#First Series: A Blessed Gathering

tumblr_no63kwy8kk1so3mh5o1_1280

About seven months ago during summer, Fatima messaged me that Mufti Menk was coming to Lagos for a two day event and that was I coming? I could not believe what I was reading. How can I miss it? When next will I get this opportunity? He’s one of my few favourite muslim speakers. I asked Fatima to send me the details and she forwarded everything including the poster.

I could barely contain my excitement. I raced to my mum’s room and told her about the great news and asked if we could all go. My sister was unsurprisingly there too and she recalled someone at her office saying something about the Mufti Menk ‘guy’ and she asked you know him? My mouth dropped. Of course! How can you not know him? she gave that nonchalant look and we all laughed and my mum agreed that we could all go for the Friday event right after picking the boys up from school.

My sister was bummed, what about me? She had work that day and did not want to be left out, so she begged for us to attend the Saturday event. My mum was reluctant because traffic on Saturdays are the absolute worst. You see we don’t have a driver and it’s very stressful for my mum. My sister volunteered to do the driving ( that was how bad she wanted to go, for she would rather stay at home than be stuck in traffic). My mum said okay it’s settled then, but we needed one more vote: father’s. He did not agree at first but he changed his mind the next day.

Saturday came and my mum was terribly sick. She hates disappointing people, so I could see how difficult it was for her to tell me she doesn’t think she can follow the rest of us to the event. I was heartbroken that she would think we would leave her at that condition. She insisted she wouldn’t be alone; that the two caretakers of the house would be there for her. Sigh, that’s my mother. I told her forget Mufti Menk. Who is Mufti Menk? You’re not feeling well.

Even before she said anything, I lost interest for the conference after seeing how unwell she was. I called Fatima and told her I was not going to make it, apparently she wasn’t also; she wasn’t feeling too well. I did not feel bad about missing the conference. I sincerely believed in my heart that Allah would bring another to me, so I was not worried at all. Fast forward 6 months later and Allah did exactly that. Not only did he bring Mufti Menk to me, he did much more. I had two other muslim speakers I adored and a nasheed artist I loved listening to that were all going to attend the event with me on that fateful day.

So lets’s begin this series. I only gave you a background so you can understand how much this event meant to me.

I was browsing through my phone one morning and I stumbled upon this picture on Instagram.

I was excited at seeing 5 names: Mufti Menk, Daood Butt, Muiz Bukhary, Ali Dawah and Omar Esa. I wasted no time purchasing my ticket. Fatima was in lagos at the time so I was riding solo for this one.

The much awaited date arrived and I made my way to east London that Sunday morning. I left my apartment around 8am and arrived there just a little before 10am; the time it was suppose to start. Before then, I met two muslim girls on the train. They first greeted me salam and took the empty seats near me and continued their conversation. One was Arab; probably Palestinian and the other Indonesian. Their conversations were cracking me up on the inside. You know that sound you make when you are trying to hold a laugh? I made that a lot and covered it up with a cough. It’s wrong eavesdropping but it was literally impossible for me.

A part of their conversation that stuck was when the Arab girl goes “You won’t believe what happened to me and my family one time.”

Indonesian: “What happened?”

Arab: We travelled to America and checked into our hotel and everything. We got to our room and you won’t believe what number was at the door”

Indonesian: “What number?”

I started to think of numbers quickly in my head..666? 419? Do they even know what that was…

Arab: “It was 911”

I honestly couldn’t laugh, I was dying inside.

Indonesian: (gasps) “No kidding! That must have been so awkward.”

Arab: “You have no idea..(continues conversation).”

I realised they were headed towards the same place I was. Curiosity sparked, I asked the Indonesian who was seated near me if they were going for the light upon light conference. She asked the Mufti Menk show? I answered yes. She said indeed they were and asked if I was too. I told her yes and together we made our way to the venue. On the bus, the Indonesian who then had only a hijab changed the style of her hijab into a niqab; you could now only see her eyes. I was intrigued. The Arab asked for her to wear it as a hijab that she didn’t want to wear the hijab alone, the Indonesian insisted that she wanted the niqab.

We descended from the bus and I left the two of them behind. The queue outside the building was LONG; especially the queue for the females.

I wish I took a picture of how long the queue was but I remembered to do that 10 minutes later; when I was much closer to being called.

