Friday, September 14, 2012

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Ta’Alah Wa Barakatuhu.

So there’s this thing. It’s something completely phenomenal and amazing. Once you get it

there’s no turning back. Most people try to use this thing for good, but others don’t quite see it that

way. Then there are the people in the middle. The people like me. See, I love doing anything that’s

good. I want to perform actions that only benefit this world. I want to be someone with a pure heart,

someone who always knows right from wrong. This is why I am Muslim. Because there is no other way

for me to live my life when I want these things. There is no other way for me to live my life that is right.

Islam is so pure and honest. It is the only thing that keeps me sane. It is the only thing that keeps me

complete. It makes me feel like I am someone.

Sometimes it’s very hard to feel that way. When you’re out and about it’s easier to act like

someone that you’re not. At home you’re one person. With your friends you’re another. In classes

you’re another. Do you call this a multi-personality disorder? I call it being human. We let ourselves

get stretched in tons of directions because...why? We all have bits and pieces in us that come from

different places but what is the outcome? In my case it is someone who is cut in half, someone who

wants to be one person but is another. I want to be so good, but I’m stuck on average. I don’t do as

much as I should, yet I do too much of what I shouldn’t.

I’ll let you in on something. This isn’t just how I feel. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself

agreeing with what you’re reading. I hope no one agrees, but let’s be serious. This is what’s wrong with

today’s youth. Heck, this is what’s wrong with today’s human population. We have the bodies and the

minds to do incredible things ad we just don’t. What some people would give to have what we have. It

brings tears to my eyes. And it has to stop.

My friends, it shouldn’t be this difficult. My brothers and sisters, we shouldn’t be so confused.

There’s good and bad in us all. It’s the one we act on that sets us apart from everyone and everything

bad and evil. If you can recognize those words from Sirius Black then you are a marvelous person.

Yes, I am a nerd. But it is completely true. It’s perfectly said here. “There is nothing heavier in the

scales than good character.” I won’t tell you who said that one. You need to figure it out for yourself

and then maybe you will find yourself going in the right direction. Now Ramadhan has passed but that

shouldn’t stop us from continuing the good patterns that we started. How many of you have begun

listening to music again, hmm?

Well…that thing that I was talking about before…that thing that is what makes us do all these

things. It’s something that can be so hard and frustrating to understand, and it is the very thing that we

are all so grateful for. We hate it sometimes, but we love it always. Will you use it for bad or for good?

Well it begins with which you want. You say you want to be good but lack motivation? Well what are

the good things you want to do? Now how do we actually make ourselves physically do these things,

especially if they’re on a daily basis? Here’s how. The secret formula. Tear your eyes away from those

hilarious but useless memes and take off your earphones for a second. Yeah we get it. The lazy

college senior is lazy and the college freshman is naïve about college life. Okay already.

Well look at that. You’ve just realized that without doing useless stuff, you’ve opened up the

next three hours of your day! Didn’t you notice it’s time to pray Asr? Whether you’re at school, at work,

or at home, remember the world is your masjid. You look on the calendar and what do you know.

Project downtown is tomorrow! Whaaat?! Yeah. It’s that easy. We just make it hard. You don’t have to

be one of those in-between people. We can all be 100% good because we actually try and don’t sit

around and let life pass us by. Then we’ve all graduated from UIC and keep saying how quickly the

time has passed and regret not doing more. Don’t let this happen to you! It doesn’t have to be this way

at all. By the way that “thing”? It’s called life.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to submit this piece to AlBayyan and if you’re reading this in

the newsletter then that means that they agree with me too. Now I will make wudu and I will pray.

Before I go though, I want to welcome all new students to the UIC MSA. This won’t be the last that you

hear from me, inshAllah. I’ll be here, in the AlBayyan newsletter, during MSA Assassins (aww yeahh),

during midterms, during Fast-A-Thon, during finals, and next semester. I’ll be watching over all of you

like a hawk. Okay, that’s creepy. But seriously, I will challenge myself to be a better Muslim, and KEEP

it that way. I hope you join me. Let’s call this “The Great Quest”. We’re in for a wonderful year.



“Be content with what Allah has given you, and
you will be among the richest of people.”

