew exactly what he had to do, how to do it and even how to be unique in doing so… He found his niche in this dunya… And because of that reason, I know he is far wiser than I…

On another note, the ‘bikya bikya bikya’ boys are really getting on my nerves… They dont even seem to be trying anymore… Their voices are barely heard through the cement walls that our apartments are made of… These premadonnas have a lot that they have to learn..

Egypt is taking its toll on me though…  I gave up on looking like an egyptiian because every taxi driver tries to charge me 30 bucks for a 3 dollar ride no matter how tight my jeans are n no matter how much chest hair i grow (just a joke :o) )… I started wearing basketball shorts and Hani thinks it might be a good idea if I drape myself in an American flag…  We started saying pop culture references in Arabic…(i.e. we translated the whole Captain Planet song’ … I am ‘Maya’ (i.e. water) and Amr is Cabtan Dunya….) I cant tell if my skin color is darker because of the sun or dirt and pollution…and my teeth are a strange yellow/orange color and I think I am going to write a letter to Crest to develop a toothpaste that fights plaque and dust… The Manga juice that I keep drinking (cant help it… too delicious) is not very good for an American digestive system and I have learned that a cup of water and ice is definitely the most amazing combination on earth…  On a good note, I cannot bite my nails anymore because of the thick layer of… well i dont even know what it is… stuck underneath them… Shibshib is officially the only footwear I wear…

An interesting observation: Egyptian men walk with more of a feminine touch and the woman walk more masculine (this is of course by the American perspective) but I found it interesting nonetheless… maybe its because the sisters here dont have the same mindset about flaunting themselves (alhamdulillah) and the guys are less worried about trying to look like they are ripped/buff all the time… 

I apologize for the extremely random thoughts but that what was on my mind… I have a couple of more insightful thoughts to come inshAllah,,, but at this time I have neither the patience nor the ability to stay awake to put them down here…

Missing home a little alhamdulillah…

Salams

yousaf 

July 11, 2007 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

Let’s Get Vulnerable

So, I’m sort of an impatient person. When I first got here, I didn’t want to waste my time having small talk and discussing the weather. The first opportunity I had with my roomies, I got them down and shouted, “Alright, let’s get really open and uncomfortable so that we can become closer real fast. Share with us a vulnerable moment.” Let me just say that two and a half weeks in and my roomies and I can’t stop sharing these vulnerability stories….not because we’re masochistic, but simply because we’ve gotten so close over such a short period of time.

SubhanAllah, some people mentioned they were homesick a few days in and I had to sit and wonder if something was wrong with me because I was feeling right at home here with my girls. I love my friends and family and blog, email, and call them every other day, but I can’t deny the sadness I feel when I just imagine the day I’ll have to leave all of this beauty behind.

We have bonding time, Quran time, salat time, study time, sleep time (quite limited though), food time (quite expansive), ashkur Allah time, AWESOME HILARIOUS Arabic class time, and quiet read/write to yourself time.

Being detached from all the distractions of my daily life back home has helped me achieve my goal of bringing me back to my spiritual roots and I could not have done this without the Mercy of Allah and His blessing me with the roommates, friends, and experiences I had asked for in my duaas I made at home.

This SA Program has grounded my life in a way that will completely effect every action I take from here on out. Shout out to Hiat Saleh and Amr who have made us very comfortable and feeling well taken care of. What else can I say but All Praisings and Blessings Belong to Allah (swt).

Ammerah

July 10, 2007 at 2:50 pm Leave a comment

What is regret you ask?

~Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem~

Regret, as defined be dictionary.com = feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc.

so now im here in this beautiful country and i realize certain things about life.. we have all done things in our past that we are not necessarily proud of, i personally am not impervious to this, as i think everyone here is as well, not to say that i assume anything, but to think that a human being is not susceptible of mistakes is just insane. the word “in’san” comes from a root word meaning to forget, the word “Q’ulb” means literally to flip or turn over, even in non arabic cultures or non-muslim cultures even, phrases such as “To err is human, to forgive divine.”… so its easy to see that people in our past understand that we as humans make mistakes.