The auditorium was quite big but not big enough to contain all of us. In total we were over 1700 that attended. On lookers wondered what was happening inside. The brothers took great care of the sisters. They gave us the theatre style seating on the first floor whilst they got the standard stall seating on the ground floor. A problem arose where the number of females were too much that all the seats upstairs were taken, and a couple of hundred women were still left standing. Those left standing had to sit on the ground floor with the men but a curtain was drawn in the middle to separate the women downstairs from the men. So neither sex sitting at the back could see what was happening on the other side; only the speakers at the stage could see both sides.

Inside one of the volunteers who was dressed as a niqabi approached me and was like “mashallah your skin is so great, it’s like glowing”. I looked back to see if she was talking to someone else. It was dark inside and I couldn’t really see her eyes so I was unsure if it was me and when I realised it was, I gave my gratitude. I wanted to compliment her back but there was really nothing I could compliment; she was covered from head to toe. I couldn’t even tell if she was smiling underneath the niqab but from the cheery tone of her voice I could tell she was.

A short while after that incident, the conference started. It was truly a wonderful experience and alhamdulilah my name was one of those written to be a part of the blessed gathering. I’ll just highlight some of the things that happened.

Sheikh Abu Abdilllah Yunus was the first speaker and I learnt from him that the travel in the hereafter is a very long journey and shortened by the night prayer. Also, it does not matter how long you’ve been practising for and the sins you’ve made in the past. A perfect example he used was Umar Ibn Kattab (a senior sahaba and the 2nd caliph of islam). Umar was the last to accept the message of islam and he did all kinds of things in his past but he came in second and surpassed the 8 other top sahabas that accepted islam immediately.

The second speaker was Sheikh Muiz Bukhary. I was very excited to see him because I’ve watched a lot of his lectures. As a matter of fact if you’ve read my unanswered prayer post, a lot of the information I kept there (such as the best times to make dua), I learnt from him in particular. I personally found that he was a lot darker in person than in his videos but he looked, sounded and acted the same. It was amazing. I learnt from him that we should take extra care of our hearts. Most bad deeds that cause people to be cast into hellfire is a result of the heart. The same applies with good deeds.

He explained that salat (prayer) is what prevents us from indecency. In prayer we engage our hearts but after praying, we go back to what we used to do and that’s why our prayers have no impact in our lives. When you are faced with temptation, reject it and seek Allah’s help.

The heart will first become heedless then it becomes hard. It will have darkness, envy, jealousy and doubtness in Allah. One of the symptoms of a sick heart is that a person becomes lazy in worshipping Allah. They remember Allah very little, a believer remembers Allah a lot. He said “a ship may be safe in the harbour but that’s not what it’s made for”. We have to push ourselves for we are capable of doing a lot more than we do. He said palaces in jannah are built by the dhikr of Allah. Once you stop with the dhikr, the angels stop building the palaces. He signed off by explaining something quite beautiful.

He gave the story of a young girl that was depressed and going through a tough time so she went to her father and asked why is Allah doing this to me? Doesn’t He love me? Why is He making me go through so much pain? The father kept quiet for a second and told her follow me. He brought her to the kitchen and told her to bring out 3 cooking pans, fill each with the same level of water and place each pan on the cooker under the same level of heat/pressure. She was confused but she obeyed. He then told her to bring out three items: a potato, an egg and coffee beans. He told her to place one item into one pot; so that all three would be tested in the same condition. The father asked her to touch each item before and after it was cooked. Here was her answer: when she touched the potato at first she said it was hard and tough but after going through the heat/ adversity it became soft and mushy. The egg at first was fragile and soft, it went through the same test and became hard and tough. The coffee beans was hard but after it gave off a lovely aroma. The father explained that she is not the only person going through what she is going through and many others have it worse. He then said it’s in Allah’s infinite wisdom that he tests us the way we are tested and that we have to trust Him. Allah knows what’s best for each of His creation and there’s a reason for everything whether or not we recognise it. I loved that example, may Allah bless and protect his family.

After his time was up, a spokesperson for a primary school called Al Muntada, came to address the parents in the crowd. He said 10% of kids in London go to independent schools.  57% of jewish kids go to jewish schools. He asked how many percent of muslim kids attend islamic schools? No one could give an answer. He said i’ll tell you, 5%. The crowed was shocked. He then asked the parents why don’t you send your kids to islamic schools? That verily those who know and those who don’t know are not equal. You want your kids to grow up and be wonderful muslims and have the knowledge of islam but where will they get the knowledge and information if not at Islamic schools? That is so true and even more true for muslims living in the west. And we wonder why knowledge is fading when only 5% know and a gross 95% don’t.

There was a prayer break. The men prayed in the mosque and the women prayed inside at the hallway. Before leaving the house I made sure to renew my ablution; knowing dhur wasn’t too far away. I was glad I wasn’t one of those that had to queue to make ablution.