The Purpose of your Education at the University

Education is at your disposal at the University, it is the responsibility of the student to pursue
the knowledge. As reported in the IPEDS Graduation Rate Survey, 53% of the freshmen completed their bachelor’s within six years of their enrollment. What happened to the rest of the 47% of the students? The academic structure at UIC is such that it allows multiple avenues for students to discover their own personal identity. Not only does being at the University signify that you are on an upper level academically but also that students at this level have the special opportunity to paint anything they desire onto their canvas or university transcript, so to speak.

Let’s suppose that a student that is a “pre-med” and decides to embark on the journey of
becoming a doctor. Where does that journey begin? Perhaps it was as soon as he/she enrolled in the
University. Or even before entering college and during their own voluntary experiences. No matter
where you begin, let’s applaud the mere fact you made it thus far. So now that we are here, what is
expected of these motivated students? Let us take a closer look.

Will there be some kind of initiation required for me to be labeled a pre-med student? Do I have
to join some sort of club that boasts its mission? The answer is yes and no. The reality of the situation is that the University gives the student freedom. Students at the University level are required to select a major of their choice. This is where the student has the freedom to drop everything in the past and decide for themselves a future withholding many different promises. Therefore you must choose carefully. Besides the selecting of a major, there are many resources available within your reach to help grasp a quality education.

The resources at UIC can range from the writing center in Grant Hall to the Science Learning
Center (SLC) in SES. Teaching assistants and other faculty are constantly looking for motivated
individuals that seek knowledge. Learning does not stop there; many different people of many different backgrounds are there to learn from you and for you to learn from them. Biologically we are of the same species! Limiting yourself to only class work will essentially not provide ample opportunity for growth in your career goals. Clubs and activities are available only to help students get involved socially within the context of the UIC community and beyond.

Let’s make it a point to help each other in the terms of academia; a group of doctors is more
beneficial than just one. Learning from others past experiences will develop better doctors, or any other form of a professional. UIC is in need of these kinds of people who are there to sacrifice their time to better help the sense of community that UIC offers. So don’t be shy and show up on time insha’ Allah.

Lastly as you embark on this journey of knowledge it is important to be conscious of why it is
you chose the direction of your own individual path. Does choosing a particular major benefit you or someone else? It may be possible that your chosen path will not work. Learning experiences whether
positive or negative often can be the result of where you end up along this journey of seeking
knowledge. May Allah (swt) grant you the best of what education has to offer as well as success.
By Muzaffar Khan

"I do this for the money!....said no teacher ever."

Teachers Union is striking
they are choosing not to teach
many people are taking this fact
and misinterpreting what it means.
Media is media, no matter what the subject
So before you point fingers, be sure to get your facts checked
They're doing this for social justice
not at all for money, power, or fame
despite the hate, showing great patience
while the world chooses them to blame
claiming that they're selfish
and they don't deserve a dime
when the fight was never for money
but for the students, this whole time
it's a fight FOR education
not a fight against it
try to understand the union
then do your part to support it.
while other countries honor teachers
here, they are made a mockery
no wonder we excel in not math and science
but in incarceration and poverty
invest in the future of your country
support the people who actually care
the ones who mold minds and change hearts
and when smoke clears, will still be there.
they will still be there with open arms and smiling faces
because that's just what teachers do
its in their aqida to love their students
yes, YOUR teachers love YOU.
understand the conflict fully
before making blanket statements
support teachers and empower youth
and watch your country conquer greatness
By Nida Iftekaruddin

AlBayyan September Issue

Click here to read the issue online.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tormenting the Peacefully Praying

Within one week, we witnessed unfolding stories of hate crimes against the peacefully praying. I cannot wrap my mind around the thinking process behind throwing an acid bottle, lighting a fire, or shooting a place of worship. What gratification comes out of these radical acts of violence against groups of people who are just praying? Regardless of their religion, race, or social class, these innocent worshipers were just praying to their lord.

Unfortunately, because of our biased media and few bigoted politicians, frequently tossing around the term “Islamophobia” caused people to fear Islam comfortably. This leads to the torment of the peacefully praying.

How can we change this?

First, let us avoid using the term “Islamophobia”. Yes, I have used it in this piece twice, but aside that, I feel that the more we use this term, individuals who are not Muslim literally see “fear of Islam”. Though used in the media frequently, this term is similar to a fad that will stop at one point. When? God knows. Nevertheless, the least we can do is not to contribute to harmful propaganda.

