Friday, 7 January 2011

Winter in My Heart

A brilliant post, MasyaAllah written by a brother who was one of the participants of FOSIS Winter Conference 2010. I did plan to write a sharing too, but poor me, still struggling to divide my time wisely.

Therefore, hope this review will compensate that. What I can say about the event is, it is marvellous. Being the one and only Malaysian, or correctly the only South-East Asian, I really have a sweet moments among the sisters (all who I 've never knew or met before).

Thanks Allah, for giving me such an opportunity to feel the ukhuwah deep inside in my heart, for Your sake. Two days were just enough to glue the memories firmly in my soul.

Hope to see all of you again. If not in this dunya, may we meet in the jannah. InsyaAllah. Please make duaa..

Cambridge’s Classic Chocolate Cheese Cake: FOSIS Winter Council Conference

Reflections by: birdkhan

About a month or so ago…
Normal post fajir routine: laptop, Mozilla, gmail. Oh hello what’s this?
Nada Mansy [Team FOSIS] November Shout-out! … hmm… what’s this one all about then?
‘CLICK’, (loading…loading…loading [curse you Hull Internet]…load) …ah finally… (Scrolling down, FOSIS logo)…
Gasp!

FOSISWINTERCONFERENCE

OH MY GOD! Omygod omygod omygod!!! TOO SIK… woah, hold up… University of Sussex, where is that?

Google map, search: University of Sussex, enter … (loading…) BRIGHTON?!! BRIGHTON! Where is Brighton (zoom out)? OH MY DAYS, it’s on the other end of middle earth… (thetrainline.com, train times and fares) … nope, no way Jose Mourinho, I’m not going! And I don’t finish classes by then either. RUBBISH!

A Weekish later

Amal Saffour (no subject):
“You have to come to Winter Annual Conference… I accept no excuses” … (sighing and feeling defeated) … ok, fi sabilillah.

During the course of the next week a great deal of research was done on the cheapest way to get to Brighton. The outcome was hardly bright; rather it was grim as Grimsby. A painfully long and pricey trip was ahead of us.

A weekish before Winter Annual Conference (WAC)

Nada Mansy [TEAM FOSIS] – a special message for you from our brother Salman
What does this dodo want? Does he think he can make things better with a smiley face?“Salam… blah blah.. Winter conference next week… blah blah… update…”O BALLE!!! (Victory dance) … it’s in CAMBRIDGE! Salman, you legend!

The next few days were a blur. All I knew was that inshallah I will be going to the wikidest thing ever.

Friday 10th December 2010

Sleeping bag, check. Winter clothes and FOSIS hoody, check, check. Pen and paper, check. IPod check. National rail card, check. One Sudanese friend and one Belgian/Moroccan-French speaking friend, check, check.

Ahead of us lay a 3 and a bit hour journey with 2 changes to Cambridge. With a satisfied smile and an excited mood, I could not wait to arrive in Cambridge and meet my FOSIS family. May sound pretty sad that FOSIS conferences make me excited, but then again I do live in Hull:one begins to appreciate the little things in life. Throughout the journey, memories of my last WAC were coming back to me.

Whilst my Moroccan friend was acting like a typical tourist taking photos, and the other doing what he does best – sleep (stereotypes can be so true at times) – I was mentally preparing myself for the weekend to come. Islamic lectures, brothers’ jokes, heated discussions and best of all, jam3 wa qasar (combining and shortening of prayers) – who wouldn’t feel excited? Hit Cambridge, and we’re greeted by a dude with an afro, wearing a deep Sufi green scarf – things couldn’t have started on a better note.

Friday was mainly for the early birds… or those birds that had to fly from far. We nested in the Abu Bakr mosque conveniently round the corner from Mill Road, the halal food road of Cambridge. Once arrived, familiar faces began to appear and the usual fiqh of greeting was adhered to: a combination of long hugs, wrestling, crushing and brotherly love. Then meeting the new faces with a smile, a handshake and if you felt like it, a power-slam (although that is rare).