The next speaker was Daood Butt; a sheikh I was very eager to meet. There are two sheikhs in particular that I love and they have two things in common: they smile so much that they make those that watch or are around them feel loved and welcome and they both speak so very gently and softly. They inspire me. It’s hard to think or believe they can speak harshly at anybody. Who are they? Bilal Assad and Daood Butt; beautiful human beings.

Daood Butt I am grateful to Allah for meeting because I never thought I would get the chance to; he lives all the way in Canada. His topic for the evening was whether the grass was greener on the other side.

Allah swt said we will all face hardship and we should seek His help and be patient. Sheik Daood gave the example of a robber of how when he is caught by the police, he drops everything and raises his hands; submitting. It’s similar like us in prayer when we raise our hands and say Allahuakbar (Allah is the greatest). Allah said glad tidings to the patient, so yes the grass is greener on the other side.

Those who face adversity Allah says in the quran that they say “inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon” which means ‘Surely we belong to God and to Him we shall return’. It’s 2016 what do we say? The four letter word? curse? Today we only say inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon when someone dies. At the face of any adversity we should always say that.

Finally Mufti Menk was up, the crowd cheered. I felt so bad for the other great speakers; they did not get loud cheers like he did. I recorded every single speaker but when Mufti came out, every female in the room had their phones out taking pictures and videos.

Mufti Menk, Daood butt and the host came out to have an interview style talk. The interview was emotional and hilarious.

Host (left), Daood Butt (middle), Mufti Menk (right)

The host had four personal questions to ask the two of them but I can only recall 3. He first asked Sheikh Daood what he was afraid of. Sheikh Daood answered he had a phobia for water; that he can’t swim. Mufti Menk interrupted and said with a straight face “I know why he is afraid of water”. The host asked why? Mufti Menk was like he is afraid of water because he is afraid of jinns; you know jinns live in the water. So you know …there is two hydro jinns and one oxy jinn. I died of laughter, everyone in the hall was laughing. The girls in front of me turned to look back at me not quite getting it and I just continued laughing. How did he even come up with that? Please tell me you guys got it cause I don’t want to have to explain the joke. Chemistry is all I will say.

The host asked a second question: what’s the most exciting thing you have done? Sheikh Daood goes he’s a very boring man and that his wife complains all the time. That as a guy he’s just not very adventurous but he’d like to be for his wife. Mufti Menk in contrast had done a lot of things that he was having a difficult time choosing one. Then he was like “Okay, I think I have one to say.” He narrated a time back home in Zimbabwe that he and his friends went bungee jumping from a high mountain. I gasped. He said he had the video on his phone and that he might post it on his instagram for us to see. He goes “I watched all of them do it and I asked myself why can’t I also?” So he told the guide he was going next and they strapped the thing on him. They counted 1 to 3 and on the third count just when they were about to push him he screamed he didn’t want to anymore. This is why everyone loves this man. Although he’s a knowledgeable man and he memorised the Quran at a young age, he behaves human. The youth can relate to him. Most other sheikhs and imams give the impression that they are locked in the mosque 24/7 or someplace and all they do is spread knowledge, fast and pray having no life outside marriage and worshipping Allah. They make the religion look hard but Mufti Menk does what he’s supposed to do and never forgets to live and have fun too. Mufti Menk is an example that you can be on the deen and enjoy your life. He continues the story and says “I asked for a second chance and this time I did it bi’idhnillah” Hours later he posted the video on his instagram just to let us know it wasn’t made up; he actually did it. Subhanallah.

The third question the host asked what was something you would like to do? Mufti Menk started this time and he mentioned something relating to humanitarian work; helping the muslims suffering in Syria and Palestine. Sheikh Daood Butt stated he had two things. The first was to build a shelter/home for homeless people. That there are so many homeless people living on the streets of Canada and during winter it gets painfully cold. The government doesn’t take care of them and these are dignified human beings.

Allah said in suratul Isra “And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” (17:70)

He wanted to do something about that and the second thing he would like to do was to take his wife for Hajj. The women upstairs all said awww. He explained that for over ten years he’s been trying to take her for hajj but the visa keeps getting declined. He mentioned how there are shortcuts and ways to acquire the visa but that he was a disciplined man and he follows the rules and he prays one day Allah will make it happen for them. My heart melted. I know for a fact that this man cherishes and loves his family because I remember something he shared on his instagram page that touched me.