So now we as muslims who make these mistakes what are we to do or think about them? One point of view that never hit me up until a few minutes ago (by the way its now almost 9:30am and i have yet to sleep more than an hour lol so if i ramble on forgive me) is that the people chosen to represent this religion werent babies born into Islam. the greatest generation of people is… anyone? the sahaba.. now if we look at the greatest people from this generation, we see that they werent babies, or kids (with the exception of a few), they were older men, Abu Bakr As-Saddiq (R) was 38 when he accepted Islam, Umar bin Khattab was in his late 20s or ealry 30s, Hamza was older.. These were once people that were born into a pagan religion.. so why were they chosen? Like i mentioned above we all make mistakes, and the way i see it, the reason these people were given the responsibilty of making sure islam spreaad and survived, was just becausewe make mistakes, doesnt mean our life is over or that we cant be great people, or even reach the level of these people, it means that we have a chance to be forgiven for what we have done and start over.. clean slate.. and why cant we imagine a clean slate for ourselves? why cant we give ourselves that chance of starting new… Islam offers it, its up to us to accept it, and make true sincere taubah to Allah…

so this brings me to the reason as to why i bring this topic up, in my life i can name countless upon countless things i have said or done that caused me to feel disappointment in myself. i mean there are moments where something will happen, and right after that i will ask myself why i said that, or why i reacted that way or why i did this and etc. so what is to stop us from falling into a state of depression? a state of complete “regret” for everything we have done wrong to anyone, anything or even to ourselves? into an endless pit of self pity and remorse? i was trying to think about this for a while…

Fate as defined by dictionary.com(i recognize this isnt exactly MLA format :-p) – that which is inevitably predetermined; destiny

Fate as defined by Islam in Surah Al-Isra – Your Sustainer is fully aware of what you are [and what you deserve]: if He so wills, he will bestow [His] grace upon you; and if He so wills, He will chastise you. Hence, We have not sent thee [unto men, O Prophet,] with the power to determine their fate

So now where am i trying to go with this? one of my ways of explaining the way we should no longer feel regret is through fate. dont get me wrong, just because Allah has determined and written down our lives for us, does not mean we are not responsible for our own actions, i dont mean to (astaghfirAllah) say that its Allah’s will we sin, knowing that Allah has predetermined our lives, does that affect our decisions? of course not… what i mean to say is that fate can help us to understand why we as humans make mistakes. sometimes though, we need to stop trying to control everything and just let go.. accept what is and what was and continue on..where would i be if i had not made mistakes before this? would i be able to see what is right if i had never done wrong? would i have ever been able to understand the pleasure of life and Islam if i had not hit rock bottom once or twice in my life? would we be on this trip to try to better our Islam unless we had felt like it was lacking because of mistakes we have made? i kno it can sound redundant to keep saying this, but life doesnt last very long, its too short to fall into the empty pit of hopelessness and despair, instead we can try to understand why things happen, try to understand this abstract concept of fate and our purpose in life and where to go from here.. because once we realize we have hit the ground, we can start to look up…

From this we move onto our purpose.. that i will leave up to everyone to define themselves, because the definition of one of us may not be complete for the rest of us.. i hope inshAllah that this helps, just wanted to share my thoughts on some feelings of late.. InshAllah Allah allows us to get the most out of this trip and our trip on earth, and helps to pull us out of our pit if we happen to fall into one..

the Yousafs seem to be ruling the message board, lol, inshAllah i hope that everyone will be able to have time to re-lay their feelings and insights, because it can help to see other people feeling or going through the same we are, and maybe they have a way out of it.. inshAllah me and my brother will try not to hog the message board 😛

Salaams

~Little Ittle

July 9, 2007 at 1:04 am 3 comments

My new experiences (part 1)

When I was signed up for this trip, I thought that the bulk of my experiences would be outside and around Egypt. Although I’ve spent a lot of time outside exploring Egypt, I was surprised to find that a large part of what has made this trip memorable so far has been inside the comfort of our apartment. So my trip has been two parts, in and out.