However it continues to amaze me how only in a matter of hours strangers, could feel like your long lost friends and siblings. The reason is quite simple; no brownie points for guessing that it is because of our beautiful religion of Islam. Humans are not very different physiologically or in psychological behaviour (trust me, I’m a medic). Rather the differences lie in our ideological perceptions of the world and our relation to it. The greatness of Islam is that it even unites us on the ideological basis – Muslims across the globe believe and follow the same Quran that states,

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

And I (Allâh) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).(Surah Dhariyat, Ayat 56)

A pillar of our faith is that the best of worshippers is the Mercy to Mankind – the coolness of our eyes – our beloved Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. So we are all united in our duty to follow his sunnah, his practice. The sugar on top is the fact that we are brought together at this event by one common cause, the betterment of the youth whether Muslim or not. So when I meet a certain Salman Waqar (Sally as he is known to some) after months of being apart, the love just automatically flows. Then again he does look very similar to me (‘No,’ to the Arabs reading this; we are not all the same).

This outburst of emotions did make us quite hungry, so to Mill Road we marched. And although the correct sunnah of FOSIS/ISoc brothers is to celebrate unity with fried chicken, to our disappointment, and for some, a horror, Chicken Cottage was already invaded by a sea of hijabs (what is the world coming to? *sigh *). None of us were brave enough to order a 2 piece chicken meal; a 4 piece meal would have been suicide. A massive Turkish meal with rice and lamb was not entirely a bad substitute, Alhamdulillah. Once fed and dopamine levels at their highest, sweet slumber was fluting its tune and like children to the Piped Piper, we followed. At least I did; not too sure about the others. Food had increased their energy levels and only a Royal Rumble would have settled them to sleep, and boy did the mosque rumble. Interestingly after every rumble it would be followed with boyish giggles. I on the other hand, dropped like a rock.

Saturday 11th December

“ALLAHUAKBAR, ALLAHUAKBAR!!! ….“ The perks of sleeping in a mosque; you can’t miss salah. The Azan blasted out of the speakers and right into my heart, causing it to jolt in surprise. It’s a miracle that I didn’t jump and hit my head on the ceiling. Regardless, I was awake and fajir salah took place soon after, Alhamdulillah. Whilst most of the shabaab began crawling back to their sleeping bags and craving for the post-fajir nap (a class A drug), there was one group that looked fresh as ever – ‘the freshies’.

Technically being one, my ‘freshy-radar’ detected their presence. To be fair, they are quite easy to spot. They huddle together, their skins definitely not from Topman nor Next. During winter they are coated with enough layers to withstand an Antarctic blizzard, they always travel heavy and most often than not, they are muttering away with a friend in a language other than English. They have odd practices as well like sleeping early, waking up early and drinking tea like water.
Bless ‘em, they become so happy learning a new English phrase, “Hasan, why you take za Mickey? (Laughter)” The more classic symptoms are shown by postgraduate students. We undergraduates are harder to detect – we subtly infiltrate our hosts, slowly but surely changing our accent until we dissolve in with our UK peers. The ones we had here though were postgraduates, and they were Arabs, and one of them was Masri Ya GAMA3A (Egyptian, O people)!

As I was flirting with idea of a nap, the Masri brother, and I’m not making this up, called out, “YA SABAAAAAA’,” an Arabic chant. Basically he wanted our attention so that we could have a Quran circle . Although my nafs was saying “longage,” I joined them. I hadn’t sat in a Quran circle for a long time. We sat and recited Surah Muhammad, a beautiful surah with gems throughout. Our Masri brother turned out to be some wikid qari; he busted out the AbdulBasit in him – very beautiful ma’shAllah. This was followed by a Tafsir and one ayat that struck me the most was,

فَلَا تَهِنُوا وَتَدْعُوا إِلَى السَّلْمِ وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ وَاللَّـهُ مَعَكُمْ وَلَن يَتِرَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ

So do not weaken and call for peace while you are superior; and Allah is with you and will never deprive you of [the reward of] your deeds (Surah Mohammad Ayat 35)

Is there anything else that we Muslims need other than Allah? He says He is with us and He calls us superior than the rest of the people on earth and our command is to call for peace. SubhanAllah!

