Advice From an Older Brother
From a lecture given at MIST Nationals 2006 by Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi
Friday July 21st, 2006
“I would like to start by congratulating everyone for making it to the First MIST National Conference. You are the participants and are the future of this ummah. I would like to take this opportunity to give everyone some advice as an older brother. I too once was in your place and it doesn’t seem like it was too long ago. The realty is very soon you guys are going to take over the place of your parents and your community leaders very soon. Very soon you are going to move onto college. Very soon you are going to start working, and very soon you are going to get marred. Very soon you will have kids and before you know it you will be an uncle or auntie. God Forbid!
Before I start my actual lecture I would like to tell you a little bit about my self. I grew up in a fairly religious family and my parents were religious or you can say practicing parents. I was the average Muslim kid growing up and knew very little about my religion. It wasn’t until I started attending the University of Houston when I realized how ignorant people actually were about the religion of Islam, and how ignorant I was about my own religion. I attended the University of Houston in the early 90s. It was here when the desire for knowledge increased in me. It was hearing some of these people talk about Islam and misrepresenting it which really made my desire increase. The desire increased in me to start studying my own religion increased again and again. I got very involved in the MSA at the University of Houston, I remember being extremely active. I even did many halaqas there for the MSA.
I remember 15 years ago sitting here in this university listening to my professors giving lectures. It was in t his same university. I actually had a class in this same exact building and I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember some of the classes that I took here. I remember taking these classes and thinking to myself, how is this actually going to benefit me? How is knowing all this stuff about chemical engineering going to benefit me. I remember taking thermodynamics and thinking to myself, how is this ever going to make me a good person, how is this going to change me? I remember the first day of class when my professor walked in for thermodynamics class, and I remember exactly what he said. He said, “By the end of this class you will be able to calculate how long it will take an ice cube to melt in a cup of coffee!” I thought about it and said to myself, “SO WHAT??” How does knowing how long it takes an ice cube to melt in a cup of coffee this make me a good person? I had this desire to learn about my religion and went through college with this desire and graduated with a bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering.
I even worked at DOW Chemicals for a year, which is the 2nd largest chemical company in the USA. BASF is the largest. I was assigned a project which many people before me couldn’t do and left the project without completing it. I was assigned to finish stage 1. I, alhamadulillah, managed to get to stage 3 within 3 months and was in the process of finishing it. My boss told me you are going to go places. Money was just pouring in and I could go into a store and actually pick what I wanted to get and there was nothing that was holding me back. For the first time in my life I was able to buy what I want with my own money, without worrying about anything.
All this was not something that really satisfied me. I felt incomplete, and wanted more. I still had the desire to study my own religion. So after doing some research into the Islamic Universities, I decided to go to the University of Medina and they accepted me. I spent 10 years at the University of Medina. I did my Bachelor’s in Hadeeth and my Master’s in Theology or Aqeedah from the college of Da’wah. And currently I am doing my Ph.D. at Yale.
Knowledge and Studying your Deen
And I am here in front of you today and if I were to choose again I would go back and do the same thing and do religious studies. I cant even remember what courses I took when I was at UH. My main motivation for choosing to do Islamic studies was that I realized I needed to do something for the ummah. As we speak we have a crisis going through our ummah. We all know, we don’t need to talk more about it, it is all over the news and everything. I know some of you wont leave what you are doing and I dotn expect you to and I don’t want you to. This ummah needs the doctors, engineers, and lawyers. Not everyone in this ummah needs to be an ‘alim or scholar. And Allah definitely doesn’t ask everyone to be a scholar. If you are not going to be a scholar then you should at least know your religion. To me I was ashamed that I knew so much about physics, chemistry, and mathematics compared to what I knew about my religion.
Our communities are in need of scholars though. We see it in our communities often, where we have an iman who is from another world practically and doesn’t understand what we are going through. It is true, they are from another world because ehtye haven’t grown up here. We need to stop importing imams because our communities cant respect them. We see it in our communities that these moulvis and maulanas give fatwa and people don’t respect them, and we cant blame the imams nor can we completely blame the community. There is a big gap between them, we need homegrown scholars and students of knowledge to bridge this gap.