Second, it is time for us to step outside of our boxed environments and branch out. We need to make a constant presence in our communities. Whether it is sending food baskets to our neighbors during Eid or holiday greeting cards, acts of kindness and benevolence make a difference. Even inviting our neighbors to family dinner sparks interesting conversations and, essentially, friendships. Too many people fear these sorts of ideas or they feel like they do not have the time to interact with our neighbors. However, we see them often when leaving or entering the house and even a small gesture, such as, sending an Eid card is quite simple.

Third, we must constantly remind ourselves that the few individuals attempting to hurt this Ummah are uneducated people who do not respect worshipers. No matter the religion- Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, or Hinduism- everyone is praying. There is no need to chastise other religions, but rather unite, respect, and protect places of worship.

I pray inshAllah (God-Willing) that we strive to become the best role models we can be in our communities and attempt to overcome the fear of interacting with our own neighbors.

Additionally, remember to pray for the countless innocent in this dunyah who are victimized, oppressed, and abused in Syria, Burma, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, this country, and every place where Allah is worshiped.

-Ayesha  Qazi

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Combating Islamophobia at the Grassroots Level

I was going to write an article with tips about how to make the last days of Ramadan count, replete with reminders of the many opportunities we have - even those of us busy with jobs or families - to sit down and read even a little Qur'an or do some dhikr (remembrance of God) or dua (supplications). (As a side note: duas are especially needed for our brothers and sisters who are suffering at the hands of oppressors, and for those who lack access to food, clean water, stable shelter, and educational and economic opportunities in so many places around the world; may Allah ease their pain and improve the situation of all of them.) And truthfully that's only really one part of it. Ramadan is also about sincere reflection, recognizing and attempting to change those bad aspects of ourselves, whether it is a propensity to lie, backbite, get angry easily, smoke, or drink, for example. When writing this kind of article, I was faced with a realization that most of us already know these things and are currently working on all of this, Alhamdulillah (all praise is for God). I deleted what I had already written, and was looking for something different to talk about. And then the topic hit me, over and over again, within the span of a few short and eventful days.

First, there was a tragic shooting at a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Wisconsin by a white supremacist, killing six Sikh worshippers. Very soon after, a mosque in Joplin, MO was burned to the ground. Then, pig's feet were thrown at a mosque in California while Muslims were praying there. Then, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) agreed with a person at a town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village who was concerned about the threat of Islam in America, and added onto that argument by proclaiming that radical Muslims in Chicago's suburbs were "trying to kill Americans every week."  Then, air rifle pellets were shot at MEC in Morton Grove, damaging the brick exterior. It is clear that the situation has deteriorated quickly, and these problems are here and now, at our very doorstep.

In the aftermath of the gurdwara shooting, several news reports made sure to explain that Sikhs are not Muslims, intimating, perhaps, that the senseless violence would have made more sense had the victims been Muslims. If you look closely, you will see that too many people in our country are consciously or unconsciously painting Islam and Muslims with the same brush - that we are all supposedly a threat to America and the American way of life, or that we all share in some kind of collective blame for the actions of a few very misguided people. We are that mysterious "other" that politicians love to scare people with to score votes from ignorant people.  Rep. Joe Walsh chose his language carefully when scaremongering about Muslims trying to kill Americans - he implied that Muslims cannot be Americans; Muslims are one group (outgroup) and Americans are another entirely different group (ingroup). Of course, this could not be farther from the truth. We are both Muslim and American, and proudly so. Yet politicians and well-funded Islamophobic hate groups have been spreading a different message and they seem to be achieving their goal: a September 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 47% believe that Islam's values are at odds with American values, and 41% would be uncomfortable if a teacher at an elementary school in their community was Muslim. These are just two examples that give some insight into the attitudes and fears that the average (non-Muslim) American has about us and our faith. It is incredibly saddening and frightening that anti-Muslim sentiment in this country, having been on the decline since 9/11, has reared its ugly head once again and has risen drastically since 2010, due to dedicated, vocal, and well-funded voices of hate.

We might be thinking that Average Joes must be so dumb for buying into the garbage being peddled by these guys, but we have to realize and accept that humans are lazy and, in the absence of any other information, will just accept what they see on TV or hear on the radio and use that to inform their beliefs. The media does not do us any favors by giving airtime to Islamophobes and dedicating extensive airtime and resources to stories that play into their narrative, like stories of "homegrown terror" plots. In a society obsessed with spectacle, the media will always prefer to air stories with shock value, rather than the obvious, boring stuff, like Muslim groups in the U.S. unreservedly condemning terrorism and declaring that it has no place in Islam (yawn).