مَا قَدَرُوا اللَّـهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَقَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ

They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. (Surah Al Hajj Ayat 74)

This was truly the perfect start for the day. Once the spirit was fuelled, the belly needed its portion and a light breakfast did the job. Now that time was short and we needed to be at the lecture theatre soon, we got ready to leave – I was wearing my shiny FOSIS hoody, oh yeah!
We left the mosque as a group, led by an Amir who didn’t know Cambridge, but was armed with a Google map on his mobile phone. It so happened that EDL were doing their march today, and surprise, surprise, just as we left the mosque a car drove past, “GO HOME PAKIS!” It was disappointing. This is Cambridge, an educated place with educated people and where you probably receive a degree for just being born here. Reality is quite tasteless, but we just marched on.
The city was very beautiful; the parks, the churches, the colleges, the markets, the pavements… everything was oozing some grand history. Everything said, “Look at me” in a subtle and humble way and it is quite easy to just lose yourself in the scenery. You could be sure that my Belgian/Moroccan-French speaking friend had his IPhone out going trigger happy with his camera app.

Today was the official start of the Winter Annual Conference and our location was the prestigious Gonville & Caius College. You enter through the gate of Humility, greeted by the typical courtyards with lawns and through the gate of Virtue and into the lecture theatre passing the gate of Honour. Reading its history, 12 Noble prize winners have hailed from this college and many notable personalities have or still reside here including Stephen Hawkings, Francis Crick (the co discoverer of the DNA structure) and funnily enough, Jimmy Carr. The line up from FOSIS this year looked quite promising and exciting, but as with many student events, you can’t always guarantee the agenda to be the one that is proposed because of obvious problems that could occur. However a good event is one that is flexible enough to accommodate for changes without leaving the crowd annoyed, and ma’shAllah, FOSIS did this very well.

I don’t know how to describe the day except to call it a perfect chocolate cheese cake. Starting from the bottom with the crumbly bit and the soft cheese that makes you go “mmm.” Then your tongue meets the complementary gooey, mushy chocolate bit in the middle, making you whisper “ooo.” Then comes the hard chocolate top, the perfect ending to a delicious and scrumptious dessert; you definitely would exclaim an “ahhh.” And earthly heaven is attained when from utter generosity someone adds a strawberry with chocolate sprinkles. Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad was definitely the cheese.

To be honest, I did not know what to expect from Sheikh Murad. A lot is said about him, his approach and his style, but I never had the privilege to listen to him live before. He does have a presence about him; a tall, blonde hair and blue eyed Caucasian man wearing simple modest clothes (his trousers are baggier than normal) and of course his distinct red cap. Him being Caucasian was enough for all the Asians to look at him as he entered the room, all of them thinking, “Hai Allah, yeh tho gora hain!” (Omygod, He’s white!).
He was introduced by the very chilled out and smooth speaking Cambridge ISoc president – smooth speaking is probably programmed in all Cambridge students. Khair, there stood our Sheikh, with no notes, his cap now off, and he began his speech. There is a saying in Urdu, “unki zabaan se phool jarrai thai,” meaning, “from his tongue flowers were blooming.” Every word and letter that Sheikh Murad spoke from the beginning to the end reverberated in the depths of our souls. His style was beautifully flowing with gem after gem being gifted to us and all eyes were transfixed on to him.
His speech was actually very simple to understand, and not going over heads at all and even though he does have a stern looking face, he made us smile and laugh and what was more striking was the message of his speech. Here stood a Professor of Cambridge University with his ocean of knowledge, speaking to an audience who could potentially be key cogs in the future of this country, and all his knowledge boiled down to one main point: Bring back the Age of Happiness like the Salaf did. The only way this can be done is when we love the aakhira more than dunya, so be grateful and show your shukur by praying your five salahs on time. Beauty and subtlety can only be found in simple things.

This heavy dose of ‘wow’ needed time for digestion, and a timely break was given. Now, I am someone who can’t sit still. I need things to do and having had a lot of experience in running events from the backstage, I was itching to help and so I offered and Alhamdulillah the opportunity was given. So I ran around doing stuff, the small stuff that people may not always notice, but Alhamdulillah it didn’t mean I missed out on any of the action. The chocolate gooey and cakey bit was yet to come.
The mushy, comforting stuff began with a sketch of three ISoc Presidents having a heated discussion about the priorities of ISocs. Yours truly was one of the actors and given the honour to act as a hardcore speaking about how our priority should be in taking people away from haraam, whilst the other two highlighted the importance of political activities and establishing essential worship on campus. The idea was to open the floor for the ISocs to speak about their issues and let FOSIS know what their priorities are on campus, so that FOSIS can help them accordingly. I’m not too sure if that was fully achieved, but Alhamdulillah a lot of good points were raised.