Outside, Egypt has been amazing. The people here are so hospitable that from an American perspective it is a little off putting at times. You expect the other person to want something in return but in reality they want nothing more than your smile and appreciation.

I love meeting people. Like Yousef said, I am indeed meeting crazy taxi drivers and other Egyptians whenever possible. After I learned to navigate the trick question “so which is better, Egypt or America?”, meeting new people has been an adventure in itself. A few of the people I’ve met:

Madam Shaymaa – A 20 something female Cairo native studying accounting in the U.A.E., she is one of the numerous Egyptians that has been affected by the west. I met her on my ride from Cairo to the village to visit my relatives. Although she isn’t very westernized herself, she sees Egypt’s westernization as its coming up in the world and sees America as sort of a parent, or final judge of whether Egypt has done a good job. We got on the topic of movies, and she talked about how bad Egyptian movies were but sounded hopeful that they were starting to get better (i.e. up to American quality. She mentioned a big cinema in Cairo. She was shocked when I told her I hadn’t heard of the place, she responded with “But everyone in the world must have heard of it!”.

Crazy taxi driver #1- A very friendly guy and very outgoing, some of the things we talked about were Egyptian slang, hand signals and (OMG) politics. I got the “Egypt or America?” question from him and told him that America is cleaner but the hearts of people in Egypt were much, much cleaner than America. He seemed unsatisfied with that, responding by joking that someone could pull down their pants in Egypt and take a cr*p in the street and no one would do anything about it. I can’t describe the hand signals because I’m limited to text, but maybe I’ll take video in a later post, haha.

Things got very interesting when we talked about politics. He said the worst thing about Egypt were the thieves. I said, like thieves that want to take your money? He said no, the BIG thieves. I realized what he was talking about and asked him if it was true that the government hires people to spy on Egyptians and their opinions on politics. He said it was very true and that you could be thrown in jail for saying the wrong thing.

Then I decided to get bold and asked him what he thought of Hossny Mubarak. He said “Howa ragul KEDA” (Basically means he’s a GREAT guy) in a REALLY sarcastic tone and gave a big smile and a thumbs up. And then I said something to the effect of “Oh, I thought he was a really terrible guy” jokingly, and he said “do you want to get us thrown in jail?” and then said “It’s ok I forgive you, I’ll forget you ever said it”.

Shafi- A friend of my cousin Mido (real name Mohammed), he’s my age. He had a completely shaved head, stylish glasses, and very very Egyptian features (like he looked like he came out of ancient Egypt). After watching an Ahly soccer game, Mido, his friends and I went to an Egyptian wedding. That was FUN. Even though I had no idea who the bride and groom were, I guess it was completely ok for me to get up on stage with everyone and dance with all the guys. After that, we went to a cafe to have fruit cocktails and get to know everyone better. There were 4 friends there, they were all great. All of them were friendly, funny, and intelligent but Shafi struck me the most.

Shafi is studying pharmacy at a college in Tanta (if I remember correctly). From the moment you speak to him, you can tell he is an intelligent guy, and if you talk to him a little more, you’d realize his ambition, which I didn’t see so much in the others. One of the things he asked about the most was what it was like to study in America, what the salary was there, and what college was like there. He talked about the fact that in Egypt, you couldn’t choose to do what you like to do. Based on a single score from highschool, you are more or less placed into your field of study. He didn’t outright say that we take the ability to choose our future in America for granted, but I’m sure he was thinking it.

It was obvious that Shafi really isn’t being challenged or able to work to his full potential in Egypt. He pulled me aside later that night to ask me about what options he had for moving to America to study. He told me about how difficult it was to go to America, and he loved hearing about the foreign exchange students that I’ve met at my college. He seemed willing to go to any length to be able to study in America.

That night, for the first time I realized how much we have in America. It never even occurred to me before then that if you’re blessed with intelligence, you work hard, and are determined, that in some cases you can’t get what you want. From birth we’ve had this idea instilled in our heads that you can pull yourself up from your bootstraps, that no matter what your position, you can achieve your goals.