Like I said before not everyone here is going to be a scholar, and nobody expects everyone here to become one. The least everyone should do is learn your religion. Each and every one of you can read a book a month, its not that hard and it only requires you to make some time for it. All you need to do is cut back on some of the things we do. I know all of us have things that we can cut back on. I am not saying stop hanging around friends, or going to movies or what ever it is you do. All I am saying is cut back on some of the things to make time for learning your religion. Our elders came here for whatever reason they came here for, we are growing here, we understand the psychology of Americans but if we don’t have knowledge of religion how are we going to make them understand our religion. How are we going to make da’wah to them and call them to Islam? There is a need for homegrown scholars and fulfilling that need starts with you.
How to study your religion?
1. Study the Qur’an – If you can memorize US History and the 50 States in alphabetical order then surely you can read the book of Allah, you can understand what the book of Allah is saying. Make sure you pull the Qur’an down from that shelf for 10-15 minutes a day and read it. If you don’t read Arabic, then read the translation at least. The Qur’an is the most blessed thing to read there is so much baraka in it. It is so blessed; it is the Speech of Allah.
2. Book of Hadeeth – The best statements were the statements of RasoolAllah (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). Riyadh As Saliheen is a very good book for everyone. Read at least one or two hadeeth a day. The book is written for the laymen and thus it is very easy to understand.
3. Study basic theology. We all need to study a little bit of aqeedah. Each and every muslims needs to know what is the Islamic belief or creed. We need to know the difference between us and them. We need to know what is the difference between God and Father.
4. Another very important area of Islam that we need to study is fiqh. Each and everyone of us needs to know how to worship Allah. How many of us can list the factors that break your wudoo. Forget the differences of opinion, just know at least one opinion from the madhabs what it is and hwo to do it. This is the least everyone should know.
5. Basic Laws of Islam that govern our everyday life or that determine our everyday decisions.
As the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi Wa Sallam) said, “Learning knowledge is obligatory on each and every Muslim”
This the least we need to do and with everything else we do it isn’t that hard at all. Allah doesn’t require you to become a scholar, but atleast learn your religion a little bit, and this way you will learn to respect the imams and ulemaa. And form personal experience let this knowledge come to you form someone who is elder but not too old.
Besides studying your deen, the other point I wanted to stress on was respecting your elders, specially your parents. I know this has been stressed a lot in your lives probably and you probably heard this more than you can count. We have heard all of the ayaat and hadeeth about respecting our parents many times. But do we actually do it? Allah mentions treating your parents with respect right after respecting Allah and Allah also tells us not to even say uff to them. Do you know what uff is in Arabic. In classical Arabic it was used for the dirt under our nails. This is the most trivial and miniscule thing you can think of and that is what uff is meant to represent. Later on the Arabs started to refer to the slightest expression of irritation as uff. This is what we aren’t supposed to tell our parents or feel this way with them. I know I said I wasn’t going to mention the ayaat and hadeeth about respecting your parents but Allah says, “If your parents force you to do shirk, drag you to worship an idol, don’t listen to them, but treat them with respect”. This is talking about the greatest sin a person could commit, this is the one unforgivable sin and Allah says if your parents try to make you do this then still don’t obey them but treat them with respect. If your parents are so evil to make you do shirk and you still have to treat them with respect then what about other things. I can say we all don’t treat our parents the way we are supposed to. We really fall short of treating your parents properly because it is true, we don’t.
One thing that we as men might lack is that we don’t have the tenderness and emotion that we need to. We always want to be the tough people and the ones in charge. We don’t have the love that women have. You will think you love your wife a lot and you have attained the height of love. You think that there could not be a love for a human being that is higher than the love that you have for your spouse. This is what you think but a day will some when you will have a kid, and when you hold your child you will realize what the kind of love you are experiencing which never experienced before. You will realize the actual love that your parents felt when they held you, when you were first born. For the first time in your life you are ready to sacrifice anything to satisfy your child. This is called pure love, you love them just because you want to love them and there is no other reason for this love.
Then it will hit you that this kid that you are holding is going to grow up under your care. You are going to be providing for this child’s upbringing for the rest of your life. You will see this child grow up right in front of you. Only then you are going to realize the kind of sacrifice your parents made to raise you. You are now in a position that your parents were once in, raising your own child. And then it will hit you again. You will remember the way you treated your parents and realize that this kid will grow up and treat you the way you treated your parents. The first time I realized this I was literally crying, because I realized that the kid that I will raise will one day talk back to me the way I talked back to my parents. This right here hits home, this shows you how your actions today will affect you in the future. Its still not too late for you to change, you still have some time before your parents pass away. You know what you did to your parents, and you should expect your children to treat you the same way you treated your parents.