The host went on to ask the fourth question, which they answered and at the end he said he had something to say. They just confirmed to him that a visa has been granted for Sheikh Daood Butt and his wife to attend Hajj this year. My heart swelled with love and joy. Everyone started cheering and clapping. Sheikh Daood buried his face in his hands and could barely talk. It was so emotional to watch.

A break was given to eat and pray asr. I went to the back of the auditorium to pray and guess who was standing next to me in prayer? The two girls I encountered on the train. We smiled at each other and prayed side by side. At the end the Arab turned to me and asked “is it possible for two people to pray together but pray different salats? Like I’ve already prayed the dhur prayer but she hasn’t so she prayed dhur and I prayed Asr.”

I answered I don’t think it’s right because the intentions are different. The Arab goes “I told you! I’ve never heard of it before.” The Indonesian goes “Seriously? We always do that in my house.” They asked an older person and she repeated what I said. I packed my belongings and left them behind once more to go source for food. I purchased the chicken biryani from one of the vendors and a cup of tea; the auditorium was freezing.

After the break, Omar Esa (a very popular nasheed artist) performed two of his songs for the crowd. He is one of my favourite nasheed artist and he often tells people that his voice is his instrument and truly it is. He recently remixed Adele’s Hello song. I loved it and I’ll leave a link down to the song below. Apart from that I highly recommend you check him out, for he is high up the list of muslim artists that make good music without the use of musical instruments.

Omar Esa performing the story of Taif

A short video was played for the audience and it captured the pain of the muslims suffering in Syria. Myself and a few other girls were in tears. We have no idea what these people are going through. . . what they’ve lost. We are able to carry on with our lives like what they are going through isn’t happening simply because it’s not happening where we live. There was indeed a time they lived in peace. NOBODY should have to go through that. At the end of the video an organisation called Muntada Aid was aiming to raise £150,000 for a project called Broken Minds; a psychological centre for children of war. They wanted to provide psychological help for these kids that have watched their parents die and be blown up right in front of their eyes. It’s not something we want to see in our dreams, but it’s reality for them. I support this group because the mental and emotional wellbeing of these kids are so important. If they don’t get the right help or have their childhood restored one way or the other, they will grow up to be something. They’ve seen and experienced too much pain.

The Al Muntada aid released another video of a boy called Muhammad who they brought back to England from Syria. The man in the video mentioned all the kids were under ten and they all lost their parents to the crisis in Syria. A lot of the children where given crayons and asked to draw something and they drew angry scribbles. Whatever happened to sunshines and rainbows and smiley faces? The things we drew? The man said out of all the kids, Muhammed’s case was the most delicate. He barely spoke to the adults and he did not mix with the others. What happened to Muhammed? Some months ago in Syria, Mohammed was at home with his family then all of sudden a bomb was dropped on their neighbour’s house. Everybody died except for him. He lost his parents and siblings in just one second. Muhammed was so shocked and shaken by what happened that he became blind; that was how traumatising it was for him. The Muntada group found him sleeping on the floor and they asked people around if they knew him or his story. Someone recognised him and told his story. My throat has suddenly become dry from writing this. I can still see Muhammed’s face, he had no sign of happiness in him. He is adjusting slowly; he plays with toys and has a teddy he never lets go off. He is also fond of the man that related his story; not once did he leave his side. Alhamdulilah the fundraiser was successful and they raised more than £150,000. I was so happy. I’ll leave a link down below to their website for those that may want to donate and be a part of their cause.

There was more great news; two women took shahada that day before leaving (they became muslims). Allahuakbar.

Here is Mufti Menk and Ali Dawah discussing the topic of zina, dating and relationships
Sheikh Daood Butt (left), Sheikh Muiz Bukhary (middle) and Mufti Menk (right)

Mufti Menk (left), Sheikh Daood Butt, Sheikh Muiz Bukhary and Ustadh Wahaj Tarin (right)

Believe me the event lasted more than 10 hours and it was worth every minute. I stayed for only 10 hours and decided I had seen and listened to enough and made my way back home.

Before leaving I was handed a souvenir bag and it had inside it: Arab oil, restaurant coupons, pens, notebooks and other things.

I will rate the whole experience as 5*

Click here for the Broken Minds Project

Click here to listen to Omar Esa

Don’t forget to pray for your muslim brothers and sisters xx

See you in my next post In Sha Allah ^.^

2 thoughts on “#First Series: A Blessed Gathering

  1. HASIYA!!! May Allah bless you for this beautiful piece you shared and for all of your other posts. May He increase your Iman and Taqwa. Amin.

    We remain very proud of you and the woman you have grown to become.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s