The liquid chocolate in all of this was the lovable Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam Al Kawther. He and his turban make you smile, but again, I haven’t heard him live before. His topic was picking up from Sheikh Murad with putting unity as priority and leaving differences to the side. There is much that unites us as humans and as Muslims than things that divide us and it is pitiful that in our day and age we are divided on such small matters. His tangents were quite useful as well which included his experiences of narrow minded people. May Allah reward him for his time and effort. Ameen. He was sandwiched in more cakey parts from Usman Ali and Br Waqas who spoke about the importance of working with the community, explaining that the gap between the different extremes in society is too large and work needs to be done in order to fill that gap.
Mushiness finally met up with the hard chocolate layer. Allah knows best how much I love this layer, because it encompasses the essence of everything you want from life (don’t ask how, it just does…this article has turned out longer than planned and I am craving chocolate cheesecake). I was outside the lecture theatre doing something during one of the breaks and now coming back into a bustling lecture theatre. My gaze stops, I halt in my movement and my heart skips a beat. Brothers and sisters, Dr Hany El-Banna had entered the building.

I am actually not too sure where to start about speaking about this man, and yes he is only a man. To see him like a superman or superhuman would actually do injustice to his character and his work. But he is most definitely an extraordinary human being. If you really want to see a person who is content with his Lord, one only has to look at Dr Hany. His eyes humbled, almost as if he is lacking sleep, his face well kept with a distinct smile constantly there to greet you and I and most definitely a noor, a light projecting from him.
His classic style of engaging the public, asking them questions and joking with them, trying to get some miskeen (or not) brother married to a sister (Rashid, I’m looking at you), makes him a father figure for all of us, whether we are Arab or not; he is that lovable. He whole heartedly believes in the Arabic proverb, “خير الكلام ما قل ودل“ – “the ideal phrase is that which is short and succinct”; his speeches never go on too long. Today he had four basic points to make,
Come closer to the wall and fill the gaps: Don’t wait for the problem to come to you, but rather take a proactive approach in Dawah. Look for the gaps in society and you will always find a hole to fill.

Find alternative solutions: Don’t get stuck in one mentality and thought process. Humans are complex beings and so simple things will not always work. Think outside the box and be different.

Operational engagement: “You have to understand grassroots” (Amandla, I can see you smiling from here). You have to directly engage with people and dirty your hands in the soil to be effective in dawah.

What is next? Allah’s work doesn’t stop at the end of a project, but only when the soul leaves the body. We should be constantly thinking of the next thing to do.

His life story, as well as his powerful and effective ideas, provides inspiration on how to achieve all of this. As I sat at the top of the lecture theatre listening to him speak or sing with the FOSIS president, I found myself crying and battling tears. Here I am, a man at the prime age of 22, full of energy and strength and I have achieved nil because I think I have sufficient excuses to show for my poor outcomes. How shameful is it that the world is in need of good people and good effort, and I am here being selfish, still at the first step of battling sins. A dua escapes my lips, “Oh Allah, make me better than him and give me satisfaction of the heart.” Ameen.

Lost in the flavour, I can’t remember when my teeth sank into the strawberry. A myriad of images of pure brotherly love gushed their way through the night. Whether cleaning the lecture theatre, or standing in the cold outside Teks’s Burger and singing nasheeds, or in the mosque playing signs or participating in the “N –factor”, brothers junior or senior were all engaged in the emotions and feeling of pure love. This is what I came for, my fix of love for the sake of Allah, to be around sincere people who do nothing but remind me of Allah and his Mercy that He has bestowed on me and increase my love for the Mustafa, Habib of Allah, Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessing be upon him.

I slept happy that night with the dua soothing my ears,
ان تدخلني ربي الجنة …هذا اقصى ما اتمنىوتَهبني الدرجات العُليا ….يا ذا المِنة يا رب

Sesungguhnya solatku, ibadahku, hidupku,dan matiku hanya semata-mata bagi Allah, Tuhan semesta alam.

Nur Suhaila Zulkifli
Self Access Centre,
Trent Building,
Nottingham.

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