I fell ill with my asthma in VA and had a lot to do so I have had a delay in my postings. It was nice to see so many brothers I hadn’t seen in so long and I also enjoy being in the DC area. It is a pleasant place to live, like NYC, that can make one justify the outrageous cost of living.
This was a piece that I wrote after attending an iftar program the other night at Northern Virginia Community College….
Last night I attended a special Ramadan event and iftar at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, VA. The event was attended by over 300 Muslim students and a number of interested non-Muslim onlookers.
The school itself is perhaps 40% Muslim and the MSA is by far the largest campus organization. One can find a mixture of skin-tight low-rider jeans and complete jilbabs and hijabs on campus and sometimes you can even find both on the same sister such as on young lady last night who appeared to have on a mixture of tight-jeans, a belly-dancer shirt decorated with what I can only describe as silver shingles, and a hijab.
Amongst the brothers you also had a mix of those who seemed more overly observant and those who looked like they were auditioning for the next Jadakiss video. Ethnically there were a lot of Somalis, all sorts of Arabs and a handful of South Asian Muslims along with several African-American Muslims. I was one of two white Muslims and I had a chance to meet a Bolivian woman who just became Muslim two-weeks ago masha’Allah.
The speaker was a brother named Kamal Makee whom I have known for years. He is a brother originally from Sudan but has lived in VA since he was a young teenager. For years he has been a student of the eminent Sudanese scholar Jaffar Sheikh Idris (May Allah reward him and his family) and Sheikh Ali al-Timimi and began teaching classes at Dar al-Arqam in Virginia which is now closed.
Kamal gave a wonderful lecture entitled “Why Islam” which I will try and get an audio of Insh’Allah. In this lecture he discussed the basic principals of belief in Islam and of the two extreme positions in Islam; one position is extremism in religious observance and the exaggeration of certain aspects of the deen and the other extreme position is to not observe Allah while still remaining in Islam or being sinful. Kamal stated that in America the only one that is considered an extremist is the one who is extreme in religious practice and the one who is extreme in the secular or sin is not an extremist. Islam is the middle-path, and what is the middle-path; is it the so-called modernist moderates today or does the Prophet (s) represent the middle-path?
The crowd was generally receptive, but more than a few were more concentrated on intermingling with the opposite sex, and in addressing this issue Kamal said “you know brothers think of the wisdom of brothers praying in the front at the Masjid. If the women prayed in front and bent over in front of the men the Masjid would be full all day and every day with brothers” which brought laughter from the crowd.
It is also amusing to note that almost all of the brothers, and many of the sisters, dressed in a hip-hop style and walked the hall as if they were walking towards mainline in a maximum security prison. These are immigrant brothers and sisters that come from middle-class (and even wealthy) suburban families who have never even seen the streets much less spent any time in the streets. However, one cannot be judgmental, because hip-hop has given these young people a message they can relate to and identify with as opposed to the voices they hear in mainstream American society. Islam is nothing strange in the world of hip-hop and Muslims can be found at all levels of the industry. Imagine a practicing Muslim like Mos Def being accepted in Country Music or modern rock.
I also had the chance to seen an outstanding Israeli film last night titled Ushpizin. It is about the holiday of Succoth, where Jews build ritual huts to live in outside of their homes to remind themselves that they are only guests in this world, and it is traditional to have guests for such an event. The story centers around an observant couple who come from a rebellious background and their prayerful desire to have a son while they are interrupted in Succoth by guests from the main characters past who have escaped from an Israeli prison. It is an excellent film and I highly recommend it. One reason I like this film so much is that it does not seek to demonize religion, rather creates an understanding of the lives of observant Jews, and it has powerful messages of forgiveness and transformation.