But what if you just can’t?

I think of all the people I’ve met, Shafi impacted me the most. Personally, I’m very academically oriented, college was a default in my life alhamdulillah, not something that may or may not have happened. It was very humbling to realize that there are many many people out there smarter than me, with more potential than me, that just don’t have the same opportunities, I, or any of the people on this trip have.

“I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”
-Stephen Jay Gould

-Hani

July 8, 2007 at 9:43 am 4 comments

Egyptian cats

Cats in the street are a common sight in Egypt. As Americans, we are used to the idea that cats are a domestic animal to be caught, tamed, taken into your house and pampered. Here, cats are only a little bit above rats in terms of respect. The cats here hang out in piles of trash, fight in alleys, and gnaw on bone scraps on the curb. I think you get the idea.

I had a realization the other day. All of these cats I see every day, most likely they are all descended from the cats that were once worshipped by ancient Egyptians.

I have to say that again to give you the full effect. The ancestors of these dirty cats were once considered “gods”.

Whoa. I’ve never had such a powerful example this close to home.

I could leave this post at just that simple observation and let you interpret it as you like, but I’d like to comment a bit. I’m purposely reading too much into this to see what insight can be gained. I thought of two things:

1. No position, wealth, or glory on earth is permanent.

2. Your heritage is not you.

The first is a lesson that we see over and over but somehow seem to always forget. It is stressed in stories in the Quran, in stories like Thamud, ‘Ad, and the Pharaoh. All of these nations became arrogant in their possessions and it brought about their downfall.

The second point can mean many things. It doesn’t matter who your parents are, or what blood you have in you. In the end, you are only worth your actions, decisions, and beliefs. To think that your posessions are you, or your position is you, or your heritage is you, is folly and will lead you astray.

Muslims fall into this mistake very often. I think anyone from a Muslim community can testify to the fact that nationalism is a huge divider in the Muslim Ummah. Muslims often judge each other based on the country they’re from, not from their deen.

Another part of the idea that heritage is nothing is following blindly what your ancestors followed. In the Quran it is mentioned that the Quraish did not want to leave the religion of their fathers. So it was the same with every nation or tribe that was arrogant in their beliefs.

So we see the same thing in modern day. Every day, tens of thousands of babies are born that will never seek truth for themselves, and instead resign themselves to the familarity that they were born with.

Yeah I know I read too much into it… but it made me think anyway.

 

 

-Hani

July 8, 2007 at 8:39 am 1 comment

MY CULTURE… yousaf

Salams,

Akh Yousaf here with a couple of thoughts…

Now that I have been here for about two weeks, I sit here and try to reflect upon the lessons that I have learned and what I have gained, in terms of insight, about myself and my place in this world… And as I sift through the memories of the last fortnight, I find myself astounded at how much I have benefited from this trip… The Muslim history, which I could once only read about in textbooks or hear about from uncles, is right in front of my very eyes… I can see the golden era of a religion that deserves that its followers do more than just speak about the ‘good times,’ and instead do something about its decrepit state…

The citadel of salahadeen… Masjid rafaee and sultan hassan, Masjid al-hussain and jama’a Al-azhar… My past… My history… and my ancestors buried in a land that once tasted the sweetness of Islam… And I can only get but a morsel of that same sweetness, though now dulled by corruption and laziness, as I walk into a classroom of Muslims from all around the world whose sole purpose for existing for the next few weeks is to study a language that ties them to their CREATOR…
SubhanAllah… This land, once a place where Muslims did nothing but flourish has now become a land where the locals seem to know more about the new summer blockbuster than about the men and women who spilt their blood to uphold the banner of Islam… The blood, sweat and tears that soak this desert sand go unnoticed and unappreciated by the people who benefited from the sacrifice made by our forefathers… and when I say forefathers, I don’t mean my Pakistani forefathers, or my Egyptian or Saudi or Palestinian or ‘jerseyan’ forefathers… I don’t mean the ancestors of my parents or ties of blood that mean nothing in the eyes of Allah…