What are we to do? It might seem kind of hopeless, but the fears, anger, prejudice, and hatred that is affecting our community primarily stems from ignorance. In general, we have not done a very good job of showing people what Muslims really are like (or should be like), and instead we have let Islamophobic groups fill the knowledge void. The depressing poll numbers about public fear/distrust of Muslims seem to stem from another poll number: 62% of Americans polled said they do not personally know a Muslim American. That is almost two-thirds of the country! And what about those respondents, who do, in fact, know a Muslim American personally? That group's percentage of people having negative perceptions of Muslims is drastically lower. Knowledge is power.
How many of us have non-Muslim friends and acquaintances? How many of us personally know and interact regularly with our non-Muslim neighbors? Coworkers? Classmates? How many of us have invited a non-Muslim friend or neighbor over to our house for dinner? Or, in the spirit of Ramadan, for iftar (the fast-breaking meal at sunset)? If you have been doing these kinds of things, good for you. Keep it up. For the rest of us, myself included: we have got some work to do. Every opportunity that slips through our fingers is a loss for all of us. Each and every one of us has the powerful ability to be "brand ambassadors" for our faith. We are proud of our faith and blessed to have been given it, and if we are awesome, then gosh darn it, we should not keep our awesomeness to ourselves.

We have an obligation to not only be good Muslims on the inside, whether that's inside our homes or our mosques or our hearts, but also to be good Muslims on the outside. Of course we might not be the best Muslims, but we should strive to be, and that includes perfecting our character, integrity, and manners. If we can do that - or even just try our best to do that - and reach out and engage the non-Muslims around us, we can do our community a great service. I am not talking about running and telling your neighbors that you are Muslim and that you have such-and-such good qualities. Not only would that be weird, but it would also be ineffective. I am talking about offering a smile and engaging your neighbors in a friendly conversation, learning more about them and offering them an opportunity to learn more about you, showing them through action how a Muslim conducts him- or herself. It will eventually come up that you are Muslim and at that moment, you have the power to make that person really believe that Muslims simply cannot be as evil or un-American as Islamophobes say we are. It is kind of like Inception, except used for good.

While it might seem odd for one person to have such a big impact on another's beliefs like that, that is exactly the way human psychology works. People always remember and always bring up vivid anecdotes. Imagine for a second, hypothetically, that almost all Muslims are bad people. If your neighbor knows you well, and knows you are a Muslim and a good person, you will forever stick out in their head as the exception to the rule. And they will always think of you when someone makes a blanket statement against Muslims: "Well, I know this one young woman, and she's not like that at all..." "But my neighbor Ahmed is such a sweet boy..." And that is how we can show people what Islam is all about - being a responsible, active citizen, committed to one's family and friends, striving one's utmost to be a truthful, helpful, generous, and compassionate person. And all of that is due to our commitment to the commandments of Allah and the clear example set by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu alayhi wa sallam, peace be upon him).

When this Ramadan ends, we should all inshaAllah (if God wills) do our best to leave this month with aspirations to be the best Muslims we can be. Hopefully that also includes a renewed effort to reach out to our non-Muslim neighbors, coworkers, classmates, friends, and relatives, and convincingly prove to them that our faith enriches our lives and the lives of others, by being good Muslims in word and deed. We can all be that clear, positive counterexample that really gets non-Muslims to question and ultimately reject any kind of false argument about Muslims being dangerous, violent, misogynistic, deceitful, or whatever else Islamophobes and some politicians try to smear us with. If they close that door, then the doors of hatred, anger, and attendant violence will close with it, inshaAllah (if God wills). I pray that Allah keeps us all safe and makes us a united and prosperous Ummah (community).