You might be frustrated with the rules and regulations your parents put on you and you think that you are an adult and they need to treat you like an adult. The truth is you are not an adult. You will become an adult when you go to sleep thinking about how you are going to pay rent or worrying about it. I myself thought I was able to live alone, I didn’t even know how much rent was. You will become an adult when you start worrying about how much rent cost and how you are going to pay for it, and you are going to calculate how you are going to pay for your groceries and utilities. You don’t really care about money now, your parents are filthy rich, and if you need anything all you need to do is ask your parents.
You might look at your parents now and say that they are so backward and they are form another world, another time. It might be true because they are from another world and they think differently. They might not know how the world around you works but 30 years down the line, your kids are going to know a new generation. Your kids are going to look at you the same way you look at your parents. Your kids are going to look at you like a backward people you came from another time and it will be true because you will be from another time.
And I am pretty sure for most of you your dad is the last person that you would go for advice or talk to about some issue that you are having. My dad used to be the last person I would talk to. Now he is the first. Just because your dad speaks in an accent doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what going on, he might not know exactly what’s going on but he does have experience. You will realize this later on in your life that your dad or mom are people that you should turn to for advice.
You might not look at how you treat your parents as something that is big but you won’t be able to take back what you did to your parents. Your parents will love you the way no one else will love you. The love a parent gives to his offspring is something that is not found in anyone else. When your parents die, you will never be able to make up any hardship, any tears, any anger, any frustration you caused them. Even if you caused them some kind of irritation or sadness because of a face you made, you will not be able to take that back when they die. If you are angry then shut your mouth and just walk away. There is nothing wrong with bottling up your anger, it might cause you some pain now but in the long run it will save you from other kinds of harm. Allah said even if they force you on an idol you have to respect them, what about an 8 o clock curfew. At a stage in your life you will have to get out and be a real man or woman, this is not the time. A time will come but the time is not now.
These are the best times of your life; you don’t realize it until you lose it. No one will love you the way your mother and father will love you, while you are experiencing that love look at it with respect and love and not suffocation because it is not. They might put these rules on you, okay you are going to get angry, but seal your lips don’t say anything and don’t even show anything on your face because once you say something you cant take it back. I miss being a kid, once you get to my age everyone wants to be a kid again, right now enjoy it. Everyone should feel that my parents are the best parents in the world.
The third point that I wanted to stress was maturity. When your parents see that you are a mature respectful adult, they might actually slack off a little bit and let you do more things that you want to do, the way you want to do it.
There is a problem with America. There is this age or boundary that they call adolescence. In Islam there is no intermediate stage, as soon as you hit puberty you are a full adult. The problem comes when we are given these contradictory ideas from here where you are not a child nor you are an adult. In the shareeah it has been laid down straight, you are a full adult once you hit puberty.
If you feel that you are adults then start acting like adults. See what’s actually going around in the world and keep up with it. Like I said earlier, you are going to one day take charge after the adults go away. You need to know what is going on and find ways to improve the condition of the ummah around you or at least your self your family and community. There is a certain respect that comes with being a Muslim. You should see that you are different and that you are someone that actually cares. Be a mature adult and try to figure out the reason you are on this earth and plan accordingly. There is truly a reason for you to be a person on this earth, and not only that but a Muslim on this earth.
And lastly to wrap up you are in a competition, it doesn’t matter who is going to win and lose. The main benefit for being here is that you are going to get to know other Muslims, and you are going to be with them praying on time, you are going to learn something about the religion and in the process better yourself. So while you are here act like you are mature and try to behave yourself. One incident can ruin the conference name. I don’t have to name other conferences, we all know about them, that due to laxness on their part the entire conference has a bad reputation. Make sure you observe the proper etiquette when you deal with other people and specially deal with other genders. I guarantee you there dozens of parents out there that didn’t want their kids out here at this conference because of the gender interactions that happen at places of gathering. I guarantee you right now your parents are worried about what you are doing.
InshaAllah if everyone behaves themselves and observes the proper etiquette then MIST will be known as a place that can handle itself properly. It will be trusted by the parents. They will see that oh look its MIST we can trust them with our kids. And if we are able to maintain this reputation, the MIST Conference will grow bigger and bigger every year. If we have 3 or 4 regions being represented this year, we will have the double the following year, and more the next year. MIST can be known as a beacon of light for the west as a symbol of Islam in the high schools.”