In this country that is so proud of a past that they should be ashamed of… Instead of saying ‘ we once were the stronghold of the deen of Allah and Muhammad (s),’ I hear ‘we built the pyramids.’ Now I have been to the Cairo Museum and the pyramids BUT I was not moved… Don’t get me wrong, these were great picture opportunities and the pyramids are big and architecturally impressive, but that’s it… Just a place where some mislead peoples built some nice looking things for the wrong reasons… But the second I stepped into a place of true significance, I could say ‘I have just stepped into a place where great men and women stood… people who would give everything they had if it meant that they would earn the pleasure of Allah or would be willing to sacrifice their comfort, wealth and lives if it meant that at the end of the day, Cairo and the world would be able to hear the voice of a muathin from atop a minaret… These people who exemplified struggle and commitment would give anything to make sure that the sun set behind the dome of a mosque instead of that of a 7 star hotel…’

And with these reflections, I am able to slowly draw a picture in my mind as to where my place is in this world… Who am I? And though I understand my purpose in this dunya, I have to ask myself, what is my role in Allah’s greater plan? Up till now the only answer I have is that I will not relegate myself to a role of insignificance… On that day when we rise from our graves, I do not want to face my Creator with… ‘While my ummah was facedown in the dirt, I lived my life… I prayed and ‘stuff’ but didn’t do anything about the condition of my people or humanity… I believed in You, O Allah, but while the banner of your deen was set ablaze, I sat back in the comfort of my lethargy and watched, or pretended I didn’t see… and when the world needed this deen and the people craved truth and justice, and the earth craved that You be praised, I sat back and didn’t raise a finger for fear of repercussion from Your creation…’

In this country that has such an identity crisis, I believe I am finding out mine… This country where girls with miniskirts shop side by side with sisters in hijab… where quran is heard in cars that drive on the same street as cars that blast amro diab and nancy ajram…Where men who have great ideas fear to speak up for fear of jail.. In this country of misguided tradition, I have found my culture… My culture… not found in the streets, or in the cafes, or in the clothes that are worn or in the kusharee or fool and ta’maya or in the market or the slang of misr… I have found my culture in the heart of those who still believe that Islam is worth living ad dying for… In the minds of those who believe that this deen of Allah is worth the discomfort that we may feel protecting and practicing it. I have found my culture in the mosque, in the Words of Allah, in my prayer… I have found my culture in the love for my brothers and sisters… I have found my culture in my respect for knowledge and those who study and teach it… I have found my culture in the moments when I stand before my Lord and know that to please Him is worth everything I have…. I have found my culture in Egypt.

May Allah make us of those who are responsible for raising the banner of Islam and May He not replace u… May He flood us with patience and fasten our feet and hearts on Sirat -al Mustqeem… May Allah purify our intentions and allow us to benefit from this time in this foriegn land… May Allah grant us tawfeeq in this time when we have left the comfort of our beds for His pleasure… Ya Rab… May Allah, the One with Whom our souls and fates lie, make us of those whom He loves… And May He send peace and blessings upon our master Muhammad (s), his family, his sahaba and his ummah. Ameen

On a more personal note… I miss my fiance, my family and my friends very much… Another benefit of this trip has been that I have come to truly appreciate their existence and now that I don’t have them whenever I need them, I thank Allah for creating them…

Plus, Musa keeps trying to hold my hand, Ridwan keeps talking about the oppression of… well everybody, Hani may some day explode and kill everybody because no one can be that nice for that long without breaking (plus he keeps making friends with all the crazy taxi drivers), Amr is our bruddas leader and our ‘baba sookur’ (sugar daddy) and Ali keeps sleeping… of course i really shouldn’t be able to observe all this because I remain on the phone …alomost all the time…ok… all the time :o)

Hamdulillah for everyone who reads this….

Your brother in Islam,

~ yousaf

 

July 7, 2007 at 10:42 am 5 comments

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