Friday, August 3, 2012

Ramadan Reflections: Hardships Are Hidden Blessings

Ramadan Reflections: Hardships Are Hidden Blessings

The pre-Ramadan enthusiasm I felt within me was unmatched compared any other point in time throughout the year. In prior months before this spiritual season, I regretfully admit to losing sight of many of my priorities and principals that I used to hold so dear. Thus, as Ramadan drew near, my spiritual preparations began. By mid-Sha’ban, my goals had already been set, my schedule was arranged and my heart was desperately anticipating for the blessed month of Ramadan to arrive. However, despite all of the extensive and precise planning on my part, I had come to understand that Allah is Al-Khaliq, the best of planners.
One week prior to Ramadan, I was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease in which cells within the patient’s pancreas fail to produce insulin, a hormone necessary to transport glucose into the body’s cells. Without insulin, the body is unable to use glucose for energy. Thus, diabetics recreate this process by injecting insulin into their bodies several times throughout the day. It is essential to continually monitor one’s blood sugar in order to maintain a precise, stable glucose levels.
Unfamiliar with the disease at the time of the diagnosis, my first concern had little to do with the my health, but rather whether or not I would be able to fast in the upcoming Ramadan. However, my doctors and family did not see this as a priority considering the disease had been developing within me for several months and their sole concern was to immediately begin treatment. Because I had been readily awaiting Ramadan for the past few months, this news was heartbreaking. I was absolutely crushed.
Completely terrified by this entire process, I quickly fell into somewhat of a depressive state for the days following the diagnosis. I was extremely frustrated by this whole situation and frankly, angry that this happened to me. The thought that consistently occupied my mind day and night was, “of all weeks to get diagnosed with diabetes, it had to be the week before Ramadan.” Even my doctors agreed that it was somewhat of an unfortunate coincidence. But nothing is ever a coincidence.
The first week of the diagnoses was the most disheartening, agonizing week of my life. All of my excitement for the upcoming Ramadan had instantly faded as I became so extremely occupied with doctors appointments and coping with the side-affects of the new medication. I was told that because I was recently diagnosed, fasting was not an option since regulating your blood sugar is a learning process that comes with time. Discouraged, I lost hope in having the much-anticipated “Ramadan experience.”
Although I was feeling weak in my iman, I attended the first Jummah before Ramadan. As expected, the khateeb gave a beautiful khutbah about fasting. He explained how there is no act of worship comparable to this because it is the one act of worship done solely for the sake of Allah Subhana wata’la. I felt as if I was hearing the concept of fasting for the very first time in my life because for me, it was the very first time in my life where it was indefinite that I would be able to fast. My eyes filled with tears as this thought became more of a reality. Last Ramadan I never would have considered the possibility that only one year later, I would be uncertain about my ability to partake in one of the most special parts of Ramadan.
I feel like I listened to the khutbah in a different light than everyone else that day. For others, it may have been an annual reminder about the blessings and beauty of the upcoming fasts. For me, however, it was an eye opening reality that forced me to apprehend my lifelong ungratefulness.
As I cried to my best friend that night, I complained that this was the absolute worst time for this to happen. Being extremely wise, she stopped me mid-sentence and said, “perhaps this is the best time.” She continued to explain that yes, a significant part of Ramadan is about fasting, but it is also about developing and strengthening your relationship with Allah Subhana wata’la. The beauty of the situation is that, while I may be experiencing one of the most difficult times in my life, I am doing so in the most blessed month out of the entire year where His divine mercy is shown everywhere. In that instant, I realized what an amazing blessing I was given. I realized that this couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“Verily, with hardship comes ease”. (94:6)
As only a few days remained before the commencing of Ramadan, I met with my doctor and reluctantly asked her again about the possibility of fasting. I spoke from the heart and explained that one’s health is a priority in Islam, but it would mean the world to me if we could figure out a way to safely go about fasting, although we are still in the beginning stages of treatment. To my surprise, she was extremely understanding and willing to try any sort of changes in medication to make it work. Currently, we are almost one week into Ramadan and I feel so unbelievably blessed to be fasting and experiencing this month as I would ordinarily. However, I have come into this month with a new frame of mind. I am truly thankful for how easy my situation has become, and for every other functioning part of my body that I previously tended to neglect.
We are all faced with trials that come in different forms and at different times in our lives. Theses trials have the ability to make or break us. It all depends on your attitude and your willingness to put your trust in Allah Subhana wata’la. I originally considered my diagnosis and it’s timing an absolute disaster. However, with a change in perspective, I am able to view this situation as one of the greatest gifts that Allah Subhana wata’la could have given to me. Not only is this hardship a means of attaining closeness to Him, it is also happening at the most beautiful, blessed moment in time.
Many Allah Subhana wata’la make us successful in our journey back to Him this Ramadan. Let us never neglect to be eternally grateful for every imperceptible cell that seamlessly functions so efficiently and beautifully within our bodies. Ameen.

-Lauren Tabakhi